NITDEL 2013 charts growth path for ICT sector

The Nigerian Telecoms Development Lecture, (NITDEL 2013) has, again, provided a platform for regulators, operators and other stakeholders to brainstorm on critical issues that require urgent attention for Information and Communication Technology development. KUNLE AZEEZ reports.

Stakeholders, who gathered at this year’s eighth edition of the annual Nigerian Telecoms Development Lecture, NITDEL, were provided with another opportunity to discuss pressing regulatory issues and other challenges facing the Information and Communication Technology industry with a view to charting a way for further development of the nation’s ICT industry. Critical industry issues discussed at the forum, which is a precursor to the Nigerian Telecoms Award, which usually holds a day after the lecture, revolved around the problem of Right of Way, multiple taxation, impact of telecoms on the economy and the strategy for fast-tracking the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, among others.

Appraising the industry as a keynote speaker at the 2013 NITDEL held in Lagos recently, the Chairman of the Nigerian Communication Commission, Mr. Peter Igho, noted that the rapid deployment of digital mobile services across the country and speed at which they were being subscribed to, has demonstrated the importance of ICT services to the people.

At 120 million active lines as at June this year, and teledensity of more than 85 per cent from 0.4 per cent in 2001, Igho said many citizens were in realisation of how Information and Communication Technology contributes to societal development whether in terms of business or governance.

“There are many areas that have been positively affected by Nigeria’s ICT, including direct and indirect employment, new business opportunities, learning and skills development opportunities, and in our human relationships.

We are delighted to note that at telecommunications is currently contributing more than 8.5 per cent to the national Gross Domestic Product,” he said.

Igho stated that the economic development of a nation can be accelerated by improvements in the country’s ICT infrastructure has been widely established. He said, “The explosion in technology which ushered in the information age has become the basis for defining power in the modern world.

No modern economy can thrive without an integral information technology and telecommunications infrastructure. This is because ICTs provide veritable platform for development across the economic and other sectors if well harnessed.” He explained that ICT tools were enablers of broad-based social and economic development.

“ICTs not only contribute to the development of education, health and governance, but are also key enablers of sustainable human development in a more general sense.”

In the same vein, The Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Raufu Aregbesola, who spoke on ‘ICT, a tool for social development, noted that people’s lives have today become permeated by ICT and its innumerable applications, which helps individuals to be more efficient.

He said: “our present world is already being extensively driven by ICT; right from simple domestic appliances to much more complex mechanical devices, and physical structures. Very familiar items of creature comforts like telephone handsets, cameras, refrigerators, television sets, ovens, gas cookers and others have become heavily digitised and reflect the varied and intensifying applications of ICT.

“In the wide-ranging areas of human life; in medicine, construction, agriculture, drugs production and other processes of industrial manufacturing, ICT has become the central driving force.

In a typical automobile assembly plants today, vehicles are built from scratch to finish by robotic arms, which are themselves products of advanced ICT application.”

According to him, ICT is now being use to drive education, security, financial services sector in the area of electronic payment channels, telemedicine, farming, among others. Citing few cases on how ICT is being deployed to transform his state, Aregbesola said “Since he became governor in November 2010, “I have given an important place to ICT in the way we run the business of government.” One of the first areas of ICT deployment in the state, according to him, was revenue reform.

“We immediately moved to discard the old methods of payment system and tax administration which were fraught with leakages and loopholes that were exploited to divert revenues that should accrue to the state’s coffers.”

“The result was instant and stunning; our monthly internally generated revenue, IGR, jumped by 100 per cent from N300 million to N600 million in less than one year, stressing that the state’s deployment of ICT to public education has become worldfamous, especially through the iPad-like computer tablet christened Opon-Imo or tablet of knowledge.

Aregbesola tasked other states of the federation to avail themselves of the huge opportunity provided by ICT to make their state operations digitally inclined, while urging the states, regulators and operators to collaborate to fast-track ICT development.

However, the Chief Executive Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Mr. Segun Ogunsanya, insisted that in order for the country to further benefit from the product of over $25 billion investment in the telecoms sector, extant challenges facing operators deserved adequate attention by the government.

These, he said, range from multiple taxations, challenge of Right of Way, inadequate frequency spectrum to deploy broadband services and applications and indiscriminate shutdown of telecoms facilities by state agents.

Stressing that broadband can play a valuable role in diversifying the Nigerian economy away from oil dependency, Ogunsanya said ubiquitous broadband- fast speed internet service – would depend on robust networks and infrastructure, adoption and utilisation as well as favourable policy and regulation.

In his submission, President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria, Mr. Lanre Ajayi, urged government authorities to support telecoms operators in their efforts to roll out infrastructures critical to achieving the objective of the National Broadband Policy in the country.

Expressing similar view, Chairman, Logical Communications, organisers of NITDEL, Mr. Biodun Ajiboye, who also stated the role of telecoms in boosting a nation’s GDP, said telecoms industry today remained a strategic sector, whose activity now provides the backbone for faster growth and modernisation of other sectors.

“This is why telecoms industry must be seen as very fundamental to the economy and why government at the Federal, state and local governments should collaborate with telecoms operators to allow for easier and relaxed roll-out for telcos while enacting laws to protect telecoms infrastructures.”

While stressing the commitment of NITDEL to sharing the development initiatives of telecom stakeholders, Ajiboye, asserted that the annual telecoms lecture concept was initiated as a platform to synergise the interest of both corporate and political players in the country.

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