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Nigeria Showcases Digital Social Investments at APRA 2024

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Nigeria through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) showcased various digital social investments at the just-concluded 35th annual conference of the African Public Relations Association (APRA) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Through a presentation by the Head of Media Management Relations at the NCC, Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan, who later emerged as the Secretary-General of APRA after an election at the event which took place from 13th to 17th May, 2024, participants had a glean into some of the digital social investments and infrastructure expansion happening in Nigeria, through regulatory efficiency of the Commission.

In his presentation with the title: “Digital Inclusion as Arbiter of Accessible PR: A Case of the Nigerian Communications Commission,” Ibietan highlighted some 36 initiatives of the Commission within and beyond its immediate regulatory mandate, implemented to promote infrastructure expansion, support SMEs, empower educational institutions, advance innovation and promote digital up-skilling of Nigerian youths.

These include the Advanced Digital Awareness Programme for Tertiary Institutions (ADAPTI); Campus Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIEP) programme; e-PAD project for 232 institutions; Digital Appreciation Project (DAP) for 247 secondary schools; Digital Literacy Training for Teachers (DLT); Digital Integration Programme (DIP) for MSMEs; and the E-Accessibility programme targeted at persons with disabilities.

Others include the Nigerian Girls Can Code Competition; the Build A-Thon, aimed at enabling young persons to pitch and enhance their skills and new learning experience; Tertiary Institutions Digital Centre (TIDC) for 250 institutions; 2,291 Digital Nigeria Centers (DNC) online/offline educational resources; Local Application and Content Deployment programme; and up to 72 Rural Broadband Initiative projects, among others.

According to him, the NCC through its component special purpose vehicle, the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) has undertaken several digital infrastructure projects, programmes and collaborative activities with stakeholders.

“These interventions have caused a shift in digital literacy, fundamentally shrank the digital divide and opened the floodgates of participation in political, economic and social processes, and enabled accessible digital public relations in Nigeria,” he said.

While over 20 papers were presented at the APRA Conference to expound its thematic focus of “One Africa, One Voice: Bridging Africa’s Communication Divide”, Ibietan’s paper was the only presentation that showcased digital infrastructure investments by any African country, even though many papers advocated the centrality of adequate broadband infrastructure in enhancing digital culture on the continent.

Ibietan emphasised that digital inclusion is the ability of individuals and groups to access and fully participate in the digital society, particularly in the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as the internet, computers, and mobile devices.

He submitted that digital inclusion encompasses not only access to digital technologies but also the skills, knowledge, and resources needed to effectively utilize them.

He also emphasised that the phenomenon of digital inclusion is desirable for economies that aspire to grow and develop in remarkable and measurable sense.

He said: “This is because digital inclusion promotes social and economic opportunities, enhances civic engagement and participation, supports education and lifelong learning, fosters digital literacy and skills development, encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, and helps to bridge the digital divide and reduce inequalities.”

He referenced that the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallouts proved the significance of digital infrastructure to the economy.

Luckily, he said: “Nigeria’s investment in broadband infrastructure partly explained why the nation was able to cope with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus because availability of digital infrastructure helped individuals, businesses and the government to migrate their social and economic activities to digital platforms in order to mitigate the devastating effect of the Pandemic.”

He recommended constant and seamless communication among stakeholders to ensure efficiency in the management and proper harvest of derivable benefits social investment and infrastructural projects.


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Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University. Dear Reader, Your support matters. But we believe that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. That is why, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and finance and how they affect lives. Our incisive and analytical view of how technology news affects the daily life help individuals and organizations make up their minds. Quality journalism costs money. Today, we're asking that you support us to do more. Kindly support our effort to deliver technology and finance journalism to everyone in the world. Donate as little as N1,000. Bank transfers can be made to: UBA Plc 1017156876 Communication Week Media Ltd

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Subscribers Decry Poor Service Delivery by Telcos, Accuse NCC of Playing the Ostrich

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Telecommunications subscribers have waxed angrily at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for pretending that everything was fine while subscribers grapple with unreliable internet and call services.

Subscribers Decry Poor Service Delivery by Telcos, Accuse NCC of Playing the Ostrich

They want the regulator could do more by compelling Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), also known as telcos, to improve their service.

Some of the major complaints are connection failures, poor data service, fluctuating network, data roll over challenges, illegal credit deductions and uncompleted calls.

Experts said that the drop in service quality has been attributed to the fact that three out of the four mobile network operators failed to meet the industry standards for network service.

In separate calls; Association of Telephone, CableTv, and Internet Subscribers of Nigeria (ATCIS-Nigeria) and National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOM) urged the NCC to live up to its responsibility of protecting subscribers.

