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FG, Bayelsa Sign MoU with on Smart State initiative

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A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between Bayelsa state and the Ministry of Communication Technology making Bayelsa a Smart state, an initiative being promoted by the Ministry of Communication Technology and the Broadband Council geared at engaging governors and relevant authorities at the state and federal level to address the issue of multiple taxation impeding the acceleration of the roll out of critical infrastructure across Nigeria.

The main aim of the Smart States initiative is to ensure that effective measures are adopted to remove arbitrary charges and eradicate multiple taxations across the nation.

Bayelsa is one of the Smart States selected by the Broadband Council to facilitate ICT infrastructure rollout critical for development.

Other Smart states selected by the Broadband Council include Anambra, Gombe, Katsina and Ondo. Lagos has already reduced ROW charges by 85%.

The MoU was signed during the Bayelsa State Investment and Economic Forum held over the weekend in Bayelsa.

Dr Omobola Johnson, minister of Communication Technology at the BSIEF 2014 Forum in Bayelsa made a Presentation on ‘Technology Infrastructure & eCommerce Growth’.

She highlighted the current scenario and future opportunities in the Nigerian ICT Industry, the growth prospects, primary drivers and factors influencing adoption of e-commerce in Nigeria and the Communication Technology Ministry’s role in facilitating ICT development and e-commerce growth in Nigeria.

Emphasising the role States play in ICT play in enabling speedy infrastructure deployment, Dr Johnson urged Gov Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state to focus on ICT infrastructure development in the state by waiving Right of Way ROW for two years, making it easy for fibre to be built in Bayelsa by reducing multiple taxation, enabling new roads being built or rehabilitated in the state to have fibre duct infrastructure, assign a single agency to collect levies, taxes and fees on behalf of the state and protect ICT infrastructure in the state.

Governor Dickson at the event immediately pledged a 50% reduction in ROW charges and the setting up of a single agency to administer the collection of all taxes and levies in Bayelsa. 

He promised that the state is proud to be selected as a Smart state and will put in place all the necessary measures needed to make Bayelsa a model ICT state in Nigeria.

Recall that the Ministry is working to ensure that the bottlenecks that mitigate service quality delivery are removed. 

To tackle quality of service issues in the industry, the Ministry in partnership with the Ministry of Works developed new Right of Way RoW guidelines for Federal Government roads to enable operators have unencumbered means of laying fibre optics which is critical for infrastructure development and quality of service.

To remove arbitrary charges and eradicate multiple taxations that impede telecoms development across the nation, the Ministry for the first time in the history of Nigeria’s telecoms revolution got state governors and relevant authorities at the state and federal level to address the issue of multiple taxation and adopt measures that will remove arbitrary charges and eradicate multiple taxations to enhance service delivery across the nation.

A landmark agreement with the Lagos state government facilitated by the Ministry was brokered to address issues of RoW, base station deployment etc. Cost of RoW was slashed from 3000 to 500- a reduction of 85%.

The Ministry is working replicate this in other states by convincing other state governors and relevant authorities at the state level to eliminate multiple taxation and adopt measures that will remove arbitrary charges and enhance telecoms service delivery.

An assessment of the deployment of ICT infrastructure revealed that almost 70 percent of deployment cost was spent on processing ROW; taxes and levies on infrastructure, which makes the landmark agreement with the Lagos State Government even more significant.

The ministry strongly believes that the elimination of multiple taxes will result in cost effective, accelerated and massive deployment of ICT infrastructure across the country, which will enhance quality delivery issues currently being experienced by telecoms subscribers.        
   
The accelerated deployment of ICT infrastructure, cannot be done without due consideration for the environment. The industry has been plagued with inter-agency conflicts and unduly long approval processes in ensuring that laid down standards are adhered to.

The ministry further committed itself to maintaining environmental standards and fostering inter-agency cooperation when it reached an Agreement with the Ministry of Environment and National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) on the construction of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS).

 


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NITDA, FCT-UBEB, Collaborate To Foster Digital Literacy In Schools

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In a significant development in Nigeria’s educational sector aimed at boosting digital literacy among school children, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), is set to collaborate with the Federal Capital Territory Universal Basic Educational Board (FCT-UBEB) towards revolutionising the way young Nigerians engage with technology and equipping them with necessary skills to thrive in an increasingly digital world.

NITDA

The forgoing information is contained in a press statement e-signed by the Head of Corporate Affairs and External Relations at NITDA, Hajia Hadiza Umar.

As per the statement, the Director-General of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi , made this known when he hosted a delegation from the Head-to-Head Debate Committee of FCT UBEB led by its Ag. Executive Chairman, Dr Alhassan Sule, at the Agency’s corporate headquarters in Abuja to discuss possible areas of collaboration.

Mallam Abdullahi , who was represented by the agency’s Director of the Information Technology Infrastructure Solutions (ITIS) department, Oladejo Olawumi, stated that the collaboration aligned with a pillar of NITDA’s Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2.0) 2024-2027 which was to Foster Digital Literacy and Cultivate Talents.

While stating that the pillar was key to the proposed educational board’s debate competition, the NITDA DG emphasised the importance of integrating technology into education to capture the interest and potential of young people.

“Children today, often referred to as digital natives, intuitively use technology and unlike us, who are digital migrants, these children seamlessly adapt to new gadgets and platforms. Therefore, it is essential to embed digital knowledge in their learning environment,” he noted.

Abdullahi disclosed that the agency had been providing infrastructure and resources to facilitate educational transformation as well as digital learning centres across all states of the country.

