Eight-point agenda and search for viable telecoms sector
THERE is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria has achieved tremendous growth in the telecommunications industry in the last decade and the need to sustain the pace of growth and development into the future, has been very engaging.
As has been clearly noted, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is driving the new global economy, resting the socio-economic development and sustenance of any modern nation in the shoulders of a robust telecommunications and information technology infrastructure.
It is worthy of mention that the world today is no longer dependent on the physical strength of people in the depth of knowledge and exchange of information and ideas. Therefore, so a people without ready access to information technology infrastructure and services may not actively participate in the new world order.
Incidentally, Nigeria, today records a strong standing in the world information society due to the quantum growth telecommunications has ushered in the last decade.
Indeed, from the last 14 years of telecommunications sector liberalization in the country, industry statistics have shown tremendous growth profile. From a meagre of about 500,000 lines in 2001 to over 150 million lines as at October 2015, the country has also crossed successfully the 100 per cent teledensity mark. Nigeria currently tops Internet chart of countries with highest number of number of Internet users with about 100 million. In the recent past, the sector was tagged ‘star performer’ in the rebasing of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which made it the largest economy on the continent.
While the sector is adjudged to worth over $32 billion, contributions to government coffer is put at N500 billion as at 2014 and successfully created about 2.5 million jobs as at 2014. The sub-Sector has contributed 9.5 per cent to GDP
Indeed, these statistics have been phenomenon, considering where the country was in 2001 and its current status. But the country’s effort at deepening broadband has yielded not much profit, despite the huge investments committed by especially the private sector in landing several submarine fibre cable system with about 20 terabytes bandwidth capacity at the shores of the country.
As the end of 2015, the country’s broadband penetration stood a meagre 10 per cent, signposting the need for better reforms, vision and regulation if the country must reckon well with the global community.
A survey by the International Telecommunications Union on member countries last year, ranked Nigeria 130 out of the about 169 nations studied on development around broadband.
The need to fix the broadband gap in Nigeria would form a major part of the task before the new Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who is poised to perform.
At a press conference to unveil his administration’s plan for the sector, Danbatta said he would be working with an eight-point agenda, which according to him would deliver much benefit for the sector.
Revealing the plans, Danbatta said the telecoms operators would invest more money in the economy this year to increase what had already been invested.
This, he said, would have a great impact on the ailing economy. He said the NCC had plans to protect the small telecommunications operators to help them grow
According to him, five more Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) would be licensed in the next three to six months for the deployment of broadband services in the country.
Danbatta said achieving Nigeria’s target of five-fold increase in broadband penetration in another two years, the commission would provide and optimize access to and use of affordable fixed and mobile broadband everywhere in the country.
His strategy would be to facilitate and support availability of broadband services by promoting deployment of universally available, fast and reliable network infrastructure that will stimulate seamless broadband penetration to drive technology innovations and overall productivity of the economy.
According to him, the agenda, which is from 2015 to 2020, would help to grow the economy, create jobs, and enhance national competitiveness, while also improving quality of service by promoting the availability of reliable, interoperable, rapidly restorable critical ICT infrastructure that are supportive of all required services.
“We are going to optimise usage and benefits of spectrum by maximising the availability of spectrum in order to provide diverse and affordable ICT services and ensuring that spectrum acquisition does not distort marketing competition while also promoting ICT innovation and investment opportunities. By this, ICT innovations will be promoted in ways that improve the nation’s ability to compete in the global economy, increased investment in youth and promotion of SMEs for new business delivery breakthroughs,” he said.
He also revealed that the NCC would facilitate strategic collaboration and partnership with relevant stakeholders to foster ICT for sustainable economic development and social advancement in the country.
The NCC boss said: “Wealth creation through application of human knowledge and creativity is steadily outpacing wealth creation through extraction and processing of natural resources. Knowledge has increasingly become an important means for value creation. Hence, with globalisation and the technological revolution of the last few decades, knowledge has clearly become the key driver of competitiveness and is now profoundly reshaping the patterns of the world’s economic growth and activity.”
He maintained “the policy goals of the Nigerian Communications Commission recognise the immense socio-economic importance of ICTs to national development, and therefore seeks to ensure that the infrastructure necessary to provide ubiquitous broadband services is available and accessible to all citizens at affordable rates. Broadband is the next frontier in the ICT industry, which will help in the speedy transformation of the Nigerian economy.”