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Stakeholders highlight role of telecoms firms in identity management, Nigeria digital economy

L-R: Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Prof. Isa Ali Pantami and Engr. Gbenga Adebayo

*Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Communications Commission notes since the commencement of the country’s National Identity Number (NIN) policy, the telecoms industry stakeholders have witnessed tremendous growth in NIN enrolment from 40 million to over 64.4million

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

In regard to the strategic importance of citizens’ identity management in a digital economy, stakeholders have highlighted and enlightened Nigerian consumers on the specific roles the telecommunications operators play in the digital transformation process in the country.

ConsumerConnect reports the experts thrashed out these at a webinar the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) organised Thursday, September 30, 2021.

RELATED: Nigeria Extends NIN-SIM Verification Deadline To October 31

The Telcos organised the virtual forum with the theme, “Citizen’s Identity Management In A Digital Economy – The Role Of Telecommunications Service Providers”, with the objective to enlighten the consumers about the role of the telecommunications sector in the evolution of the Nigeria digital economy.

Photo Collage: TechEconomy

In his welcome address, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman of ALTON, said that all hands must be on deck to ensure the West African country’s target to achieve 65 percent National Identity Number (NIN) penetration in the coming months is attained.

The ALTON Chairman noted the achievement of this set target also would enable the country to unlock the inherent economic potential of the digital economy.

It is recalled the Federal Government of Nigeria made the linkage of NIN to SIM Cards compulsory, there was uproar, and Nigerians complained due to inconveniences and fear of data being breached, according to report.

RELATED: NCC Sensitises Telecoms Consumers On NIN-SIM Integration Before October 31 Deadline

However, the situation is apparently different now, as the country’s economy has started reaping the benefits of this exercise.

This positive development has been attributed to the collective efforts of the critical stakeholders, including the telecommunications providers in enabling seamless registrations and integration in the country.

Prof. Isa Ali Pantami, Honourable Minister for Communications and Digital Economy (MOC&DE), in his remarks at the forum said that the success recorded with the SIM-NIN integration informed the need to make the Nigerian public aware of the importance of proper identity management and role of telecoms service providers and the citizens in general.

Broadband is bedrock of digital economy ─Minister

Represented at the event by Engr. Aziz Aliyu, Director-General, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Prof. Pantami stated the Broadband is even the bedrock of the digital economy.

Pantami said: “Over 150 countries now require identification for the purchase of SIM Cards.

RELATED NIN-SIM Integration: How To Link Other Phone Numbers With NIMC Mobile App

“Data efficiency and a richer customer profile are required to prompt loyal and stronger relationships, ultimately simplifying access to services.

“We believe that with broadband, smartphones, virtual access and digital identity, there will be no limit for us in this market.”

As regards the benefits of the digital transformation efforts, the Minister also noted that the Nigerian economy is going digital, and there are huge opportunities that should be grabbed without limit.

He further stated: “Digital transformation has been adopted in all sectors, including transportation, education, financial inclusion, and other sectors.

“Nigeria needs to leverage this digital transformation as a reliable tool for sustainable development across the country.

“Identity management goes beyond the figures. We need to manage it in such a way that cybercriminals will be totally shut out.”

According to him, there are some teething challenges in achieving this feat, as he disclosed that Nigeria yet lacks a proper addressing system while a backlog of citizens are yet to be registered in the country.

It is noted although the government came up with a road map of the role of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and telecommunications, it has not achieved much success.

Engr. Aziz, however, assured the participants and Nigerians at large, that he would convey the highpoints of the webinar regarding the opinions, suggestions, observations and recommendations to the Honourable Minister for Communications and Digital Economy for consideration and possible action.

Ways telecoms industry contributes to ‘credible digital identity’ management ─Danbatta

In connection with the NIN Policy for the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Registration in Nigeria, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in a keynote address on the occasion, said that the NIN Policy for SIM Registration is perhaps the most effective driver of the NIN enrolment and the development of a credible digital identity management in the economy.

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of NCC

On national ID management, Prof. Danbatta stated: “It may interest us to note that 37 percent of NIN enrolments recorded during the eight years since NIN enrolment commenced was accomplished by leveraging the telecommunications industry.

