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Experts list how to sustain e-payment through telecoms

By Guardian Nigeria
30 September 2009   |   2:45 am
EXPERTS in the telecommunications industry have said that the quest by Nigeria to bridge the digital divide and become an economic giant cannot be sustained without commensurate development in telecommunications.

Specifically, it was said that in the last nine years, one industry that has thrived well, despite various challenges both local and international remains the telecommunications industry, with over 80 per cent of Nigerians now having access to some forms of telecommunications services or the other, therefore, it is important to improve on the developments at hand.


Hosted by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and CommunicationsWeek Media Limited, speakers spoke on the theme: “Fuelling the future of e-Payment System,” where the Chairman of the Association of Licenced Telephone Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo said that the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry in the country still faces a number of challenges, which can hinder the sustenance of the growth of electronic payment in Nigeria.

Adebayo said that, with the Federal and state governments’ drive to reduce corruption through e-payment systems, which is in line with the goal of Vision 20:20:20, these challenges need to be looked into.

He opined that there is no industry in the country today that does not have one form of dependence or the other on telecommunications service, from manufacturing to oil exploration and production to traffic management and control, security and surveillance system and more importantly the banking sector.

To him, these developments have changed the way we live and the way we do business and that Nigeria is on the map of this transformation, adding that the history of telecommunications development in the world is not complete today without reference to Nigeria, our rapid development and the success story.

Adebayo, who chaired the telecoms forum, insisted that a robust telecommunications network is important for economic growth, adding however, that this will not be possible without the basic infrastructure to support such growth.

The ALTON chairman said in the light of the foregoing, robust telecommunications network is important for the economic growth of nations and constitutes a base infrastructure that supports the world’s economy.

“That modern day economy cannot be sustained without commensurate development in telecommunications, which enhance living standards and improve productivity and efficiency in other sectors. Therefore, telecommunications and supporting technologies occupy strategic position in every aspect of our existence as a nation and business would become less competitive if we fail to avail ourselves of the vital services of this modern age.

“However, in order to sustain the development, we need to re-visit as a country the issue of infrastructure.

“In Nigeria, the relatively stable regulatory and policy environment has accelerated investment flow into the sector, resulting in the rapid roll out of multifarious communications services.

“The growth in the sector has resulted in the creation of over 12, 000 direct jobs and hundreds more are informally employed through the sector. Telecom is a key contributor to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria.

“However, government can drive the development further by putting in place appropriate policies and the autonomy of the industry regulator is vital to the sustenance of the growth.

“The industry regulator should remain independent and must be free from all forms of political interference, which in our view, will encourage more foreign investment and by extension the growth of the sector.

He added that there is need to strongly advocate the independence of industry regulator.

The ALTON boss said the regulator must be free of political interference, stressing that multiple regulation is the bane of growth and government must continue to provide the right regulatory and policy environment without crisis-cross between various arms of government. He said broadband is important for today and the future, that government must continue to encourage the roll-out of fibre optic networks and the last mile copper infrastructure.

“We need to return to the basis to rebuild our terrestrial fibre and copper infrastructure, which will bring high capacity, cheap and high quality data communications.

“In this regard, I advocate the scrapping of all forms of levies and fees charges by various government agencies of government on right of way approvals. Government should not consider right-of-way approval as a way of generating revenue, but should see the end result as in the overall interest of the national ICT development and limit its role to compliance and control.”

He identified the following as some of the challenges facing the industry, multiple regulatory bodies, poor broadband service, inadequate power supply, inadequate manpower, multiple taxation and government policies.

The expert noted that no proper policy and regulatory body has been put in place to check e-payment transactions, since the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) regulates the payment and the Nigerian Communications Commission regulates the platform from which the payment service is done.

Sharing his view, Dr. Chris Uwaje, who is the regional manager of D-Link West Africa, said that the right legislation to make the policies guiding customers and e-payment transaction have not been promulgated, and this leads to fraud in the banking system.

According to him, “E-transaction polices have not been put in place to guide clients’ transactions. E-payment is to provide a secured service and a service that can be trusted. “There must be availability, accountability, accessibility, scalability, (and) comprehensibility of the service.”

He also said “because there is no policy or regulation guiding e-payment transactions, software application experts can twist the customer’s transaction and they cannot be charged for fraud as there are no laws guiding them.”

According to him, the following proposed legislations would help to achieve much in that area, that is ” National Software Development ACT to establish the National Software Commission, National Software Product Procurement Accreditation Board (NSPPAB) and relevant agencies.

“Electronic Commerce and Digital Transaction and Digital Signature Act to regulate electronic commerce and digital transactions. Digital Copyrights and Cyber-Regulation Act to protect digital copyrights and regulate cyber activities.

“Software Standards Act to regulate Software standards, performance and security.”

Meanwhile in his own presentation,”the legal aspects of e-Payment in Nigeria-issues and challenges,” Adewale Jones, a lawyer, argues that the reason Nigerians legislators are not concerned with proper legislation to guide operations in the industry is because “they do not understand the language of ICT,” and as such, often seek for consultation services from private bodies to guide them in making these policies.

Jones, however, stressed that “there is the need for an Electronic Communication Act, as is obtained in Europe, U.S. and South Africa. Also, the Data Protection Act and the Computer Security and Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill 2005, which have been sitting at the National Assembly, should be looked into to reduce computer misuse and cybercrimes.”

According to him, the challenges of e-Payment include lack of awareness of the benefits inherent in it, low appreciation of information communications technology (ICT), low level of education and more particularly computer education; uneven spread of available ICT infrastructure, epileptic power supply among others.

In spite of these challenges, the telecoms industry experts maintain that development in the industry has added value and support services for electronic transactions.

By Adeyemi Adepetun