This month of August marks seven years since the country began the liberalization of telecommunications industry through adoption of Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) technology.
The Nigerian telecommunications industry has experienced significant growth in the last seven years, following the successful take-off of the digital mobile telephone services, using GSM technology. From less than 500,000 active fixed telephone lines as at mid 2001, to a population of over 120 million, the total number of connected fixed and mobile telephone lines increased to about 53 million both active and inactive lines this June.
However the entrance of the GSM technology has brought about such a revolutionary transformation that millions of Nigerians with no access to telecommunications now clutch mobile phones in their millions. It is a common sight these days to see traders, fish sellers, hawkers, motorcycle riders among others using mobile phones. The staggering number of subscribers on the three major GSM networks of MTN, Globacom and Zain as Nigeria celebrates 7 years of operations, is a testimony to the hunger of Nigerians for communications.
It is clear that Nigeria cannot celebrate the advances recorded in the communications sphere without acknowledging the contributions of Ernest Ndukwe, the executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). Ndukwe has over the years emerged as the face of GSM in Nigeria through his transparent handling of the regulatory affairs of the telecoms sector.
Since February of 2001 when he supervised the auctioning of GSM licences in the country, he has conducted the affairs of the regulatory functions of the commission in such a way that other countries in Africa now come to Nigeria to understudy the regulatory processes that has seen the sector emerge as the largest and fastest growing in Africa and the 3rd fastest growing in the world.
Several research firms across the globe have commended the Nigerian government and Ndukwe, one of the most sought-after telecom resource persons in the telecommunications industry in Africa for an effective transparent and foreign investment attracting regimes in the continent. In spite of the recent downturn in the quality of service dished out by operators characterized by drop calls, undelivered text messages, Ndukwe’s starling qualities as a regulator of note is still intact.
However, beyond the celebration of seven years of GSM, the NCC had taken several measures to tackle the issues of quality of service. One of the ways the NCC has shown that it was serious in tackling issues of quality of service was in the area of the enforcing its regulatory powers to stop operators from further promos that has been a major cause of network congestion witnessed in recent times. By this action the NCC sent a message that no operator is above the law and that they must conform to measures that will save the sector from further deterioration due to their poor service delivery. The commission has also procured equipments that will enable it monitor congestion and service quality of the various networks in the country.
It also ensured that operators paid their subscribers N175 compensation for poor quality of service experienced in January this year, even as some operators protested by taking the commission to court. It stood its ground and made this happened.
In the last seven years, since the GSM revolution hit the nation, a lot of benefits have been enjoyed by the Nigerian subscriber who was hitherto at the mercy of the almost nonexistent epileptic services rendered by the Nigerian Telecommunications Nitel. Since then, the monopoly of non effective service rendered by Nitel has been broken and communication across regions enhanced by GSM thus encouraging the socio economic growth of the nation, enhancing business and social relationships. The fact is that effective communication is crucial and cannot be overemphasized. With a teledensity presently below 35 % and a subscriber base of 53 million as at the end of June, one could say that a feat has been achieved by the GSM revolution in connecting Nigerians to a critical service given the fact that before the advent of GSM, teledensity was less than 4% and only about five hundred thousand Nigerians had access to telephony services in a nation of over a hundred million people.
Then having a telephone was a class thing and only the rich could afford the luxury and the muscle to withstand the stress of Nitel technicians who used to hold subscribers to ransom at every little opportunity. Then it was a common sight to see the technicians asking for ladder and cables and all sorts to fix a line anytime a problem arises, it was indeed a nightmare. One could easily recall the stress of keeping vigil at the offices of Nitel in a bid to make calls and be confronted with the common problem of no tone come back tomorrow and so on. But thanks to President Obasanjo and the coming of GSM all that is now history.
The GSM revolution in the country has indeed contributed over 80 percent of $12 billion private investment in the sector as well as account for $10 billion foreign direct investment. It has also stimulated local investment and increased job opportunities. It is a common scene in urban areas of young men and women sitting under an umbrella provided for them by GSM operators making calls for people at token. This umbrella call centre initiative is today providing food to greater percentage of unemployed Nigerians, aside this are others who are trading in recharge cards and other products of GSM operators.
The benefit of GSM technology is enormous and still increasing as it gets expanded, we may not easily forget that Nigerians are now turning GSM engineers, these are our young countrymen and women who eke their living through repair of mobile handsets. The popular Otigba computer village is no longer computer village in its sense as the sale of mobile handset has almost taken over business at the market.
