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The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Communications, has unveiled yet another policy in ICT plan with strategies to achieve some milestones in the next two years plus. Stakeholders are, however, worried that the lofty ideas in the roadmap may come to nought if allowed to go the way of previous government policies. Samson Akintaro reports few months to the expiration of the National Broadband Plan, which implementation began in 2013, Nigeria has launched yet another plan aimed at broadening the scope of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the country. Much as it came as a step in the right direction, the country’s ICT roadmap 2017-2020 also underscores the fact that government has now acknowledged ICT to be one of the most critical tools underpinning socio economic development in the 21st century.

However, as it is the case with many other government policies, implementation of this roadmap to the letter has been a major concern for most stakeholders. Indeed, the fact that the four-year roadmap was approved by the Federal Executive Council in May 2017 and was just launched in July 2018, has given a bad signal. Already, one and a half out of the four years, which the roadmap covers are already gone, leaving just two and a half years for implementation. But the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, has expressed confidence the targets of the roadmap would be met, notwithstanding the time already lost.

The roadmap

It came out as fallout of the ICT retreat held in 2016, where all stakeholders dissected the industry and proffered solutions. All participants at the retreat agreed that ICT had become the 4th pillar of the economy and was also dubbed the “infrastructure of infrastructures”, with good reason. This came with the realisation that technology is now essential for the proper functioning of many other key sectors of the economy and government including Agriculture, Commerce, Banking and Finance, Health and Transportation. They also agreed that while Nigeria had made some progress in ICT, it has not translated into affordable Universal Access and significant poverty reduction in areas where Nigeria lags behind similar countries in Asia and South America. Recommendations from the retreat formed the ICT roadmap.

Focus areas

The Roadmap focuses on four pillars which include, Governance, Policy, Legal & Regulatory framework, Industry & Infrastructure and Capacity Building. It also identifies strategies to address some cross cutting issues. According to the document, the overarching goal of the Governance pillar is to nurture a vibrant, citizen engaged ICT Sector permeating all Sectors of the economy in all parts of Nigeria. “In order to address the challenges in the Sector, an ICT gap Analysis will be conducted, with an expedited implementation of the e-government master plan. A National ICT Council will also be established in the Presidency to determine options for institutional project coordination for better harmonisation”.

The Policy, Legal and Regulatory Framework pillar is to engender policy consistency and a predictable forward-looking Legal and Regulatory regime promoting competition in the industry to advance the national and consumer interests. “Interventions under this pillar include passage of the Critical National ICT Infrastructure Bill, mapping and elimination of all duplicative fiscal imposts (VAT, states, local government, Federal levies) through insertions in the next appropriation. Review of the IP Law will be accelerated”.

On infrastructure, the overarching goal of the roadmap is to provide cost effective ubiquitous access to ICT for overall national development. Proposed solutions are the passage of the Critical National ICT Sector Infrastructure Bill, release of the remaining Infrastructure Companies (INFRACO)licenses, hastening of the rollout of metro networks, use of NIGCOMSAT Satellites to bridge the rural penetration gap and hosting of critical National Data within the country. “For this pillar, key outcomes will include the creation of two (2) million jobs as well as wealth creation and revenue generation” the government said in the document.

The fourth focus area, which is capacity building “is aimed at developing a smart globally competitive workforce and digitally literate population for which a Digital Literacy Council will be established. ICT Gap Analysis, review and update of the educational curricula for primary, secondary and tertiary schools and an effective Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) mechanism are other proposed interventions. The establishment of an ICT University and Innovation Hubs across the country will be among the Key initiatives of this Pillar”.

Private sector roles

Speaking at the launch of the roadmap in Lagos, the Minister of Communications, Barrrister Adebayo Shittu, said the sector is pivotal to implementing the roadmap. For that reason, he said the workshop was themed: “the Role of the Private Sector in the Implementation of the Nigeria ICT Roadmap.

“As the engine for the economy, the private sector is pivotal to the consultation that culminated in the development of the Nigeria ICT Roadmap.

“It is even critical now that we are at the stage of implementation; so, the event is a milestone in our desire to reposition and harness the inherent potential and benefits of the ICT sector for national growth and development.”

Shittu said that ICT revolution that began over a decade ago impacted positively on the national economy as shown in its contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 0.6 per cent in 2001 to 9.8 per cent in 2014.

The minister reiterated that the Sector is essential for proper functioning of many other key sectors of the economy and the government including agriculture, commerce, banking and finance, health and transportation.

In spite of its dramatic growth, the sector had challenges and constraints – some of which were inadequate local content, poor infrastructure leading to the lack of access by many Nigerians, poor skills to leverage ICT opportunities, and lack of confidence in the use of ICT.

Concerns over implementation

According to Mr Lanre Ajayi, the Chief Executive Officer of Pinet Informatics Nigeria, implementation of policy has always been a problem in Nigeria and one of the reasons the ICT industry has not grown as expected. He noted that the industry had a lot of appropriately formulated policies that lacked proper implementation.

He said that not properly implementing the policies would amount to not realising the goals they were set to achieve. According to him, there is the need to restrategise the approach taken to implement policies in Nigeria’s ICT sector.

“We went to Ibadan for the policy direction with the Minister of Communication,” he said.

“The outcome of the retreat came out, more than a year after the retreat. We have a Broadband Plan of 2018 target and we are but the goal is not near achieving.

“We have policy directions for the industry; I am generally concerned about our approach to the policies, where we wait so late to start.”

Speaking at the launch in Lagos last week, industry stakeholders, who are largely members of the private sector, had also expressed worry over implementation, citing previous government policies, which had failed to deliver set goals due to poor or lack of implementation. They also frowned at the late unveiling, adding that the implementation should have been half way at the time the roadmap was being launched.

However, the communications minister assuaged the stakeholders fears, saying that implementation of the roadmap had started since its approval last year. He however, apologised for the late launch and sensitization, admitting that it ought to have been done long ago.

Last line

While noting that Nigeria has never been short of policies, stakeholders have called the ministry’s attention to the need for speedy implementation of the roadmap to salvage the time wasted since approval. They demanded for greater government’s deliberate actions that will encourage patronage of local contents, both hardware and software.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Samson Akintaro

Quelle/Source: New Telegraph Newspaper, 02.08.2018

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