Nigeria’s attempt to become a digital economy may be realised sooner going by the plans of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to draw a five-year (2013-2017) Strategic Management Plan (SMP) that will guide the growth and development of the telecom sector by ensuring the spread of broadband services to rural areas, connection of the citizens to the digital world and eradication of the stumbling blocks to competition and investments.
At a national consultative forum in Lagos last weekend, on ‘Harnessing Communications Technology as a catalyst for National Development, stakeholders brainstormed on the critical challenges affecting the industry and agreed that time has come for the new ways of addressing challenges in the sector.
Dr. Eugene Juwah, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, who set the ball rolling for a frank and open discussion, noted that the commission’s corporate interests and intervention activities must be guided by an integrated planning methodology and performance management system that can quickly respond to sector challenges.
Ten years after mobile revolution, the sector is facing some challenges which need to be addressed in order to achieve pervasive service availability and ultimately improved quality of service.
Operators like MTN, Globacom, Etisalat, Airtel, and infrastructure solution providers such as Phase3 Telecom and Main One Cable Company made presentations seeking clear-cut regulatory frameworks on broadband access, incentives to extend broadband deployment to rural areas, rollout targets, a handshake between the operators and the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), 4G spectrum for wireless broadband service, etc.
For Ms. Funke Opeke, CEO, Main One Cable Company, ICT should be a catalyst for the economy affecting the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), job creation, cashless policy, lifestyle, education, entertainment propelled by broadband services. She noted that the absence of a national backbone through NITEL has affected distribution to the hinterland; she called on the NCC to come up with framework on broadband access sharing with incentives to encourage non-discrimination and penalties for those not willing to share facilities.
Despite achieving over 95.8 million lines and a teledensity of 68.49 per cent, the telecom sector is burdened and dwarfed by worsening quality of service, multiple taxation, multiple regulation, deteriorating power supply, extraneous regulatory issues by other agencies of government and a host of other issues.
Juwah noted that “Some of these problems like multiple taxation is a global problem with the ITU Secretary -General, Dr. Hamadoun Toure, calling on governments not to kill telecoms industry with taxes, some of them are peculiar to us and they need to be tackled very urgently for quick resolution,” adding that a robust SMP was not only imperative but highly expedient.
Mrs. Omobola Johnson, Minister of Communications Technology, represented by Mr. John Ayodele said that all the players in the telecom industry have a stake in the sector, adding that the SMP would place the NCC in a better position to achieve its strategic goal. He said that the information society demand a workforce that can use technology as a tool for productivity and efficiency.