By AKOMA CHINWEOKE
Lanre AjayiÂ is the president of the Nigeria Internet Group and the managing director of Pinet Informatics, one of the first Internet service providers in Nigeria. In this interview, he bares his mind on why noÂ economy can exist without fundamental ICT infrastructure.
Internet fraud is still a major challenge in the country. How,Â in your view, can the nation adequately curb the menace?
I agree with you that Internet fraud, particularly the scam mail,Â is a huge challenge to Nigeria. The negative impact of the fraud has already started manifesting itself in several ways, including theÂ decline inÂ credit cards issued in Nigeria byÂ online merchants. There is the need to adopt a multi-faceted approach in tackling this challenge.
The first approach will be to create the right legal environment for electronic transactions and criminalizing those bad behaviors on the Internet. That will give the law enforcement agencies the basis for prosecuting suspects. The gravity of this challenge also demands that a specializedÂ government agency should be created to enforce any law related to cybercrime. The second approach should be massive public awareness on the positive use of the Internet in creating wealth. The motivation for cybercrime in Nigeria seems to be money.
Some of the perpetrators have been misguided to believeÂ that the fastest way of making money on the Internet is through scam. It is believed that if alternative way of making money, legitimately, on the Internet is shown to our youths, chances are high that they will move away from the negative use of the Internet to the legitimate way of money making on the Internet, which abounds.
How do you think Nigeria, as theÂ eight largest market in the world, can build robustÂ ICT infrastructure to reap full advantage of the emerging market?
To build a robust ICT infrastructure in Nigeria, we need to attract further investment to the sector. Investment will continue to come if the right environment is maintained. There is theÂ need to maintain the right legal framework, the right political environment and the right regulatory environment.
I believe we have created the right environment. Our regulator is independent and understands its job, the right legal environment is already created through the Telecoms Act 2003 and the right political environment is created by our democracy. It is therefore not a surprise that we continue to enjoy increased investment in the telecoms sector.
Do you think the ICT sector has done enough in this age of technology in the area of manpower development that can compete globally?
We have been able to develop our capacity in the area of telecoms to a certain extent. Our engineers have gainedÂ some level of exposures working in the various telecoms companies. However, the human capacity available cannot be said to be adequate. Some of the telecoms companies are having challenges recruiting skilled manpower and had to resort to bringing foreigners. We need to expand our capacity to develop our human capacity.
The establishment of the Digital Bridge Institute by the NCC is a commendable effort. We also need to empower our universities and polytechnicsÂ to produce more skilled personnel to meet our national requirements.
How can the country make telecoms services available to all Nigerians no matter how remote their locations are, and at affordable cost?
There are two major ways of ensuring a universal coverage of telecoms services. The first is through licence obligations, which makes it mandatory for licence holders to provide services in the rural areas as a condition for providing services in the profitable urban areas. The second is through the universal service provisions fund which makes money available to providers as an incentive to provide services in the rural areas. The thirdÂ is a combination of the two.
Experts have said broadband revolutionÂ is the future of the telecoms sector, if fully embraced by Nigeria. What ripple effect will it have on the nationâ€™s economy?
Broadband Internet is an enabler of all other sectors of the economy. When there is broadband, a good number of the things we do in real life will move online. It will be possible to learn online through e-learning, health services delivery can be done through e-health, government services can be made available to citizens through e-government and commerce can be done online through e-commerce. It will be easier and much cost effective to deliver these services through the broadband Internet than the traditional way.
Looking beyond the success recorded so far in the sector, what challenges do you consider a big threat to the sustenance of growth in the sector and the nationâ€™s dream of becoming one of the worldâ€™s top economies by the year 2020?
The greatest challenge to the continuous growth in the sector is possible policy inconsistency. We must ensure that we stick to the policies that are working. We have adopted a private sector- led economy in the sector, we must therefore ensure that government is not involved in any telecomsÂ business under any guise. We must also ensure the independence of the regulator and resist any temptation by the politicians to meddle in regulatory activities.