Consolidating on ICT sector’s achievements 

THE Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector is a key driver and also the fastest growing sector of the Nigerian economy. It is the largest in Africa.

GDPTHE Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector is a key driver and also the fastest growing sector of the Nigerian economy. It is the largest in Africa.

The industry contributed 11 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the end of September 2015. This is a sharp rise from 2001 when the sector contributed only 0.6 per cent of GDP

The increasing contributions of ICT to the economy have been very visible in Nigeria. For instance, the mobile-telephone revolution in Nigeria through which, in the last 15 years, tele-density has risen from 866,783 primarily fixed-line subscribers with a single provider (NITEL) to over 152-million mobile subscribers as of September 2015.

In addition, Nigeria has over 97-million Internet users (indicating 51 per cent of the nation’s population access the Internet services) compared to a paltry 5,000,000 users in 2006.

Incidentally, Nigeria, today records a strong standing in the world information society due to the quantum growth telecommunications has ushered in the last decade.

In spite of these successes, quality of service, affordability and infrastructure expansion among others remain a challenge.
Successive governments have presided over varying degrees of growth in the sector to the point where ICT with a liberalized market policy has produced the explosive, but uneven growth in the sector so far.

The dominant issue now is how to nurture the explosive growth being witnessed in the ICT sector to ensure that it reaches every part of Nigeria both urban and rural.

To build on the achievements recorded in the ICT industry over the years, the present administration in line with its change agenda last week unveiled the Communications Sector Roadmap for 2016-2019 entitled, “Continuing Innovation and Innovating Continuity: Creating a SMART Digital Nigeria”

The roadmap seeks to build on ICT sector growth, adopt SMART government to deliver ICT and ensure broadband penetration, grow revenue, reducing waste and policy as innovative continuity for private sector led continuous innovation.

It is envisaged that a potential two million jobs could be created for Nigerians through the ICT sector under the proposed action-plan.

While unveiling the policy document, Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, noted that the roadmap is a product of a painstaking consultation process with all stakeholders, who have all resolved that all policies and programmes must be guided by specific time lines while implementation must be measurable.

According to him, the time has come to leverage the bountiful opportunities in the communications sector to generate additional revenue for government, now that the prices of oil have been on rapid decline at the international market, create employment for our teaming youths, improve access and enhance quality of service delivery and affordability in the country.

The minister explained that the intention of the roadmap is to create a pathway to answering the following questions.
*How do we build on this growth to ensure that ICT reaches all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria?
· How do we ensure that every Nigerian has access to ICT?
· How do we deepen the penetration of broadband to reach all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria?
· How do we improve the Quality of Service Delivery by Government?
· How do we make sure our knowledge and information is not only secured, but enhances our national security?
Shittu noted that the Ministry of Communications has identified five steps to get to a SMART Digital Nigeria and they include:
*Building on ICT Sector Growth by Improving Infrastructure and Quality of Service;
*SMART Government to deliver ICT and broadband penetration (Government, soft infrastructure, commerce, broadband penetration and security;
*Raising Revenue and Reducing Waste;
*Policy of Innovative Continuity for Private Sector-led Continuous Innovation; and
*Migration to a Digitally-Native Nigeria through Capacity, Job and wealth creation.

In addition to catalysing infrastructural development, Shittu observed that the ministry would pursue Government and Private sector time-bound investments in good quality infrastructural facilities and services, led by our agencies like Universal Service Provision Fund and actively supported by both local and international investors.

Besides, government would explore the investment in a second and, possibly a third backup satellite for NIGCOMSAT and actively engage other global infrastructure providers to invest in the sector adding that the ministry is already holding preliminary talks and negotiations with potential international financiers and investors on this matter.

He noted that the present administration would expedite action and deepen the implementation of the National Broadband Plan.

According to the minister, “Efforts will also be made to promote investments towards last-mile-access. ICT and Broadband penetration is essential to sustaining the sector’s growth and ensuring its long term viability and competitiveness. To achieve this step, we have adopted the two-layered SMART Approach. The logical place to begin implementation of these reforms is within government itself”, he added.

He pointed out that the ministry would start by embarking on a detailed skills-gap-assessment to inform specific intervention strategies to be adopted in the Roadmap and would also set out minimum digital literacy levels for the Nigerian Workforce (both the Public and Private Sectors) thereby enhancing an upward mobility in their career path.

Shittu emphasized that the ICT sector needs well-thought-out, joined-up and linked reforms.  Effective reforms must be planned in the context of an integrated framework.

He stated that the ministry would be working very closely with the Ministries of Education to foster Digital Literacy Content in our National Curriculum, encourage the delivery of education via the usage of smart devices, promote e-Content as well as increase the uptake of ICT as a subject.

Also, educational institutions would be supported with funding and facilitate training to faculty and students in an area where our development partners, including those in the Non-Aligned Movement can add significant value to.

With this, the country would be confident of producing a pool of highly skilled Nigerians that meet or exceed the requirements of employers in the sector; who have stated that they find qualified human resource hard to come by in Nigeria for emerging 3rd platform technologies such as cloud, mobility, security and big data/Analytics, the minister added.

Tags

[adinserter name="Side Widget Banner"] [adinserter name="Guardian_BusinessCategory_300x600"]
[adinserter name="Side Widget Banner"] [adinserter name="Guardian_BusinessCategory_300x600"]

More Stories On Guardian