The revolution has also indirectly stimulated development and vibrancy of some sectors of the economy, such sectors are leveraging on the technology deployed by GSM operators to provide services to their customers, A case in point is the banking sector, where banks are offering mobile banking which give customer the opportunity to monitor and carry out transactions on the move through their mobile phones. Most Automated Teller Machines (ATM) deployed by banks is working with the help of GSM General Package Radio Service (GPRS) deployed by operators.
There has been an increased turnover for advertising and marking communications services basically because of the GSM operators that uses the channel often times to reach their subscribers as campaign for more subscribers.
In spite of the benefits Nigerians are enjoying from the advent of GSM technology, the operators are not finding it a world of roses in rendering services. The much talked about poor quality of service is a function of weak infrastructure base, operators have been powering their equipment with generators which are not the case in most environment. This is attributed to inefficient public power system. Nigeria CommunicationsWeek investigations reveal that the three major operators in this space, MTN, Glomobile and Zain are powering their over 14,000 base transceiver stations with 28,000 generators. They are also providing security for their equipment which has not deterred unscrupulous Nigerians from stealing these generators and diesel. At last count in December last year Zain, Glomobile and MTN lost a total of 290 generators and over a million litres of diesel, this is indeed a huge lost to bear by operators.
There is also the problem of area boys. One of the operators has had to shutdown one of its sites in Lagos due to incessant demand of huge settlements by Area Boys. In the Niger-Delta area, one of the operators reported that over 30 of its sites have become inaccessible due to militant youths, who have refused them to refuel or maintain the sites except they parted with huge sums of money. It is unfair on the GSM operators, who unlike the oil companies are not taking any natural resource but building telecommunications infrastructure around the country.
Operators are also face with multiple taxation imposed on their equipment by different tiers of government, Abuja capital development authority had impose N3 million annual fee on each base station in the metropolis. More so, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (Alton), the umbrella body of the telecom operators, are in court with Lagos state government over the later imposition of N500,000 fee per base station in the state.
The regulatory body also needs to ensure that competition is enshrined in all market segment of the sector as well as maintain favourable regulatory and investment climate, required for the protection of consumers. This is necessary in view of anti competitive behavour of some GSM operators.
The next phase of the Telecommunications growth will come from the rural areas. With a paltry 40 percent of the country being covered with telecommunications services, it is obvious that a huge gap needs to be tapped and already the focus for now by stakeholders and investors is on the rural area and how ICT services can be deployed to the rural communities. Investors are falling over themselves to come to Nigeria and do business mostly as a result of the fact that in spite of the infrastructural problems posed by lack of power, roads among other, Nigeria has a high return on investments rate. It is a fertile ground for any investor to recoup their investments, because of its population. Before now, the country has witnessed higher investments in the urban areas as opposed to lower investments in the rural areas by telecoms operators. In order to bridge this gap, telecommunications and internet services need to be deployed to the rural areas.
The NCC under Ndukwe should not relent in its efforts of playing its regulatory functions in an effective manner. Nigeria has a lot to gain and cannot afford to loose sight of the fact that an effective regulatory environment has to a large extent helped in steering the ship of the nation’s telecoms revolution.
As Nigeria celebrate this seventh year of Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), subscribers await the introduction of number portability which is believed will in no small measure help in address the quality of service issues.
NCC need to be commended for rising up to the challenges of regulation, especially with SIM registration, call centre initiative, consumer parliament and its current effort at ensuring that physically challenged group in the society are fairly treated by operators.
NDPR to Safeguard Personal Data of Nigerians -DG NITDA
Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has disclosed that the motive behind the issuance of Nigerian Data Protection Regulations, (NDPR) by the Agency was to safeguard the right of natural persons to data privacy, fostering safe conduct for transactions involving the exchange of personal data, enablement of Nigerian businesses to be globally compliant and competitive and to create jobs for Nigerians.
Mallam Abdullahi revealed this Friday while delivering the keynote address at the 6th annual conference of Institute Internal Auditors of Nigeria, (IIAN) with the theme:, “Agility and Resilience” which was held on zoom conference platform.
The Conference aimed at preparing participants across Internal Audits, Internal Controls, risk management, revenue and Government assurance and other business professionals to learn how to leverage on new technologies and procedures towards actualisation of the organisation’s goals and objectives.
The NITDA DG who was represented Director e-Government Development and Regulations, Dr Vincent Olatunji stated that since inception of the Agency in 2001, it has been playing a catalytic roles to spur the infusion of technology into nation’s work processes reiterating that the Agency plays “critical roles in capacity development, provision of working tools for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
“NITDA also has an existing arrangement with the office of the Auditor General of the Federation to aid the office in the discharge of its activities.”
