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ICT investment friendly policies to boost economy – NCC

The Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, has urged African governments to make ICT investment friendly policies to attract both foreign and local investments for the improvement and growth of the African digital ecosystem.

Danbatta, who stated this at the official opening of the 7th annual Digital Africa Conference in Abuja, noted that ICT friendly policies will create an economic friendly environment.

The EVC who was represented by the Director, Research and Development, NCC, Mrs. Iyabo Solanke, said: “Consequently, it is considered highly expedient for African countries to formulate friendly policies that will produce the right environment capable of attracting the foreign and local investment into their ICT/telecoms sectors.

‘’This will enable African economies to build a desirable digital ecosystem that will accelerate overall economic development of the African nations.”

He added that African nations, must strive to reposition their various economies for digital prosperity and abundance to drive efficiency, productivity and create jobs for the tsunami of their youth population to deploy their creative energy for African economic development.

“The daunting task of repositioning Africa for the seeming latent age of digital abundance in Africa rests on the shoulders of policy-makers and businesses.  In other words, the need for strategic collaborations between policy-making institutions and private sector-players towards addressing the various challenges slowing down faster development of our digital ecosystem in Africa should be uppermost in our policy agenda.

‘’ This is to ensure that we effectively unleash the potential of ICT in the continent.

‘’The theme of this year’s seventh edition of the conference which is: Africa’s Technology Renaissance: Positioning Africa for the Age of Abundance is, in my view, an attempt by the organisers to broaden the scope of discussion which started during the sixth edition of the programme held in June 2018 with the
theme: Africa’s Technology Renaissance.

‘’This conference also provides the Commission the privilege to share with you what we have been doing, as telecom regulator in Nigeria, towards driving digital transformation in the continent’s largest telecoms market.

‘’Globally, the telecommunications industry is witnessing a paradigm shift which Africa nations must be conscious of. Voice segment of the telecoms industry is gradually becoming saturated with demand for broadband services increasing by the day. Today, access to broadband services is transforming the way and manner we live, work and play in ways humanity has never witnessed before, be it in education, agriculture, healthcare, commerce, transportation, government and so on.

‘’This development, therefore, calls for appreciable level of consciousness and re-awakening by African nations to the tremendous benefits obtainable in technology development’’, he said.

Speaking further he said, “it is with this consciousness in mind that the NCC developed the regulatory and licensing framework to accelerate broadband availability, accessibility and affordability in Nigeria.

“Permit me to emphasise at this juncture that it is by no accident that we have made the facilitation of broadband penetration the flagship of the 8-Point Agenda of our administration. We have put a lot of effort in this direction, including auctions of frequency spectrum in some bands, and re-farming to optimise some. We have also licensed Infrastructure Companies (Infraco) across the six geo-political zones in the country. Lagos is carved out of the South-Western zone as the seventh zone considering its high commercial profile.

‘’The Infraco licensing is coming under the Open Access Model (OAM) initiative of the NCC aimed at deepening broadband infrastructure in the country. We believe that it is through robust telecoms infrastructure that Nigeria, as a country, can witness unhindered access to pervasive broadband services.’’

Speaking in terms of telecom industry to the nation’s GDP, he said, “We have improved the overall broadband penetration, with a remarkable 31.48% penetration as at December 2018, thus surpassing the Strategic National Broadband Plan, which prescribed penetration of 30% by end of 2018. As at April 2019, the broadband penetration stood at 33.70% compared with 8.50% penetration in 2015. In real figures, Nigeria has more than 64.3 million subscriptions on broadband services.

“The Nigeria’s telecom industry is making remarkable contributions to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As at the 4th Quarter 2018, it contributed 9.85%.  The figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicated that at the same 4th Quarter 2018, contributions of Telecommunications and Information Services to GDP stood at about N1.9 trillion. Total investments in the Nigerian telecom industry is also estimated at $70 billion.

“In the voice segment, we have 173.6 million lines as at April 2019, which translates to teledensity of 91%. It is important to state that this teledensity has been rebased using the 190 million official estimates of the Nigerian population. Internet access has also increased to 119 million in April 2019.

‘’The Commission believes that access to telecoms must not be the exclusive privilege of the elite, hence we have initiated the process for the utilization of Television White Spaces TVWS) technology to extend affordable broadband services to the rural, under-served and unserved areas in the country.”

He said the commission is working with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and other necessary industry stakeholders to develop a framework on the best way to utilize the TV White Space (TVWS). TVWS is the unused broadcast spectrum in the country which can be deployed in telecoms for the provision of affordable broadband services in rural communities, thereby democratising access to broadband services by all and sundry for economic prosperity.

The Chairman of Digital Africa, Dr. Evan Woherem, said Africa needs to be part of the fourth industrial revolution since we missed out on the previous great leaps in human innovation.

‘’It is time for Africa to make the right choices in order to also be able to create and enjoy abundance here in Africa and be truly a part of the world”, he said.

He advocates for a Data Maturity Model to be applied to both states and organizations which in turn will be expanded to the entire African continent

“Digital maturity model: is a model that will measure the IT maturity of organizations and states within the country and will further be expanded to measure IT maturity of African countries’’, he concluded.

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