A Group Photograph of Some Dignitaries at the ATCON Telecoms/ICT National Dialogue, in Abuja, FCT Photo: NCC

Telecoms/ICT: Government committed to fast-tracking Nigeria’s digital economy ─Minister

*Interconnectivity indebtedness is a big challenge to infrastructure expansion, telecom operators should settle debts in the interest of the industry, says Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman/CEO of NCC

*National Dialogue targeted at harnessing digital resources in the country to optimise innovative ideas to effectively pursue the digital economy ─Olusola Teniola, President of ATCON

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

In view of the telecommunications/Information and Communications Technology (ICT) individual and corporate consumers’ increased reliance on digital platforms to perform their activities in Nigeria, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Honourable Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, has restated the resolve of the Federal Government to continually advance the digital economy agenda of the country.

ConsumerConnect reports Dr. Pantami disclosed this in a keynote address at the maiden edition of the National Dialogue on Telecoms and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Sectors in Nigeria at the NAF Conference Centre & Suites, in Abuja, FCT, Thursday, October 15, 2020.

The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), in collaboration with other industry stakeholders, organised the forum with the main theme: “Harnessing the Digital Resources for the Building of Our National Economy” and other sub-themes.

Represented by Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Minister said the event with the its all-encompassing theme and sub-themes lined up for discussions were apt and timely in regard to the enhanced reliance of individuals and businesses on digital platforms to carry out their activities.

The digital economy journey started by the Ministry, following the President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval in 2019, culminated in the development of an eight-pillar National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), he stated.

According to him, the document is designed with a view to providing a more coordinated and enhanced national policy direction for transforming Nigeria’s economy into a truly digital economy.

NDEPS is a policy document that addresses different aspects of development that require attention in order to have a vibrant digital economy.

Pantami further disclosed that like Nigeria, most countries of the world are prioritising the need to develop their digital economies because of the multiplier effect on all other sectors of the economy.

Some of the challenges of the digital economy, he said, include rapid evolution of technology and widening inequalities between the digital “haves” and “haves-not”; need for new regulations; cybercrime and other threats; low level of digital literacy; and the need for infrastructure.

In connection with Nigeria’s digital economy strategy, the Minister stressed that “economic growth and productivity; increased transparency; growth of digital innovation and entrepreneurship; digitisation of work and useful insights from big data are some of the opportunities that abound and from which the economy will gain.

He added: “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.”

Prof. Danbatta, also speaking in his capacity as the EVC/CEO of NCC and lead presenter at the second panel session on the topic, “National Funding and Investment Strategy for Broadband Infrastructure and Digital Economy”, focused on what the regulatory Commission had done in the last five years.

Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, Director of Public Affairs at NCC, in a statement said related the NCC activities as regards its efforts at “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.

Danbatta stated: “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 percent in the last five years.

“Also, from 8 percent in 2015, the telecoms sector contributed over 14 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as in the second quarter of 2020, valued at N2.3 trillion.”

Meanwhile, he urged telecom operators in the country to settle the huge interconnect debts being owed by various industry operators.

This should be resolved in the wider interest of the industry, said he.

The NCC Chief Executive Officer added that the “interconnectivity indebtedness valued at over N70 billion is a big challenge to infrastructure expansion and inimical to healthy competition” which are needed for facilitating digital economy in the country.

Mr. Olusola Teniola, President of ATCON, earlier in his welcome address, 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.

The conference also featured insightful panel discussion sessions by industry stakeholders and goodwill messages by state governments’ representatives across the six geo-political zones.

These participants used the platform to talk about how their states have been leveraging ICT deployment to drive economic activities and overall development of their states.

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