Mallam Abdullahi said, “The Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) was issued on 25th January, 2020 by my predecessor, DrIsa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
“As part of his think-tank then, our thinking was that Nigeria needed to quickly provide a regulatory framework for the processing of personal data.
“This was even more pertinent in consideration of the global implications of non-performance.
“Businesses where losing bids because investors felt there was no data privacy regime in Nigeria.
“The Agency’s implementation of the NDPR has been innovative and impact oriented. For the first time in data protection implementation, auditors became recognised as Data Protection Compliance Organisations (DPCO)”.
He maintained that NITDA has 72 licensed DPCOs among which are members of this “august body,” adding that “this posture is not as a result of lack of professionals in the IT industry, rather, we have made conscious efforts to carry every relevant stakeholder along in our developmental regulatory strategy.
“ I hope this noble institute would repay NITDA’s generosity by imbibing ethical and professional principles on your members for better implementation of the Regulation.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, New Capital Cooperatives Society Mr. Benedict Anyalenka while commending the organisers of the conference affirmed that data privacy and protection should be a requisite skill needed for development of the Information Technology Sector as it would create platform for protection of information against unauthorized usage.
Anyalenka, however, called for proper awareness on the importance of data privacy among organisations and stakeholders across the country to safeguard citizens’ data.
FG Reveals Plans to Deploy Technology in the Health Sector
As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government of Nigeria has announced plans to deploy information and communications technology (ICT) in the country’s health sector.
This is part of the plans to achieve transparency and accountability in health care delivery across the country.
Dr. Ngozi R. C. Azodoh, director, Special Projects, Federal Ministry of Health, who represented Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire, Honourable Minister of Health, revealed this while speaking at MTN Nigeria’s Revv Programme masterclass on Thursday, September 17, 2020 .
The virtual session themed ‘Bridging the healthcare divide through technology and partnerships’ had in attendance health sector experts including Chief Executive Officer, Hygeia HMO Limited, Obinnia Abajue; Chief Operations Officer and Co-Founder, Afya Care, Kola Oni; Managing Director, Ingress Health Partners, Dr. Orode Doherty and Chief Executive Officer, Tremendoc Limited, Ugochukwu Chikezie. The session was moderated by the General Manager, Business Development, MTN Nigeria, Omotayo Ojulatayo.
According to Azodoh, the federal government has put structures in place to utilise ICT as part of efforts to standardise the healthcare system.
“The government is working hand in hand with state governments across the country to maintain transparency and accountability, adding that ICT and other forms of electronic platforms are currently being improved and expanded following the federal government’s COVID intervention”.
She also shared that the ministry is willing to support small businesses in the sector imploring the participating SMEs to seize the opportunities provided by The Revv Programme.
“I want to ask everyone who is listening to write to the MTN Revv team and say this is one thing I want the Federal Ministry of Health to do to help my business then we can engage on how to proceed,” she enthused.
In her parting remarks, she also commended MTN Nigeria for providing a platform for SMEs to expand their capacity. “I must commend MTN for this excellent initiative. It has been very productive for me and an opportunity to transfer knowledge.”
The Revv Programme is an initiative from MTN Nigeria to help small businesses rethink and retool their operations in order to withstand the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic using a four-pronged approach that includes masterclasses, access to market, productivity tools support and advisory initiatives.
Peace House Charity Foundation Seeks for DCTC Intervention
Mallam Kashifu InuwaAbdullahi, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), asserted that if we do not empower our people, they become a problem to the society in future.
He made this know on Friday while receiving a delegation from Peace House Charity Foundation,Yola who were at the Agency’s Corporate Headquarter, Abuja to seek for interventions in the areas of ICT.
The representative of the Director General, Dr. Vincent Olatunji, Director eGovernment Development and Regulation stated that one of the mandate of the Agency is the deployment of ICT infrastructure as such the Foundation’s visit at this time is very apt as the Agency is relentlessly working on the implementation of the Digital Economy strategy.
MallamAbdullahi affirmed that Agency at the moment is looking for organisations to partner with to sustain Digital Capacity Training Centres deployed across the country.
He commended the effort of the organisation in assisting orphans with not only providing basic education but also the provision of skills, mentorship and moral upbringing.
Speaking earlier, Mr Mohammad Bello, a Director with the Foundation said that the organisation was at the Agency to seek for ICT intervention and to commend NITDA’s effort in promoting ICT knowledge across the nation.
He stated that the organisation supports education for the orphans and the less privileged, promote health care delivery especially among women and children, provide sensitisation workshop for parents (mothers) on parenting and matrimonial home, promote unity and encourage self-reliance among the populace.
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