By Victor Akindele
L-R: Mr Alan Sinfield, Managing Director/CEO 9mobile; Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); Mr.Olusola Teniola, President Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON); Mr. Muyiwa Ogungboye, 2nd Vice President ATCON; Mr. Adeleke Adewolu, Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, NCC, during the maiden edition of the National Dialogue on Telecoms and ICT Sector in Nigeria organised by ATCON at the NAF Conference Centre & Suites, Kado, Abuja today (Thursday, October 15, 2020.)
The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Prof. Umar Danbatta has urged telecom operators in the country to settle the huge interconnect debts in the industry. According to Danbatta, the debt, which is now over N70 billion threatens the operators’ capacity to expand their infrastructure for better quality service.
The EVC made the call at the maiden edition of the National Dialogue on Telecoms and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), which held in Abuja today.
Speaking as a lead presenter during one of the panel sessions at the event themed: “National Funding and Investment Strategy for Broadband Infrastructure and Digital Economy”, Danbatta highlighted what the Commission had done in the last five years, especially in stimulating the development of resilient ICT infrastructure and the benefits these regulatory efforts have brought to the economy.
Situating his presentation in the context of ‘Nigeria’s Telecom Sector: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,’ Danbatta explained that access gaps in the country have been reduced from 217 in 2015 to 114. “We have licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos); we have introduced innovative policies such as spectrum trading and spectrum farming; broadband penetration has increased from 6 percent to 43.3 in the last five years. Also, from 8 per cent in 2015, the telecoms sector contributed over 14 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as of second quarter of 2020, valued at N2.3 trillion,” Danbatta said.
Danbatta, who also represented the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, at the event re-emphasized the resolve of the Federal Government, through the Ministry, to continually advance the digital economy agenda of the country. In the Minister’s Keynote address, read by the EVC, Pantami said the event with the overarching theme: ‘Harnessing the Digital Resources for the Building of Our National Economy’ and sub-themes lined up for discussions, were apt and timely, given the increased reliance of individuals and businesses on digital platforms to carry out their activities.
Pantami stated that the digital economy journey started by the Ministry, following the President’s approval in 2019, culminated in the development of an eight-pillar National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) with a view to providing a more coordinated and enhanced national policy direction for transforming Nigeria’s economy into a truly digital economy.
He said that NDEPS is a policy document that addresses different aspects of development that require attention to have a vibrant digital economy, adding that, like Nigeria, most nations are prioritising the need to develop their digital economies because of the multiplier effect on all other sectors of the economy.
The Minister noted some of the challenges of the digital economy to include rapid evolution of technology and widening inequalities between the digital “haves” and “haves-not”; the need for new regulations; cybercrime and other threats; low level of digital literacy; and the need for infrastructure.
While expressing optimism about Nigeria’s digital economy strategy, he economic growth and productivity; increased transparency; growth of digital innovation and entrepreneurship; digitisation of work, and useful insights from big data as some of the opportunities that abound and from which the economy will gain.
“The telecom and ICT sector stand to gain a lot from the development of our digital economy and the public and private sector need to come on board to maximise the impact on the entire economy,” the Minister said.
Earlier in his welcome address, the President of ATCON, Olusola Teniola, said the national dialogue was targeted at harnessing the digital resources in the country with a view to optimising innovative ideas to effectively pursue the digital economy agenda of the Federal Government.