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Unfriendly policy regime besetting Nigeria’s digital drive, says forum


In the world over, the development in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry has the potential to impact other sectors of the economy either positively or otherwise depending on the laws and policies put in place to regulate the activities of the players.

In Nigeria, the liberalisation of the telecoms industry has provided the fertile land for the growth of the whole spectrum of ICT industry, which has continued to impact other sectors of the economy such as e-commerce, financial services, health agriculture, education, transportation and the entire public sectors.

Till date, over $34 billion has been attracted in local and foreign direct investment into the nation’s ICT industry, currently contributing about 10 per cent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The springing up of techno-prenuers is also driving various innovations, as available data show that over 10,000 unique applications have been developed locally but without an enabling regulatory and legal environment for the techno-innovators to nurture their businesses into becoming multinationals.

Consequently, a private sector-driven industry engagement was last week organised in Abuja to raise the alarm on the trend and adequately sensitise the industry stakeholders to the damaging consequence of unfavourable legal framework on the growth of the nation’s digital economy.

The roundtable dialogue, organised by Google, in collaboration with The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), had in attendance stakeholders from private and public sectors.
Research findings

Major research findings in a presentation titled: ‘The Impact of Internet Regulation on Investment’ by the Chief Executive Officer of Fifth Era, a research and investment advisory firm, Mathew Merle, set the stage for discussions at the forum.

In the study, Fifth Era, surveyed 475 Internet investors in 15 countries including Nigeria and 60 African accredited investors.

“The purpose of the study was to understand how Internet regulations would impact investment, among others,” Merle said, while ditching out key details of the story, especially as it relates to the Nigerian environment.

According to him, the study showed that 85 per cent of investors in Nigeria indicated that legal environment is a major for investment while in Nigeria, 75 per cent of the sampled investors said regulatory framework is ambiguous.

“Large companies will have challenges, while smaller companies would be out of business in a country, where legal formwork on Internet regulations are hazy and where legal environment is unfriendly,” said Merle.

However, 77 per cent of Nigerians digital investors said they would be willing to invest more towards driving the nation’s digital economy, which is transforming every other aspect of the economy.

“Nigeria is supposed to be a hub of innovations for African continent. To achieve this, the country must encourage digital economy innovators,” he said, stressing that effective privacy and security of data; mobile infrastructure and services well as copyright protection are key to creating digital economy companies.

Aside complaints by Nigeria’s digital economy companies that multiple taxation is affecting their operation; the much-talked about social media bill is one move by the government which was fingered at the forum as being inimical to digital economic growth.

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