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Digital Economy: NCC harps on improved investments in data, Broadband infrastructure

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

*Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission, advocates a national policy and regulatory frameworks to support data centres’ services for enhanced Broadband infrastructure and digital sovereignty in the country

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said the Federal Government continues to take laudable steps to encourage and support data centres’ services and ensure data sovereignty in the country.

ConsumerConnect reports Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of NCC, stated this in a Keynote Address presented at the 4th Telecommunications Sector Sustainability Forum held Thursday, October 5, 2023, in Lagos.

Photo: Data Centres Magazine

Danbatta noted that the government’s remarkable efforts at attaining data sovereignty in Nigeria is well-encapsulated in the National Digital Economy Policy Strategy (NDEPS) Pillar #3 on Solid Infrastructure.

The theme of the 4th Telecommunications Sector Sustainability Forum was “Mainstreaming Data Centres in the Nigerian Digital Economy”.

Represented at the event by Dr. Sunday Atu, Head of Tariff Administration at NCC, the EVC/CEO of the telecoms sector regulatory Commission told the stakeholders that the Nigerian Government would promote the development and deployment of robust and scalable data centre infrastructure in the country’s digital ecosystem.

According to Danbatta, by the provisions of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (NCA 2003), the NCC has as part of its responsibility, the regulation of the telecoms sector as a critical driver of the evolving Nigeria Digital Economy.

Objectives of Telecoms Sector Sustainability Forum

In regard to the goals of the forum, Prof. Danbatta stressed the “event is aimed at providing a platform to enable stakeholders share perspectives on the opportunities, challenges and impact that operations of Data Centre services hold within the Nigeria’s Digital Economy.”

He also explained the evolving primacy of data, encapsulated in the slogan, ‘Data is the new oil’, has continued to resonate globally with increasing intensity in the context of the emerging digital economy like Nigeria’s.

Danbatta stated: “It has become a subject of special consideration by regimes, requiring appropriate structures and frameworks to truly tap and optimise the opportunities provided by this new order.

“Data centre services, no doubt, hold the keys to the ultimate crystallisation of this new line of thinking within the ICT sector and by extension to the greater national economy of nations in so many ways.”

The EVC/CEO said one of such is the added impetus towards improving the security and reliability of the country’s digital infrastructure.

“The nature and functional model of data centres with special regard to its centralised architecture, with compelling assurance provides greater guarantee against various malicious attacks and unauthorised access to sensitive information.

“This is in addition to the efficiency engendered by the robust economies of scale through critical resources shared and made available by Data Centres,” said Danbatta.

In order to be able to substantially underwrite some of our critical resource gaps, such as weak energy challenges, the NCC Chief stated Operators within the Data Centre space ensure that the well-established and globally accepted tripods of confidentiality, integrity and availability are so seamlessly provided for uptake by users in the most economical way.

Nigeria, wealth creation and global data centres market

According to the Commission, recent developments point to the limitless treasure within this space in the global digital ecosystem.

He further disclosed that Africa has assumed a new frontier and compelling destination for global Big Technology players in recent times.

He listed such Big Techs as Google with its Equiano subsea fibre cable spanning 15,000 km from Portugal to South Africa with strategic landing points in Nigeria and Namibia respectively.

The facility is projected “to increase connectivity more than five-fold within Nigeria while creating expected 1.6million jobs,” stated Danbatta.

Besides, the EVC/CEO also mentioned Meta, the parent company of Facebook, which is equally on the threshold of launching its own subsea cable called 2Africa, in 2024, to connect 16 African countries at an estimated cost of $1billion.

Prof. Danbatta said: “It is targeted to generate close to $36bn of economic output within 2 to 3 years of operation.

“While these, no doubt, portends significant socio-economic impacts for Nigeria, it brings to fore the debate around digital sovereignty and the need for national policy and regulatory frameworks to further localise traffic and data.”

He restated the Federal Government had taken laudable measures to encourage and support data centres services to ensure data sovereignty, as captured in the NDEPS Pillar #3 on Solid Infrastructure.

The Executive Vice-Chairman noted it therefore, indicates that the potential of these centres to attract Foreign Investment remain massive.

He as well said that global data centre market is worth billions of Dollars, and Nigeria is well-positioned to attract a fair share of this investment.

“By providing a reliable and secure environment for the services they offer within a well-nurtured policy and regulatory framework, Nigeria represents an attractive destination for more investment in data centre services and operations,” Danbatta said.

Broadband connectivity in improved telecoms ecosystem

Danbatta in his speech at the forum also disclosed the NCC recognises the place of Broadband infrastructure and technology in interconnectivity, and its impact on national development, increased content and social inclusion.

Policy and regulatory initiatives, he noted, had been geared towards public investment in Broadband backbone networks through harmonisation of Right of Way (RoW) charges and the allocation of more spectrum for existing mobile and 5G technologies.

According to him, with the recognition of the new place of data within the digital ecosystem, the Commission had proactively taken steps leading to an active functioning market that brought about competition and improved quality of service, with appropriate regulatory measures to guide the industry in determining a cost based transmission trunk link rates and mobile access networks.

We have also carried out extensive assessment of the broadband value chain, including the analysis of market features such as ecosystem mapping, pricing, technology, regulatory climate and competition, the EVC/CEO said.

He stressed “these efforts have led to reduction in data prices in the mobile sector including rapid expansion of non-voice service portfolios that created new revenue streams for network and data centre operators.

Infrastructure outsourcing and collocation that created a positive impact on operators’ profitability with increased expansion to underserved rural areas towards increased user experience and greater data capture.”

Danbatta added more spectrum release for 5G services by the regulator has further lowered costs of providing mobile Broadband services for telecoms consumers, among other regulatory efforts.

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