Prioritising NRI Not Only a Strategic Necessity But a Mandate – Prof. Dambatta

 

By Abdulrahman Aliagan, Abuja

The Nigerian telecommunications industry has come a long way since the introduction of mobile telephony in 2001, with a subscriber base of over 222m and Teledensity of 116.60 per cent as at December, 2022. The industry has undoubtedly become a major player in the country’s economic growth. This growth, however, has also brought with it new challenges and opportunities. The emergence of new technologies has led to rapidly changing consumer demands and increased competition within the industry. For this reason, it has become necessary to create an open dialogue for stakeholders in the telecommunications industry to discuss and share ideas on how to build a sustainable future for the sector.

This was the main objective of the ‘Emerging Technology Forum for the Telecommunications Industry in Nigeria’, an event that was held today, Thursday in Abuja at the instances of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)  themed: ‘Contextualising the Network Readiness Index (NRI) for the Nigerian Telecommunications Industry’.

The forum brought together key players in the industry including telecommunication operators, equipment vendors, regulators, academia and policy makers. It was an opportunity for stakeholders to examine the current state of the industry, identify key challenges, and explore potential solutions to the problems.

The forum kicked off with a welcome address by Professor Umar Dambatta, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Telecommunications Commission. Professor Dambatta highlighted the importance of technology in driving the growth of the industry and emphasized the role of the NCC in creating an enabling environment for stakeholders to thrive.

“In recent years, the Nigerian telecommunications industry has embarked on a remarkable growth trajectory, solidifying its position as an engine of economic growth. The enhancement of digital access and the expansion of our networks have left an indelible impact on the lives of our citizens. While we celebrate these accomplishments, we are keenly aware that our dynamic society requires even higher connectivity, reliability, and accessibility standards. The surge in data utilisation, the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), the advent of artificial intelligence, and the emergence of cutting-edge technologies highlight the urgent need for ongoing network surveillance and expansion.

He stated further, “To navigate this era of transformation, we must embrace innovation, make strategic investments, and cultivate a growth-friendly ecosystem.

This platform is our gateway to innovative and disruptive solutions that can positively transform our industry. By engaging in conversations about new technologies, collaborating with global best practices and subject-matter experts, and pooling our insights, we open the door to unimaginable future possibilities. Let us grasp this opportunity to investigate emerging technologies, envisage their potential applications, and determine how they can be leveraged to solve our specific challenges.”

Stating the problem at hand, Prof. Dambatta said, “The global data collected by the NRI team reveals that digital transformation is a global imperative in order to maximize the social and economic effects of the digital era. It can create new inequalities which can hinder the ability of younger generations to engage in the digital economy, but also remains a powerful way to do more with less at all levels of income. Formal education is evolving, and metrics are important to support informed policymaking. This requires reskilling and upskilling opportunities to be available, accessible, and affordable in order to have more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies.”

According the EVC NCC, “Nigeria is a telecommunications powerhouse, with 82% of the continent’s telecom subscribers and 29% of the continent’s internet consumption. Our nation rates eleventh globally in terms of internet penetration and seventh in terms of mobile phone usage. Despite these remarkable metrics, the fact that our Network Readiness Index (NRI) ranking for 2022 is 109th out of 131 countries is both humbling and challenging.

“The NRI is a guiding metric that measures the role and impact of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). It explores the performances of 131 economies in four key categories: technology (infrastructure), governance, people, and impact. As agents of social and economic transformation in our nation, prioritizing network readiness is not only a strategic necessity but a mandate. “ Dambatta said.

In his opening remarks, Engr. (Dr.) Chudi Diugwu, the Head of New Media and Information Security Department of NCC, stressed the importance of emerging technologies in shaping the future of the industry.

“This forum aims to establish a National Network Readiness Index (NRI) by exploring the driving factors of emerging technologies, further examining the sustainability and barriers of the NRI’s four pillars – Technology, People, Governance, and Impact.

“The NRI, widely used for monitoring access and impact of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), is an invaluable tool for identifying gaps, stimulating action, structuring policy dialogue, and tracking ICT readiness over time. The Tech Industry is a focal point of Nigeria’s growth, demonstrated by the recent investments in infrastructure and digital services. Statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics indicate that Nigeria’s ICT sector contributed up to 14.07% to the total GDP in the first quarter of 2020, and this had grown to 17.47% by Q1 2023.

“The Federal Government’s focus on the Tech Industry, particularly on fostering the advancement and growth of technology especially emerging and new technologies is highly commendable. This is one of the objectives of the NCC in its strategic pillar: Promotion of DIGITAL ECONOMY and is cascaded to the New Media and Information Security Department as one of its critical mandates . This goal of enhancing the productivity ecosystem, is expected to result in a significant boost to the nation’s innovative capabilities in the coming years.

“There has been remarkable development in Nigeria’s ICT infrastructure in recent years, with skyrocketing mobile penetration rates, and internet connectivity expanding drastically. The Commission’s commitment to enhance network infrastructure, coupled with the private sector’s contributions has significantly transformed our connectivity landscape. It is crucial to note that the NRI is not just about the latest technologies or high-speed internet access. It also includes elements such as affordability, digital skills, and the availability and adoption of digital services in various sectors of the economy, said Engr. Diugwu.

The introductory remarks were delivered by Engr. Ubale A. Maska, the Executive Commissioner for Technical Services. In his remarks, he highlighted the role of the NRI in measuring the readiness and capacity of countries to adopt and absorb ICT innovations.

“We live in rapidly changing times where the proliferation of digital transformation and the use of ICTs are inevitable. With the world becoming increasingly interconnected and our economic activities relying heavily on the digital space, it has become essential for countries to be at the forefront in terms of technology adoption. This is why the Network Readiness Index (NRI) is so important to measure the progress of a country as it relates to ICTs and digital transformation.

“Nigeria’s Network Readiness Index is a strong indicator of how the country is adapting to the digital transformation that is happening all over the world, and will help us access our progress and position on the global digital train. This forum seeks to examine the different barriers and key drivers of emerging technologies as far as the Nigerian telecommunications industry is concerned.

“We intend to explore the challenges that are present, and to discuss solutions to ensure that the country is making the most of the digital transformation.In the end, this forum should provide us with valuable focal areas of discourse,  with the hope of discovering innovative and effective ways of improving the Network Readiness Index in Nigeria. said Engr. Maska.

Undoubtedly, the Emerging Technology Forum for the Telecommunications Industry in Nigeria provided an opportunity for stakeholders in the industry to discuss the relevance of the NRI. The forum highlighted the importance of infrastructure, affordability, and innovation in improving the NRI in Nigeria. The forum also encouraged stakeholders in the industry to continue engaging in discussions concerning the integration of emerging technology into the industry. The Emerging Technology Forum for the Telecommunications Industry in Nigeria is a significant step towards the growth and development of the industry.

 

Prime Times

Abdulrahman Aliagan is an Abuja-based seasoned Journalist with close to two decades of uninterrupted practice in Journalism, a PR Expert, a Development Coach and a Media Crisis Management Consultant.
A holder of Bachelor degree in History, a graduate of International Institute of Journalism, IIJ, Jahi, Abuja, he is well trained in various aspects of modern day Journalism including Digital Media and Solution Journalism.
Aliagan is a member of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and is currently the National Secretary of the Nigerian Guild of Investigative Journalists (NGIJ).

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