He added that the Digital Literacy for All programme was a national initiative of the agency which was designed to extend digital education resources to all corners of the country and urged the visitors to key into the programme while he asserted that it would be instrumental in enhancing digital literacy skills among students and out-of-school children alike.

Highlighting the agency’s focus on emerging technologies, Abdullahi stated that extensive research and development were being conducted in areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics which were pivotal for future skill sets.

While referring to a recent collaboration between the agency and the Abuja Enterprise Agency on a Robotics competition organised for secondary schools in Abuja to spur interest in Robotics and technology among students, he said “I think we can work together in this area and make sure that Robotics interest is geared up among the youth.”

Elaborating on the Agency’s ongoing initiatives toward achieving 70 per cent digital literacy in the country by 2027, he further disclosed that the agency was working to integrate digital literacy into the national educational curriculum and providing hands-on experience with technologies like AI and Robotics.

While stressing the importance of addressing the needs of out-of-school children, he mentioned “We are developing programmes in partnership with various stakeholders to attract these children through incentives like school feeding, coupled with digital literacy and other educational training.”

Abdullahi noted that the multifaceted approach would ensure that children were not only fed but also equipped with essential digital skills that would pave the way for a more inclusive and technologically proficient future.

In his earlier remark, Dr Sule commended the agency for their various strategic initiatives to ensure a sustainable digitally transformed economy in the country.

While stating that the head-to-head committee was saddled with the responsibility of conducting the FCT Basic Schools debate competition, he noted that 900 students in the FCT would contest in a debate.

Sule said that finalists from the competition would be moved to a reality house which will be aired live on different media platforms where they would be trained on AI and Robotics.


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Group Seeks Restructuring of N15Bn USPF

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Association of Telecommunications, Information Technology, Cable Satellite Network Operators and Allied Services Employers of Nigeria (ATICEN) has again called on Dr. Bosun Tijani, minister of Communications, Information and Digital Economy,  and Aminu Maida, executive vicecChairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to make the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) work for the purpose it was created and be more accountable about the rural telephony projects.

Dr. Bosun Tijani, minister of Communications, Information and Digital Economy

According to the Association, the Fund should be restructured or scrapped if it continues to fail to achieve the purpose for which it was created. It noted that despite the Fund, the digital gap was still wider in the rural areas.

In December last year, the USPF committee led by the Minister unveiled a project on rural telephony powered by solar – one of the many initiatives that USPF aimed at expanding the communication network to rural areas across the country.

It would be recalled that stakeholders in the telecoms industry had called for the investigation of the Fund allegedly misappropriated. The USPF was established in 2003 with an initial N15 billion to promote the widespread availability and usage of network and application services throughout Nigeria.

The NCC charges telecom operators 2.5 per cent of their turn-over as licensing fees, of which 40 per cent of the licensing fees is transferred to the designated fund called USPF.

However, despite the Fund, a wider digital divide still exists in the rural areas as many rural communities in the country are yet to be adequately connected to the country’s telecommunication system.

This lapse has been attributed to the misappropriation of funds partly budgeted for that project by some officials who held sway in the sector in the recent past. Sensing the mismanagement of the fund, some players in the sector called on the Presidency and the National Assembly to investigate the utilisation of the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) earmarked to bridge the infrastructure gap in the rural area.

They made the call following the non-impact of the Fund established by the Federal Government to facilitate the achievement of national policy goals for universal access and universal service to information and communication technologies (ICTs) in rural, unserved, and underserved areas in Nigeria.

The Fund is being managed to facilitate the widest possible access to affordable telecommunications services for greater social equity and inclusion for the people of Nigeria.

It would be recalled that a sum of N15.174 billion was recommended for approval as the Universal Service Provision Fund’s 2019 budget. Since it was established, the industry players said it had never had any impact on the telecoms industry, claiming that the fund had not been used for the purpose it was established.


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MTN Rallies MSMEs on Social Media Challenge to Promote creativity and innovation

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As the 2024 World MSME Day approaches, leading ICT company, MTN Nigeria has announced a social media challenge for MSMEs.

MTN

This challenge aims to encourage creativity and innovation in the way these businesses operate.

World MSME Day is an annual event that recognizes the vital contributions of the Micro, Small, and Medium enterprises (MSMEs) to the achievement of the nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to a report by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), MSMEs significantly contribute to Nigeria’s SDGs accounting for about 43% of the country’s GDP and 84% of employment.

To commemorate the World MSME Day celebration, MTN Nigeria has tasked MSME entrepreneurs who are active on social media to participate in a challenge.

The challenge requires business owners to upload a video showcasing their creative use of any one of the MTN’s business solution tools with the hashtag #MTNMSMEChallenge.

The winning business will be rewarded with free radio publicity, while four other business owners will receive exciting prizes. The challenge will run till June 27, 2024, on all social media platforms.

This initiative reflects MTN Nigeria’s ongoing commitment to supporting small and medium businesses in Nigeria. The company provides these enterprises with the right tools to perform competitively in the market and enhance the quality of their services.

Some of the business tools available for the MSMEs to utilise in the challenge include:

  • Meetings+: Powered by Zoom, is a video conferencing platform that integrates video, voice, and chat features and offers daily, monthly and yearly subscription plans – with current discounts of up to 55%
  • EyeSyte – A Wi-Fi/4G enabled smart device designed to provide real-time, 24/7 security for businesses, environments, assets, and homes. The devices will be discounted at 5% during the World MSME week
  • ESET from MTN:  A high-quality cybersecurity solution that protects valuable data and devices from cyber threats without slowing down work.

By encouraging the creative use of these tools, the company aims to empower MSMEs to thrive in the Nigerian market, ultimately contributing to the nation’s economic development.


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