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Pantami Explains Reasons for Digital Economy Drive in Nigeria

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Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), minister of Communications and Digital Economy, has justified the necessity, appropriateness and significance of the re-designation of the Federal Ministry of Communications as Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy (FMoCDE) in October 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari, as he recalled the modest strides of the Ministry and strategy for accomplishing the digital economy policy for national development.

L-R: Prof. Mohammed Abubakar, managing director,  Galaxy Backbone Limited; Engr. Ubale Maska, executive commissioner, Technical Services, Nigerian Communications Commission; Dr. Isa Pantami, minister of Communications and Digital Economy,; Mr. Inuwa Abdullahi, director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency; and  Dr. Abimbola Alale, managing director, Nigerian Communications Satellites Limited, during the maiden Press parley by the ministry in 2020.

Pantami explained this at a media parley and press briefing which took place at Treasure Suites, Maitama, Abuja.

The meeting with members of the Abuja Chapter of the Nigerian Information Technology Reporters Asssociation (NITRA), convened by the Minister to enlighten the media about steps that had been taken by the FMoCDE under his leadership, to enhance the transition to digital economy, was the first briefing by any Ministry, Department or Agency (MDA) of government in 2020.

The Minister said the re-designation was done to position Nigeria for the gains of digital economy as ‘communications’ captured just the channels. Hence, the term became inadequate in describing the essence of the new vision that embraces the content, as well as the utilisation of both channel and content to achieve the central focus of the Ministry to migrate the nation to a digital economy.

Pantami said this is particularly significant as it enables Information and Communication Technology (ICT) – which is the most diverse and fastest growing sector – to mobilise other sectors and align with the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the Federal Government.

The Minister said this is quite fitting, as it also ensures that the name of the Ministry captures its objective in keeping with best global practices.

Following the re-designation, the Minister stated that the Federal Government directed the Ministry to develop and implement a national digital economy strategy. This, he said, was done by the Ministry and unveiled by the President at the e-Nigeria Conference in November 2019.

Pantami said the policy captures the thematic focus while the strategy speaks to how the various themes will be achieved.

Speaking further, Pantami declared that all other MDAs are connected to the strategy in view of the centrality of ICT to development in other sectors of the economy. He emphasised that the role of the Ministry is to coordinate the implementation of the policy and the strategy.

The Minister stated that the implementation of the strategy had started. He stressed that by the end of the decade, the Federal Government expects every Nigerian to have connected with and expressed the goal of digital Nigeria by being computer literate, owning a digital device (which the agencies in the Ministry have been assisting to facilitate), having access to the Internet, owning a bank account that can be accessed and operated digitally and online. Beyond financial services, the Minister said the Federal Government hopes to see majority of the citizens undertake many activities electronically.

Pantami recalled the eight (8) pillars of the policy which he enjoined all tiers of government and all stakeholders to begin to explore for implementation.

The first of the pillars is Developmental Regulation, which he said is conceived as regulation that promotes and supports development.

“This means online communications and transactions should focus on and encourage digital economy and ensure taxes and prices come down because when prices come down, demand goes up” and entrepreneurs make more profit by sheer increase in the volume of trade. “It is simple economics,” the Minister emphasised.

The second mainstay of the digital economy policy is Digital Literacy and Skills, and the Minister emphasised the importance of this pillar because digital economy is unrealisable without skills.

Pantami enumerated that different sections of the population are targeted for training and retraining, including women, youths, journalists, civil servants and those who are certificated but unemployed.

He was optimistic that, at least, 90 percent of Nigerians will be digitally literate by the end of the decade as all agencies in the Ministry will be involved in series of training and retraining as much as the financial circumstances of the nation permit.

Solid Infrastructure, the third pillar of the policy, will ensure availability of robust data centres and deals with broadband expansion, according to the Minister.

He explained that the 2020-2025 Broadband Plan is expected to be ready within the first quarter of 2020 and the plan is to ensure that all unserved and underserved areas have access to broadband services. For this, he said the Federal Government and the Ministry are encouraging many institutions to host their data in Nigeria as he promised to continue the advocacy.

