For three days - between June 2nd and 4th, ICT enthusiasts converged at the Expo Centre and Coral Hall of Oceanview Restaurant in Lagos for the West African International Telecommunications and Information Communication Technology Exhibition (W.Afri.Tel) and the West African Information Communications Technology (WafICT) Congress.
While the W.Afri.Tel exhibition, organized by Exhibition Management Services (EMS) of South Africa, in partnership with IT & Telecom Digest, was hosting its ninth edition; the WAFICT Congress was an added feature for the first time, since the berth of W.Afri.Tel in June 2001.
Declaring the twin events of global prominence open were two distinguished Africans whose contributions to the development of the ICT sector in their respective countries and the continent remain gargantuan. They were Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Telecom Organization (CTO) and Chief Cornelius Adebayo, former Nigerian Communications minister; who was the country’s longest serving Communications minister in the eight years of the President Obasanjo regime and in whose tenure Nigeria recorded gigantic leap in telecom subscriber base and investment.
Delivering his opening remark on the first day of the WafICT Congress, Dr. Spio-Garbrah described West Africa as having attained the status of a very important market and more so with the threat of the global meltdown on western based companies. He commended the growing attention being paid the region, even though an emerging market by global leading ICT businesses. According to him, an event like the WafICT Congress was necessary for exchange of ideas to move the ICT sector even to a greater height.
While making a presentation on policy and regulatory challenges of harnessing new technologies, he emphasized the need for adoption of Next Generation Networks (NGNs), which he said are based on genuinely innovative technologies already transforming business communications.
According to him, major drivers for NGNs include changes in service and user needs, as well as technological evolution, further stating that benefits accruable to Nigeria and other African countries in the aftermath of NGN presence are access, availability and affordability of telecom facilities and improved quality of service.
Dr. Spio-Garbrah advocated for a closer working relationship between government and the telecom industry regulator and operators, as they are pivotal to the success of the industry and the people at large. Referring to the recent squabbles between the Ministry of Communications and the Nigerian Communications Commission over the recent auctioning of 2.3 GHz spectrum, he stated that a cordial working relationship would have averted any form of bickering.
Speaking on the broadband Internet divide in Nigeria, Engr. Lanre Ajayi, president of Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) identified the lack of effective Internet exchange points as a factor for lack of broadband ubiquity in Nigeria. He further highlighted the lack of enthusiasm by telecom operators to roll out broadband services as another factor responsible for the digital divide in Nigeria.
According to him, other obstacles hindering broadband deployment include monopoly of the SAT-3 submarine cable, lack of inadequate national transmission backbone and unavailability of spectrum for last mile operations.
The WafICT Congress recorded such speakers as Mr. Peter Schubert, CTO of Globacom, Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services executive of MTN Nigeria and Mrs. Ijeoma Abazie, CCAO of Multi-Links Telkom Nigeria. Others include Mr. Harald Braun, president of Harris Stratex Networks USA; Dr. Stephen Castell, chairman, Castell Consulting, UK; Mr. Petteri Paasila, MD designate, iBurst Nigeria; Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (Alton); Mr. Karl Keppke, Regional Sales director of O3b Networks and Ms. Funke Opeke, CEO of Mainstreet Technologies, among others.