By Emmanuel Elebeke
Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communication Commissions, Engr. Ernest Ndukwe has said that for Nigeria to sustain the progress so far made in the telecom sector, there is need to maintain a regulatory environment that is fair, transparent and devoid of political interference.
He said since the revolution in the industry has suddenly made Nigeria Africaâ€™s largest market in terms of teledensity, it behoves on the country to leverage on the achievements made so farÂ to sustain the tempo, by addressing certain key areas ofÂ focus such as infrastructure and manpower problems facing the country.
Ndukwe who spoke in Lagos last week at the 2nd African Telecom Hall of Fame lecture entitled: â€œSustaining The Telecom Revolution: Socio-Political and Regulatory Imperatives for Nigeria as an African Exampleâ€ said the nationâ€™s telecom sector was able to make appreciable progress in the past ten years due to the liberalization of the regulatory agency by the federal government, but added much still needed to be done to free the regulatory body from undue interference and political influence. This according to him, willÂ enable it render more transparent and fair service to the people.
He said digital and wireless communication systems had helped Nigeria leapfroggedÂ into global stage, but expressed hope thatÂ Wimax system will be the last stage that will launch Nigeria into the next levelÂ of technology revolution.
Further in his lecture, Ndukwe said that the revolution will be full only when Nigerian citizens have vital access to technology and apply same in their various areas of competence. To this end, he charged all the telecom operators in the country to fully harness the potentials of the Glo and Main One optic fibre infrastructure by tapping into them and distributing them to all nooks and crannies of the country, including the rural areas.
On broadband and internet access, he said: â€œWe have cities that do not have access to broadband and internet access. We must therefore, strive to reach the unreached and serve the unserved who have none, to enable the people harness their individual talents and join in realizing our dream for Vision 20-2020.â€
To him, sustaining the revolutionÂ in the industry is inevitable and critical for Nigeria to be able to fit in the emerging digital knowledge age, and to achieve this implies upgrading all internet facilities in all schools with broadband facilities.
Quoting a BBC study recently conducted on the necessity of broadband to human development, Ndukwe said â€œBroadband is a fundamental human rights. People can no longer copeÂ without internet. It gives them freedom. This makes it critical and a right to everybody.â€
He decried the eight per cent ITU figure recently released for internet penetration in Africa, but assured that the world body had already put plans in place to correct the trend through ubiquitous broadband deployment.
Reeling out strategies that could aid his successor to sustain future growth, he said â€œI urge you to support who ever that comes after me. While, we celebrate the GSM revolution, there is still more to be done: maintaining stability in regulatory space is critical; the operational and financial freedom of the regulator must be guaranteed; there is need for a conducive environment; proper management of available infrastructure; acceleration of internet and broadband access; criss-crossing the fibre optics across the nation and paying attention to critical manpower initiatives.
He however, harped on the need for availability of steady power supply in the country, describing it as a critical factor that can not be ignored for Nigeria to realize her Vision 2020 20 dream. Although, ICT will not solve all the problems of Nigeria, Ndukwe warned that the gap between Nigeria and the developed nations will continue to widen unless it fully embraces technology.
President, Nigeria Internet Group, Engr. Lanre Ajayi said â€œ sustaining the telecom revolution to me means sustaining the independence of the regulator. The sustenance should be total both in finance and political.â€ He blamed the former minister of information and communication for interfering in theÂ 2.5GHt license issued by NCC, which he said had slowed down developmental pace both in the sector and in the economy.
ATCON President, Dr, Emmanuel Ekuwem said â€œno society can grow on instability.â€ To him, there must be stability in the regulatoryÂ and policy framework of the country, and since the market is huge, there is need for the nationâ€™sÂ institutions to be strengthened to be able to drive the growth recorded in the industry, through manpower development.
Ekuwem said that if 10 per cent ofÂ broadband penetration could result into 1.3 per cent increase in GDP, Nigeria could replicate same with massive deployment of broadband facilities across the nation.