The fourth policy pillar – Service Infrastructure, according to the Minister, is focused on facilitating digitisation of activities that will find deeper expression in e-health, e-agriculture and other automated transactions. He accentuated the connection of automation to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by stating that studies by International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and other development agencies have revealed that 10 percent increase in broadband penetration could increase GDP by up to 2.5 percent.

According to the Minister, the fifth pillar, Promotion of Digital Services, is also to ensure increased digitisation of activities, while the sixth pedestal of the digital economy policy is Software Infrastructure, which focuses on cybersecurity awareness to ensure security of activities in the cyberspace.

The penultimate pillar of the policy, according to the Minister, is Digital Society and Emerging Technologies. He said the policy is conceptualised “to encourage start-ups to support our innovators, so they can deploy their inventions in Nigeria.”

In this context, the Minister envisioned that Nigeria will explore in quantifiable terms, cloud computing, nanotechnology, Fifth Generation (5G) communications, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics. Illustrating the benefits of deployment of and access to 5G, Pantami said with 5G, virtual surgery is possible in Nigeria.

The Minister emphasised that digital innovation and digital entrepreneurship are particularly important in ensuring increase in Nigeria’s GDP.

He made a comparison between Nigeria and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) by stating that Nigeria’s GDP is $397 billion while MIT’s GDP is about five times higher. He attributed the disparity largely to inputs of digital innovation and entrepreneurship.

Thus, the Minister declared that certificates are important when spiced with skills because that will trigger innovation. To demonstrate the paradigm shift to skills rather than mere certification, Pantami said China is at the threshold of “converting 600 universities to skills centres” having realised that skills validate certificates.

The Minister, however, explained that Nigeria is so blessed and needs to leverage that potential to ensure her teaming youths acquire enduring “skills that will make them to be potential employers rather than potential employees”.

It was evident the Minister looked forward very enthusiastically to seeing more Nigerians use the social media to support the digital economy by engaging it to achieve legitimate economic prosperity rather than for the promotion of division and hatred among the people of Nigeria. He was quite saddened as he recalled divisive online conversations.

Thus, in order to stress the connection between the seventh pillar and the eight which is, Indigenous Content Development, especially how youths can use their skills and creative energy for innovation and technology development, Pantami said Nigeria needs to create and promote indigenous technology and use them locally.

“Let us use our skills positively to promote digital economy because the World Economic Forum (WEF) has predicted that by 2022, 60 percent of the world economy will be digital,” he added.

Responding to questions from journalists after the main briefing, the Minister stated that the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) was vetting content of the proposed Executive Order on Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) Protection, one of the key demands of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to ensure a halt to rampant vandalism of telecommunications infrastructure.

The Minister said he was confident that President Buhari will sign the Executive Order soon. He also informed the journalists that ahead of the Order, the police authorities have been directed to locate key telecom facilities for surveillance.

Still on telecommunications, the Minister stated, “I have written to all the governors in Nigeria on the need to comply with the National Economic Council (NEC) resolution on the Right of Way (RoW)”.

“All the Governors had agreed to the harmonisation on the RoW charges and efforts are being made to ensure the policy is respected”. The RoW charges is the levy paid to state governments for the laying of optic fibre by telecoms operators.

The Minister also declared that since 25th September 2019, no Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card has be used in Nigeria without being properly registered. “You may buy a SIM card but you cannot activate it to use unless it has been properly registered, and NCC will provide biodata of any improperly-used SIM card to the police or other security agencies within 24 hours whenever it is required.”

Pantami was emphatic that the Federal Government’s directive to NCC to ensure that improperly registered SIM cards are blocked, demonstrated government’s commitment to further strengthen ongoing efforts at securing lives and property in the country.

“Life is more important than material benefits of having many SIM cards in circulation, and in any case, blocking improperly registered SIM cards did not diminish the contribution of ICT to GDP,” he stressed, explaining to journalists that the Ministry was, in addition, auditing bulk spectrum allocation for validation and propriety. He noted that the exercise is not really an inquisition as earlier bandied by certain interests.

On the challenges of the Nigerian Postal Services (NIPOST), the Minister stated that the Ministry has made representation to the Federal Government to insist that NIPOST should be the collector of stamp duty and not the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and by implication the Federal Ministry of Finance. “So, we have challenged the status quo about the collection of stamp duty,” he said.