Sina Bilesanmi, president, ATCIS-Nigeria, accused the NCC of pretending that everything was fine while subscribers groaned.

He said that ATCIS-Nigeria members have not only complained about drop calls and inability to originate calls, but they are also unable to access their airtime balance after recharging.

Bilesanmi argued that now that service quality has nosedived, there was no ground for telcos to justify any demand for a tariff increase.

He said that “ I have been inundated with complaints about low service quality from my members.

“ It is worrisome and the NCC is pretending that all is well. This low service quality is coming at a time when the MNOs are asking for a hike in tariff and our members were beginning to show understanding because, quite frankly, the tariff has remained the same for over a decade.

“The operators should tell us if they have any challenges.”

Elsewhere, Deolu Ogunbanjo, national president, NATCOM, said the service rendered by the MNOs had become  ‘’so bad’ that subscribers now lament openly.

He added that the telcos, on their part,   complained about their constraints to expand capacity.”

He said: “It(service delivery) has been so bad. It was one of the issues raised last Thursday but the telcos complained about their constraint to expand capacity and the need to raise tariff.”

Ogunbanjo said he supported the demand for an increase in tariff because it was overdue.

He, however, said an increase must be marginal in order not to asphyxiate the industry.

 

 


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Meta Disagrees with $220m Fine, Sets for Appeal

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Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp and Facebook, is preparing to appeal a decision by Nigerian regulators to impose a $220 million fine against it for alleged market power abuse and privacy violations.

Meta Disagrees with $220m Fine, Sets for Appeal

The company said that “We disagree with this decision as well as the fine and we are appealing the decision,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

The spokesperson did not specify where and when the appeal will be lodged.

It will be recalled that the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) published the fine last week, capping a three-year investigation.

The inquiry focused on data sharing practices on WhatsApp, the most widely used messaging service in Nigeria.

The commission claimed it found evidence of “multiple and repeated, as well as continuing infringements” of the country’s data protection and competition laws and imposed the fine as a final resolution.

Meta was ordered to “immediately reinstate the rights of Nigerian users to self-determine and control” data sharing, and stop sharing WhatsApp users’ information “with other Facebook companies and third parties” without users’ active consent.

It was also required to pay $35,000 to cover the cost of the commission’s investigation, in addition to the $220 million penalty. Both amounts are to be paid within 60 days from July 18.

Nigeria began looking into WhatsApp, which has an estimated 51 million users in the country, in May 2021.

That was four months after the app updated its global privacy policy on messaging between individuals and businesses, and how users’ data may be shared with Facebook.

Meta began responding to concerns detailed in Nigeria’s report around March this year, pledging to cooperate towards “reaching an amicable resolution,” according to the commission.

A “remedy package” proposed by Meta and sent mid-April proved unsatisfactory to the commission, however, its report said.

It is not clear what this package is — an email for comment to the commission was not responded to. Nigeria still expects Meta to implement it and publish it on WhatsApp’s website within two weeks, in addition to the fines.

Beyond complying with its laws, Nigeria’s aim with the penalties is to get Meta to “cease the exploitation of consumers and their market abuse,” the commission said.

 

 


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WATRA Says Digital Economy Contributes $30Bn Annually to W/African GDP

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The West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) has said that the digital economy currently contributes around $30 billion annually to the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

WATRA Says Digital Economy Contributes $30Bn Annually to W/African GDP

WATRA also called for lower cost of internet access to enhance the digital economy for the respective countries in the region.

Mr Aliyu Aboki, executive secretary, WATRA, who disclosed this during a virtual press conference at the weekend also said the West African telecommunications market is now valued at $63.17 billion with over 400 million mobile subscribers.

However, Aboki said WATRS is working on initiatives to facilitate infrastructure sharing among West African countries to lower the cost of internet for telecom subscribers across the region.

According to him, infrastructure such as gateways, and data centres are facilities that could be shared by countries in the region.

Admitting that the cost of internet across West African countries is still high, Aboki said a lower cost of internet access would enhance the digital economy for the respective countries in the region and increase the consumption of data by the citizens, which in turn generate more revenue for the telecom operators.

“We are exploring regional initiatives to share infrastructure and reduce cost. For example, we have infrastructures like gateways, data center servers, and so on. These are infrastructures that can be shared and used by different countries without necessarily having everyone building the same infrastructure.

“So, we are collectively looking at these rich regional initiatives that enable us to share infrastructure to bring down the cost of Internet ultimately,” the WATRA scribe said.

 

 


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