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The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) has highlighted key areas to focus on in 2018 in other to make the country’s telecoms and Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector a better one. The association has primed broadband, policy need and the need to attract more investment as key among other areas that should be given serious attention by both public and private players in the sector.

In an interview, the President of the association, Mr. Olusola Teniola, explained that his members expect more focus and efforts in the area of broadband infrastructure and penetration.

According to him, in 2018, Nigeria must have implementable programs in place to ensure it is on track to achieve the 2013 Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NBP) of 30 per cent broadband penetration by end of 2018.

“The industry needs all government agencies in charge of and responsible for infrastructure at state level to work with and support the roll-out of the much needed fibre optic that provides metro infrastructure that supports the whole eco-system to deliver on the promises made in the NBP,” he said.

Teniola further explained that the industry needs government policies in place that will attract much needed investments to support the capital expenditure programs that need to be undertaken to realise the country’s vision of a digital transformation which includes smart cities, e-Government and Internet of Things.

He also stressed the need to protect infrastructure that is rolled out to support broadband services from vandalism, theft and destruction, recommending therefore the enforcement of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) under the Cybercrime bill and enactment of same by all security agents without any further delay.

While Teniola urged the government to licence more Infrastructure companies (Infracos) in Q1’18, he also identified that Rights of Way issues surrounding the execution in each geo-political region by the Infracos will need speedy intervention by Federal and State Government’s collaboration.

This, according to him, will help to avoid experiences observed to date where not even a single strand of fiber has been rolled out under National Backbone Network (NBN) programme.

He said: “We are well behind schedule and with only 12 months left to go, it is imperative that in 2018, all Infracos are given every assistance in the form of grants, waivers and expedient approvals to ‘catch-up’ with the significant delay to the realisation of a National Backbone.”

Policies to give fillip to the sector

Speaking on ICT policies and telecoms regulations, the ATCON President posits that local content must be a priority for 2018 for the ICT industry in order to curtail heavy capital flight to foreign contents.

He also emphasised the need for updating existing telecoms policies and regulations in the country.

According to him, “Our Telecoms Regulations is in serious need of updating to remain relevant to the digital age – a lot of focus needs to be brought to bear to strengthen the capacity, capability and deliverability of all Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that are charged with addressing digital transformation.

“We must realise that convergence is now upon us and that policies are needed to address the Fintech, AI, Big Data, Robotics, VR/AR and automation of business models across all sectors.

“This should manifest in terms of retooling, education, retraining of our workforce and preparing the nation for the global trends that will have a profound impact on the way we work and live as a society in the next 10 to 15 years.”

Investment target areas in 2018

The ATCON has observed that there should be investment in retraining Nigerian unemployed youth and educating citizens from a young age to meet the need to be creators of technological developments.

“Digital literacy is key to fully maximizing the broadband infrastructure that will enable the economy to grow and for our future existence to remain relevant in this changing world,” Teniola said.

He equally identified investments in alternative energy sources as critical to any improvements in cost reduction in service providers’ operating models.

“Further investments in infrastructure is a high priority, both in terms of broadband and especially fiber to the many communities that exist in Nigeria (774 LGAs) alongside the pent-up demand for Financial Inclusion, local content creation, e-services and localized solutions that assist farmers and agro-businesses to aid food security for our growing population.”

He said significant investments would be required to improve the nation’s security from threats of cyber-crime, cyber-terrorism and cyber-threats, adding: “Our ability to utilize technology to protect all citizens is prerequisite to building Smart Cities.”

Measured to attract needed investment

According to ATCON, all stakeholders must collaborate in building out the underlying infrastructure highlighted above such that a master plan must be drawn up, with the government taking the lead to identify with the private sector the priority areas that require investments to be made.

The association also recommends that immediate measures be put in place to see that the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2013 is fully executed to the letter without fail.

It added that ease of doing business should be positively pushed to attract the much needed Foreign Direct Investors (FDI) that will provide a majority of the funds required to build this infrastructure.

To attract more investment into the country’s $70 billion telecoms sector, ATCON hammered on an eased and favourable foreign exchange (FOREX) mechanism for its members and the wider industry, stressing that it is simply impossible to manufacture the ICT components under the current economic climate in-country.

“So, we are heavily import-dependent until such time that the situation economically improves to reverse this trend.

“Most importantly, Government needs to put in place measures that creates more Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) courses, training and reorientation programmes for our youth to engage with and feel that their future careers are relevant to the global digital age that is already upon us – if we can get this right then there is hope for our future as a nation,” Teniola explained.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Bayo Azeez

Quelle/Source: National Accord, 05.01.2018

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