The Minister also unveiled the plan for the transformation of NIPOST with regard to undertaking a total restructuring and transformation of NIPOST. “We will also commercialise some activities of the organisation by registering few companies to ensure the renovation and commercialisation of dilapidated NIPOST structure all over the country starting with NIPOST facilities in major cities.”

The briefing was attended by chief executive officers and management staff of the FMoCDE and its agencies, including Engr. Ubale Maska, NCC’s Executive Commissioner Technical Services, who represented the EVC of the Commission,  Prof. Umar Danbatta. Also present at the briefing were, Barrister Adeleke Adewolu, NCC’s Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management; Dr. Abimbola Alale, Managing Director of Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Limited; Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi, Chairman, Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) and Prof. Mohammed Abubakar, the Managing Director of Galaxy Backbone Limited.

The Minister seized the opportunity of the briefing to thank the executives and members of NITRA for the reportage of various activities of the Ministry and urged them to give robust coverage to the digital economy policy.

He announced a training programme for the journalists in the first and second quarters of 2020. He directed that the programmes are to be organised and sponsored by NITDA and NCC respectively.

Earlier, Blessing Olaifa of The Nation Newspapers, who is the President of the FCT Chapter of NITRA, congratulated the Minister on his appointment and in particular for the great strides he has led the Ministry to make within a short time. He promised to organise his colleagues to ensure very meaningful coverage of the activities of the Ministry.

 

 

 

 


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FG Bans Emirates Airlines from Operating in Nigeria

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Federal Government has included Emirates Airlines in the list of airlines not allowed to operate in Nigeria.

FG Bans Emirates Airlines from Operating in Nigeria

This is part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Hadi Sirika, minister of Aviation, confirmed this via his Twitter handle on Friday.

According to Sirika, the decision was taken following a meeting between the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and European Unions (EU).

The ban would take effect from Monday, September 21, 2020.

“The PTF sub-committee met today with EU Ambassadors to discuss Lufthansa, Air France/KLM ban.

“The meeting progressed well. Emirates Airlines’s situation was reviewed and they are consequently included in the list of those not approved, with effect from Monday the 21st September 2020,” Sirika tweeted.


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Facebook to Open Office in Lagos

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As part of its continued commitment and on-going investment in Africa, Facebook announced it will be opening an office in Lagos, Nigeria – its second office on the African continent.

Aimed at supporting the entire Sub-Saharan Africa region, the office is expected to become operational in H2 2021 and will be the first on the continent to house a team of expert engineers building for the future of Africa and beyond.

Facebook’s office will be home to various teams servicing the continent from across the business, including Sales, Partnerships, Policy, Communications as well as Engineers.

Commenting, Ime Archibong, Facebook’s Head of New Product Experimentation said: “The opening of our new office in Lagos, Nigeria presents new and exciting opportunities in digital innovations to be developed from the continent and taken to the rest of the world.

“All across Africa we’re seeing immense talent in the tech ecosystem, and I’m proud that with the upcoming opening of our new office, we’ll be building products for the future of Africa, and the rest of the world, with Africans at the helm. We look forward to contributing further to the African tech ecosystem.”

The investment of the new Facebook office follows the 2018 opening of NG_Hub, its first flagship community hub space in Africa in partnership with CcHub, and the 2019 opening of a Small Business Group (SBG) Operations Centre in Lagos, in partnership with Teleperformance.

Providing outsourced support to all English-speaking advertisers across Sub-Saharan Africa, the SBG office supports Small Medium Businesses (SMBs) through its Advocacy, Community & Education (ACE) programme, as well as its Marketing Expert sales programmes – all aimed at enabling SMBs to accelerate the growth and development of their businesses.

“Our new office in Nigeria presents an important milestone which further reinforces our ongoing commitment to the region”, commented Kojo Boakye, Facebook’s Director of Public Policy, Africa. “Our mission in Africa is no different to elsewhere in the world – to build community and bring the world closer together, and I’m excited about the possibilities that this will create, not just in Nigeria, but across Africa.”

Since the opening of its first office in 2015, Facebook has made a number of investments across the continent, aimed at supporting and growing the tech ecosystem, expanding and providing reliable connectivity infrastructures and helping businesses to grow locally, regionally and globally.

This includes the recent rollout of its SMB Grants programme in Nigeria and South Africa, aimed at supporting over 900 businesses by providing a combination of cash and ad credits to help small businesses as they rebuild from COVID.

