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Responding Effectively to Telecom Market Dynamics

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As telecommunications space of the country’s economy develops, the industry has started witnessing a lot of innovations especially in service delivery geared towards providing efficient and cost effective service. Information and communications have always formed the basis of human existence. This fact has driven human to continuously seek ways to improve the processing of information and the transmission of such information components to one another or real time basis, irrespective of distance.
The explosion in technology which ushered in the information age has become the basis for defining power in the modern world. It is a widely accepted fact that no modern economy can thrive without an integral information technology and telecommunications infrastructure. Consequently, the ability to easily access and share information and stimulate the creation of new ideas is viewed as essential to maintaining a strong economy and enhancing quality a life of every citizen.
Telecommunications networks are now making it possible for developing countries to participate in the world economy in ways that simply were not possible in the past.
Communication tools such as telephony, internet and broadband are increasingly critical to economic success and the citizen’s personal advancement. The internet serves many functions – as virtual community, electorate marketplace, and information source/entertainment center, among others. Through high speed internet, we can create new businesses or facilitate the delivery of basic services such as health and education.
Available data from the international Telecommunications Union has shown that flows of international telephone traffic closely mirror the patterns of international trade. Indeed, variations in telephone traffic can be used as a leading indicator of national economic performance.
In agriculture, easier and faster access to up-to-date market and price information assists farmers and rural-based traders in their businesses. Telecommunications can also deliver better access to information on improved seeds, availability of fertilizers, weather forecasting, post control and other agricultural-related services.
Furthermore, telecommunications plays an important role in politics and governance, by enhancing a government’s ability to provide security for its citizens, protect its borders and more efficiently handle civil emergencies and national disaster. In turn, the citizens gain easier access to government and greater awareness of government programmes and activities.
Traditionally, telecommunications had over the years been regarded as public utility provided by government. However the need to improve services, encourage competition and attract private investment has led to the wave of privatization and sector liberation since the 1980’s. As at the beginning of 2008, nearly all countries in the world have either fully or partially privatized their incumbent operators and opened up the sector market liberalization. In African with 52 countries, this wave of market liberation has also seen Africa transform to an ICT enabled region, though a lot more needs to be done in the area of penetration of internet and broadband. On a global basis, there are about 150 countries that have established independent regulatory agencies (the ITU: Trends report). In many sub-Saharan Africa nations, the sector has also transformed from a monolithic structure in which the PIT is at once the monopoly operator, policy maker and industry regulator to a multi-operator environment regulated by an independent body.
The advances in the last twenty years notwithstanding, in number of countries in Africa, the incumbent operators still retain very strong control of certain segments of the market showing down the growth in those market. These incumbents are quite often, protected unnecessarily, thereby limiting competition, privatization and commercialization
In some cases where the incumbents have been partly privatized, the selected partners could be those with links in government circles who would be in a position to leverage such connections in influencing delays in opening up of the markets to competition.
In few African nations, exclusivity for the incumbents has been known to have been negotiated for upwards of 10 to 15yeas for example in the Fixed Networks and International gateway services. It is advised that where exclusivity still exist for the incumbents, such exclusivity with the aim of introducing competition in all segments of the market – Fixed, Mobile, ISPs, Long Distance, International Gateway Services etc. Exclusivity should only be considered if it is for a number of service providers (at least two) so as to provide choice and encourage optimal investments while ensuring that competition exist.  
Nigeria’s telecom revolution
Telecommunications technology presents copious opportunities for the creation of unprecedented wealth for Nigeria. In 2000, Nigeria had only 400,000 connected telephone lines and just 25,000 analogue mobile lines. Total teledensity stood at a paltry 0.4 lines per 100 inhabitants. Connection costs were prohibitively high waiting time for fixed lines ran into years.
Today, owning to several factors including government sector reform policy, the worldwide trend of rapid development in telecommunications and informed technology and the huge potential of the Nigerian market, the story is very different. Since year 2000, NCC has licensed Digital mobile operators, Fixed wireless Access Operators, two Long Distance Operators, Internet Service Providers and a Second National Carrier, thus ensuring competition in all segments of the market.
