BY CHIMA AKWAJA
The executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission, Professor Umar Danbatta said the telecom industry regulatory agency is working with licenced network operators to build resilient broadband infrastructure that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will ride on.
He disclosed this while delivering a paper on ‘Powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Nigeria’ at the virtual Third Discourse of the Advocaat Law Practice, last week. Danbatta was represented by Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, NCC, Barr. Adeleke Adewolu
According to Prof Danbatta, Nigeria can only harness the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a nation if we put in place effective guiding frameworks to address the various aspects of the digital ecosystem and ensure their effective interworking in the national interest.
He said Nigeria is not lacking in key policy and regulatory frameworks and instruments which will enable us to play a leading role in powering the 4IR, noting that the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy Policy (2020-2030) boasts of eight pillars designed to, amongst others to: Enable Nigeria become a leading player in the global digital economy.
It will provide a catalyst to facilitate the diversification of the economy; and accelerate the attainment of the key national objectives of improving security, reducing corruption and expanding the economy.
“Similarly, the Nigerian National Broadband Policy (2020-2024) clearly highlights the various implementation strategies that would aid the pervasive inclusion and rollout of broadband services across the country whilst also developing a robust and holistic digital economy. The NCC’s Strategic Management Plan (SMP 2020-2024 or “ASPIRE 2024”) consolidated on the vision we earlier articulated in the Strategic Vision Plan and 8-Point Agenda.
“We have responded to the policy goals highlighted above to harness the immense socio-economic benefits of ICT for national development; to ensure that ICT infrastructure are up to the standard necessary to provide ubiquitous broadband services in Nigeria; and to align the Commission’s regulatory efforts with the aforementioned Policy Instruments, as well as the growth strategies of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to ensure Growth, Inclusiveness, and Sustainability,” he said.
According to the telecom regulator, the Commission has recorded a number of significant achievements such as the licensing of six infrastructure companies (InfraCos) to speed up the deployment of broadband infrastructure throughout Nigeria; The provision of training and supporting public institutions with ICT interventions like School Knowledge Centers, ADAPTI etc.
“In the last five years, the Commission has expanded broadband penetration from six per cent to 42.06 as at February 2021; access gap clusters have been reduced from 207 to 114; Fibre Optic coverage has increased from 47,000km to 54,725 km and Base Transceiver Stations for 3G and 4G deployments have increased from 30,000 to 53,460,” he said.
The EVC further noted that the creation of a full-fledged department Digital Economy has been created to support Federal Government’s Digital Economy agenda. The NCC also increased funding of Telecom Research to N336.4 million and has endowed four Professorial Chairs; and also commenced requisite engagements on 5G deployments and some of its licensees have already carried out trials.
“These strides will enable the telecommunications sector provide the infrastructure backbone for powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Nigeria. We are firmly committed to ensure that Nigerians in Nigeria play a leading role in Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things (IoT), Robotics, Blockchain, Autonomous Vehicle, Drones and other innovative technologies which are now driving growth and national competitiveness.
“The question of regulation of disruptive technologies without stultifying innovation is one that we, like all other regulators globally, are carefully studying. For now, we have maintained a sharp focus on critical cross-cutting aspects like consumer protection, enhancement of competition, data protection and enhancement of trust in digital platforms through the prevention of cybercrimes and other abuses.
Prof Danbatta who stated that the issue of citizens’ identification and digital identity is critical to Nigeria’s digital emergence and its future growth, said the Commission working telecom network operators and the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), have achieved very significant success in the activation of new SIMs linked with authenticated NINs, and that the activation of new SIMs will now be carried out across the country in earnest.
In essence, he said Nigeria can only maximize the potentials of the 4th Industrial Revolution if we articulate effective and forward-looking Policy Instruments to guide our emergence into the future digital landscape; Ensure the ubiquitous presence, the seamless operation and the cost-effective availability of communications infrastructure which will power the digital aspirations of all sectors of the Nigerian economy and ensure that national competitiveness is guaranteed.
“Deploy effective regulatory instruments and harness the efforts of all critical Stakeholders so that we can derive the utmost benefits from the 4th Industrial revolution and not be reduced to digital laggards, spectators, or, merely a consumptive class.”