The development of 2Africa, the world’s largest subsea cable project that will deliver much needed internet capacity and reliability across large parts of Africa, as well as its ongoing training programmes across the continent which support various communities including students, SMBs, digital creatives, female entrepreneurs, start-up’s and developers.

Nunu Ntshingila, Regional Director, Facebook Africa, said: “We’re delighted to be announcing our new office in Nigeria. Five years on from opening our first office on the continent in Johannesburg, South Africa, we’re continuing to invest in and support local talent, as well as the various communities that use our platforms.

“The office in Lagos will also be key in helping to expand how we service our clients across the continent.”


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Victor Osimhen Set Make His Debut For Napoli As Lampard Up Against Familiar Foes

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Football fans will enjoy another great weekend of football action as the new football season in Europe continues this weekend on DStv and GOtv.

The pick of Premier League matches this weekend is the meeting of Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday 20 September, which will air live at 4:30pm on SS Premier League.

The Reds completed a league ‘double’ over the Blues last season, with the teams’ most recent meeting a 5-3 win for the Merseyside club in July.

Liverpool supporters have been concerned at their club’s relative lack of action in the transfer market (certainly compared to Chelsea, who have recruited heavily and brought in world-class talent such as Moroccan attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech, for example), but manager Jurgen Klopp insists he prefers working with a smaller group of players.

Lille’s Victor Osimhen in action during a UEFA Champions League soccer group stage match between Valencia CF and OSC Lille at Mestalla stadium on 05 November 2019. EPA/Kai Foersterling

Elsewhere, Manchester United will open their campaign with a clash at home to Crystal Palace in the early-evening kick-off on Saturday 19 September, on SS Premier League at 5:30pm.

It will be the first chance for new Red Devils signing Donny van de Beek to have a taste of competitive English football.

Also on Saturday, Everton will face West Bromwich Albion at 12:20pm while Leeds United will face Fulham at 3pm with the day closing off with Arsenal vs West Ham United at 8pm, all on SS Premier League.

The Premier League matches for the weekend will continue on Sunday 20 September with Southampton vs Tottenham Hotspur at 12pm, Newcastle United vs Brighton & Hove Albion at 2pm and Leicester City vs Burnley at 7pm, all live on SS Premier League. On Monday 21 September, Aston Vila vs Sheffield United will air at 6pm and Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester City at 8:15pm both live on SS Premier League.

This weekend’s La Liga sees the return to action for champions Real Madrid, who open the defence of their title with a match away to Real Sociedad at Sam Sebastian on the evening of Sunday 20 September showing live on SS La Liga, SS GOtv La Liga and SS GOtv Football at 8:00pm.

La Liga is packed this weekend with other exciting matches airing live on SS La Liga and SS GOtv La Liga. Getafe vs Osasuna will air at 8pm on Friday 18 September, while Villarreal v Eibar at 3pm and Celta Vigo vs Valencia at 8pm will both air on Saturday 19 September.

On Sunday 29 September, Huesca will clash with Cadiz at 3pm and Granada will face Deportivo Alaves at 5:30pm. GOtv will crown the weekend matches with Real Betis vs Real Valladolid at 8pm on Monday 21 September

Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma (left) and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool.

The headline match from Italy’s topflight this weekend sees champions Juventus open the defence of their title with a match at home to Sampdoria in the late kick-off on Sunday 20 September at 7:45pm on SS Football, SS Variety 3 and SS GOtv Select 1.

All eyes will be on new manager, Andrea Pirlo, who replaced Maurizio Sarri at the head of the Bianconeri in the off season.

Another key game this weekend will give Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen the chance to make his competitive debut for Napoli when they face Parma on Sunday afternoon, having joined the club for a huge fee from Lille a few weeks back. This will air at 11:30am live on SS Football, SS Variety 3, SS GOtv Select 1 and SS GOtv Football.

SuperSport remains the only platform to get English commentary from the legendary La Liga.

Don’t miss the 2020-21 football season on SuperSport on DStv and GOtv. Visit www.dstvafrica.com and www.gotvafrica.com to subscribe or upgrade and join in on the excitement. While you’re on the move, you can stream matches on DStv Now.

 


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