The activity has increased and promoted rapid deployment of ICT services, resulting in exponential growth in the number of telephone lines. It is instructive to note that while connected lines only grew at an average of 10, 000 lines per annum in the four decades between independence in 1960 and end of 2000, in the last nine years, an average growth rate of 7.5million lines per annum was attained. As at April 2010, Nigeria had attained over 78million connected lines. Total teledensity, which was just 0.4% in 2000 now stands at about 56% by end of April 2010.
Along with this growth in lines has come a boom in private investment in the telecommunications sector. Recognizing the seemingly insatiable appetite of consumers for phone services and the potential of the Nigerian market, investors pumped in over USD 18billion into the sector by end of 2009, increased competition in the market has also pushed down connection fees charged by operators such that connection to a mobile service is virtually free today.
The emergence of digital mobile services has led to improvements in efficiency and productivity, reduction in transaction costs, increased service innovation and better quality of life. Close to 12,000 persons have been directly employed by the mobile operators and an estimated 1,000,000 Nigerians are benefiting from indirect employment generated by the operators, indirect employment has also been created through contract awards to construction firms, research companies and media consultants, in the financial sector, enterprises banks have designed innovative products that leverage the use of mobile phones.
The emergences, has also led to the return of significant numbers of Nigerians from abroad. These are telecom professionals, who have acquired useful international experience and knowledge, and have been attracted, back home to assist in building the country’s communications sector. Moreover, the explosion of mobile services has created a new class of entrepreneurs who might otherwise have been unemployed. There is a nationwide network of dealers, vendors, GSM accessory sellers and the ubiquitous “umbrella stand” operators.
Regulator’s response
The rapid progress made in the telecom industry in the past 10 years in Africa has largely been as a result of the liberalized market, but even in a liberalized environment, government still has a vital role to play in growing the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure and ensuring a competitive environment that will reduce prices and make services more available and affordable. Government best serves the industry through the establishment of strong regulatory institutions. The regulator’s role is to encourage competition, remove barriers to market entry, oversee interconnection of new operators with incumbents, monitor tariffs and quality of service, protect consumer rights and ensure the provision of telephone services for all.
Africa’s immediate requirement for local access to the telephone network is enormous and the required capital and time investment needed to compete is still huge. Market reform has helped to accelerate investment flow into this vital sector, resulting in rapid roll out of networks, but we still require optic fiber highways within and between African nations.
The rapid rate of deployment means faster access to telecommunications facilities and consequently faster pace of national economic development and growth. The Regulator is also today faced with the challenge of keeping pace with technological developments.
According to Ernest Ndukwe, immediate past executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) , “convergence is changing businesses, the players, the equipment and the services we have been accustomed to. In their place new companies, technologies, equipment and services are emerging.
New challenges are also arising from these rapid changes. Therefore, new skill in multi-sector, multi-technology regulations will be needed. Security issues have assumed new dimension, with growing incidence of Cyber crime, identity theft, among others. Laws would therefore need to be upgraded to cover new areas such as electronic transactions, e-commercial and cyber security, and so on”.
Indeed privacy of transaction is constantly being threatened and the same consumers that are to benefit from the new technologies and services will be demanding even more protection from the Regulators.
Telecommunications is an essential infrastructure of the information economy and therefore countries that lack sufficient access to modern telecommunications networks, will find it difficult to be effectively integrated into the global economy.
The role of the regulator is critical to the attainment of the goal of an equitable and socially inclusive information Society.
 

 


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NDPR to Safeguard Personal Data of Nigerians -DG NITDA

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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.


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FG Reveals Plans to Deploy Technology in the Health Sector

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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.


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Peace House Charity Foundation Seeks for DCTC Intervention

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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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