READ ALSO #BeCyberAware: NCC Sensitises Telecoms Consumers On Scams, Cybersecurity

“Since commencement of the NIN policy in the telecommunications industry, we have witnessed tremendous growth in NIN enrolment from 40 million to over 63 million as at August 2021 (i.e. 23 million citizens enrolled in the past 9 months).”

The NCC EVC/CEO also stressed although NIN penetration currently stands at 29.7 percent of the population, with deployment of the Android Enrolment Solution by NIMC, “we expects rapid growth of the MNO NIN enrolment centres which will translate to exponential growth in NIN enrollments.”

ConsumerConnect reports the NIMC representative at the ALTON forum Thursday, in his presentation also disclosed that Nigeria thus far had recorded 64.4million NIN enrolment out of the total 187million registered telecoms subscribers in the country.

READ ALSO: Regulator Urges Responsible Use Of Internet, Protection Of Telecoms Infrastructure

He equally mentioned the agency’s efforts at contactless enrolment system in order to boost NIN registration for harmonised, effective database for Nigeria.

Further measures of pushing NIN enrolment in Nigeria, by stakeholders

Among several other top-level industry stakeholders on the panel of speakers and contributors to the conversation at the webinar anchored by Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan are Barr. Adeleke Adewolu, Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management of NCC; Dr. Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi, Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and Dr. Agu Osika, Managing Director of Biosec/Idemia.

Telecoms consumers

Others are Mr. Osondu Nwokoro; Hon. Omotoba, Mr.Olusola Teniola, immediate past President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), as well as the representatives of Airtel Nigeria, MTN Nigeria Communications, 9mobile, Ntel, and the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS).

In his remarks, Barr. Adewolu who did a recap of the entire contributions at the forum, emphasised the importance of robust digital identity regime to socio-economic transformation of Nigeria.

Earlier, Hon. Omotoba, who acknowledged the fact that it takes some time to generate NINs after enrolment in his contribution, commended the role of NIMC in enhancing NIN enrollment in the country.

He said recently, the number of days to generate the NIN has become slower, taking a longer time.

NIN takes longer to be generated even when the dashboard shows success. And lastly, identity numbers are sometimes delayed, Omotoba noted.

The former ATCON President also urged the stakeholders in the country’s NIN enrollment system to consciously consider and address certain legacy issues inherent in the system, especially in view of the October 31, 2021, deadline for the NIN-SIM integration.

As part of practical measures at sensitising and enlightening telecoms consumers and Nigerians at large, Barr. Nwokolo suggested that NIMC, NCC, NITDA, and other critical stakeholders consider production of comedy series, more of education, sensitisation and awareness programmes, industry players and the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to further enhance the NIN enrollment process.

“There should be an extension of the timeline so the issues at the backend can be properly addressed to avoid negative backlash,” said he.

As Andrew Enebeli, representative of Smile, emphasised that NIN is an integral part in enhancing the ease of doing business in Nigeria, Mr. Femi Adeluyi also noted that a contactless enrollment system would be implemented by a contact lens that captures biometrics, fingerprints and facials will be introduced soon.

Adeluyi said NIMC had been involved both the public and private sectors so as to reach every nook and cranny of the country.

203 partners as well as vehicles, have been licensed and over a thousand enrollment centres have been put in place to ensure full coverage, he stated.

In terms of possible areas of improvement in the data capturing process, it was noted that infrastructure is a key area of consideration.

The industry requires a minimum of 150 devices to scale and achieve the desired goals. Funding to succeed and be present in rural areas, cost of training for individuals who are to use the devices, are issues to be considered.

An adequate number of devices and consumer awareness to improve general knowledge is essential.

Nwoye Ugonna of MTN also commented “when Telcos became very involved in the NIN process, it created a great extent of relief.

“Across Nigeria, NIN penetration is still at 30 percent. Customers becoming advocates for the process would enhance penetration.”

Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo, who represented the consumer community at the forum, also noted as some states of the Nigerian Federation are currently shutting down telecoms services because of banditry, kidnapping, and other social vices, there should be an extension of the October 31 deadline.

On the whole, the stakeholders agreed that for the ongoing NIN registration and NIN-SIM integration process to be effective and successful, the efforts of all stakeholders are essential.

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