…Laud sector’s contributions to growth of economy
Chinenye Anuforo [email protected]
As Nigeria celebrates its 60th independence anniversary, the ICT sector has faced several challenging years, with rapid currency depreciation and a macroeconomic slowdown weighing on profitability.
Still, the sector remains a critical non-oil growth driver and major contributor to the economy, supported by a sizeable young population and the rapid adoption of mobile Internet services.
According to experts, for the ICT sector in Nigeria, it has been a mixed bag, there have been highs and lows.
“However, the role of the sector is undeniable. Imagine the impact the sector has had on communications, banking and online products and services, social media and other digital-enabled activities that are now part of everyday life in Nigeria”, said Mr. Jide Awe, an ICT expert.
Within 60 years, the improved access to the Internet and rapid growth in mobile and telephone subscription has been impressive. There is interest among the youth and the youth potential in ICT development is immense. The sector was the primary infrastructure during the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
Continuing, Awe who is also the CEO of Jidaw Communications, stated that there are still many rivers to cross. Major challenges exist with respect to local content development, digital inclusion and literacy, youth innovation, ICT affordability, quality of service, enabling environment and culture for tech innovation and entrepreneurship, preparedness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) as well as job creation and profitability and sustainability of tech firms. ICT effectiveness in improving economic growth and overcoming developmental challenges is still an issue.
On the contribution of the present administration to the growth of the sector, he stated that, government efforts are noticeable. Efforts such as digital privacy regulation, executive orders supporting local ICT development and the resolution of the ROW challenge to broadband penetration are commendable.
He stressed that government needs to do more: “Government’s focus should be on building an inclusive and more enabling environment for the sector. It needs to work more with stakeholders (private sector, academia, industry, youth, etc) to address the previous challenges mentioned. The sector environment needs to be improved for relevance, growth and impact through shared vision, policies and strategies, synergy with stakeholders and addressing their concerns. The informal sector is particularly critical And it should also focus on the development and use of emerging technologies to prepare citizens and the nation for growth and resilience in the 4IR. There are huge opportunities and challenges but the strategic strengthening of the local ICT sector is required.
“Nigeria should not be content with just being a digital market of consumption but should aspire to be a leading hub of digital transformation, innovation and creativity.
“Government needs to encourage and promote local research and the fostering of an innovative mentality and culture as it enables the further digitization of education, health and the entire economy and society.”
On his own part, the president, of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, commended the contributions of the sector since after the liberalisation of telecommunication companies in the country.
He said the ICT remained the only sector whose contribution to the growth of economy is very significant even with many great ideas, and policies that have simply not been implemented to the word or at all.
He described the sector as the only true single development that Nigeria has recorded since the return to democratic rule in 1999. He added: “It is the only recognised positive achievement recorded and recognised by ITU, EIU, ECOWAS, GSMA, and the UN that contributes to socio-economic development which was achieved and driven by the digitisation.”
He added that Nigeria needs “to recognise the leadership of former President Olusegun Obasanjo for allowing an enabling and conducive environment to exist for the private sector to come in and demonstrate its innovation and tenacity to drive through tremendous telephony penetration and create an industry respected the world over that allowed more than $70 billion of investments to be made in the sector.”
With continued investments and adoption of AI, Machine Learning, 5G, and IoT, the country should hopefully see a more sophisticated consumer society that demands higher levels of QoS and improves on the connectivity reach of current networks to serve the growing population that is projected.
He also commended the efforts of the current administration in its contribution to boost the sector but also stressed the need for more attention on the sector especially on the area of implementation various recommended policies by stakeholders that will see to the total overhauling of the sector.
Corroborating him, Ajibola Olude, the secretary ATCON, stated that the contributions of the ICT sector these 60 years have been stable and commendable. He said the giant strides recorded in the sector have been as a result of the collaborative efforts between the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Nigeria Communications Commission, NITDA, ATCON and other stakeholders.
He lauded the contributions of Federal Government to the resolution of some of the issues confronting the sector. Olude said, “The issue of right of way has been laid to rest as all states of the federation are expected to charge N145 per linear metre. And this was achieved by the efforts of the regulators and other stakeholders.”
He also urged government to pay more attention to ICT as it is critical to the development and growth of the economy.