Danbatta proffers ICT solutions to Nigeria’s dependency on oil, gas

Nigeria’s cycle of dependency on oil and gas has a solution in the telecom industry if proper emphasis and strategies are adopted to diversify and harness her ICT strategies and potentials. This was the fulcrum of Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta’s submission recently when he addressed the academic community at Bayero University, Kano.

Prof. Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) who delivered an inaugural lecture titled “Getting out of the woods. Diversifying the Nigeria’s economy through telecommunications sector”, at BUK told his audience that although the country’s economy has been monolithic in the recent past owing largely to its dependence on oil revenues, there was a need to diversity if the country wants to get out of the woods.

“The Nigerian government has recognized the need to diversify the economy so as to attain solid and sustainable economic growth”.

Danbatta, as the Chief Regulator of the telecommunications who oversees the sector, noted the steady rise in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the last few years.

“The telecommunications industry plays a crucial role in providing the requisite tools that support the diversification of the economy through improving the knowledge economy using Information and Communication Technology (ICT)”, Danbatta, a Professor of Telecommunications Engineering submitted.

According to the NCC helmsman, the Telecommunications sector has enhanced human capabilities in areas such as health, education, agriculture, finance, transportation, commerce and governance.

“The liberalization of the telecoms sector in 2001 has triggered a realistic opportunity of economic diversification, as the sector is adjudged to be one of the major support services needed to promote growth and modernization of other sectors of the economy.
Telecoms breaks distance barriers, and as such, can act in its own right as an enabler to drive socio-economic transformation, growth, developments and modernization across all sectors of the economy.

The telecommunications sector has globally brought about radical changes in the way people interact, learn, work and transact commercial activities.

The telecoms sector also acts as the fulcrum and catalyst that propel the socio-economic transformation and growth of economies of nations.”

Prof. Danbatta listed some of the achievements of the Commission since his assumption of duty about two years ago.

Citing reports by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)/United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development (2016) said that Nigeria’s Active Mobile Broadband penetration has increased within a space of one year from less than 10 percent to 21.95 percent, a milestone achieved under his tenure from less than 10 percent that he met about three years ago.

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Nigeria’s active Internet connection which stands at over 90million achieved a milestone of 47.44 percent penetration. Nigeria is number one in Africa and ranks 10th globally.
Telecommunication contribution to GDP has been robust rising from 8.85 percent in the first quarter of 2016 to 9.16 percent in the first quarter of 2017.

In the first quarter of 2017, the telecoms sector contributed N1.452 trillion to the GDP. In articulating a strategic vision plan for the regulatory body, Danbatta stated unequivocally that the NCC, under his stewardship, has developed an NCC Strategic Vision Plan (SVP) for the fiscal years 2015 to 2020.

The process for the development of the five-year Strategic Vision, he said, has taken a lot of efforts and time.

On foreign exchange situation, the EVC said “the telecommunications operators are facing difficulties in accessing foreign exchange (Forex) for the deployment of telecommunications services in the country”.

“In addressing the Forex challenges, the Commission engaged the management of the CBN and to that effect, the CBN has agreed to include telecommunications as part of the CBN priority list for accessing Forex. This has reduced the Forex burden on the telecom operators.”

On pricing and competitiveness, the Engineering Professor of Telecommunications said, “despite the huge mobile access and growing smartphone penetration, there are still challenges with reaching an acceptable price point for data services”.

“The NCC had to intervene with a temporary retail data price floor – this is, however, pending the conduct of the comprehensive cost-based study.

There are also issues with stimulating demand for local content and affordability that are being addressed on a national scale. There is, therefore, a huge opportunity for infrastructure providers to offer cost-effective solutions and bridge the competitiveness gap”, Danbatta added.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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