By Prince Osuagwu
The common talk around the country now is that there is no economy without Information and Communications Technology, ICT. The support which this sector gives to the Gross Domestic Product, GDP and growing activities to keep it oily, can never be over emphasised.
However, there are beacons, human and material, upon which this solid sector rests. And as the drums rolled out in their celebration, at the weekend, in Lagos, it was an emotion laden Saturday Night.
The organizers of the Beacon of ICT awards, said the night was for recognising the toils of great Nigerians who have suffered to keep the country’s Information and Communications Technology, ICT industry in its present solid footing.
The award which held at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, drew prominent and notable Nigerians out of their quiet zones, to a rare night of celebration.
However, when events unfolded, it turned out to be well deserved, as citations for the awardees drew emotions from old horses in the game and gave encouragement to future industry leaders. Leading the pack of the awardees was the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Dr Eugene Juwah , whose commission was adjudged Regulator of the year.
Juwah, who was represented by the Director Public Affairs of the commission, Mr. Tony Ojobo, was credited to have managed the affairs of the NCC so well and carved out a brand cum template, from the commission, on which other African and indeed all emerging markets base their regulatory policies.
NCC, according to the organizers has shaped the Nigerian ICT industry, turned it into a money spinner and mainstay of the economy as well as initiating and creating new business models like the broadband sector, the infrastructure companies, InfraCo among others. These initiatives would ensure continued sustenance of Foreign Direct Investment, FDI inflow into the industry.
The commission was said to be well deserving of the award, having primed its activities in a way that Nigeria is always mistakenly regarded as a regulatory economy, despite the fact that many other regulators, both in the banking, environment, business and promotions, food and drugs among other sectors are there.
No wonder, a noticeably elated Ojobo, after receiving the award on behalf of NCC, dedicated the award to the board and management of the commission who put their personal pleasures on the line, working at odd hours, to ensure Nigeria’s flag flies high in the world telecom regulatory reckoning. He promised that the award would spur NCC, its board and management, to continue pursuing policies that would ensure every Nigerian telecom subscriber gets equal value for his or her subscription.
Also on the roll call of awardees as Beacons of Nigeria ICT, included Dr Chris Uwaje, Chief Leo-Stan Ekeh, Mr Bekele Tadesse who were crowned for their life time Achievements in the sector; Engr. Dr Ernest Ndukwe and Mr Austin Okere ,who carted away Broadband Champion and Man of the Year awards respectively.
The stories and achievements of these awardees also became a lecture every upcoming industry practitioner was happy to hear. Uwaje, popularly known as the oracle of the Nigerian ICT industry, is highly regarded for his die-hard stance on generating and protecting indigenous IT companies, local software and other contents.
It was Uwaje who singularly pioneered the conceptualization framework and content drafting strategy for the establishment of National Information Technology Development Policy for Nigeria. Since then, Uwaje had taken his crusade to many ICT fora across the globe as leader of many local and international ICT groups, including recently, the presidency of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria, ISPON.
As the award plaque touched his hands, Uwaje declared that the struggle continues until no nation talks ICT without Nigeria on her mind.
Another Long Time Achievement awardee, Chief Leo-Stan Ekeh, an entrepreneurial and business Czar also enjoyed enviable citation.
According to the organisers, Ekeh in 2001, led a team of tested IT technocrats with a combined experience of over 128 years in different continents to establish Africa’s most integrated ICT firm, the Zinox Technologies Ltd.
Meanwhile, even as this company risked into the uncharted terrain of computer production in West Africa, Ekeh had Nigeria in mind and expressed it debuting his Zinox brand with the first ever Nigerian internationally certified branded computers with the Naira keyboard.
The company is also credited with strong research and development backbone.
Ekeh’s life time Achievement, included developing a variety of uncommon products that are internationally certified and enough local and international capacities to support future expansion and structured growth in other digital solutions areas other than computer manufacturing.
The most interesting thing about the other Life Time Achiever, Mr Tadesse Bekele was the fact that he is not even a Nigerian. For an Ethopian, the passion that exudes from Bekele in growing the Nigerian ICT sector is unprecedented.
Currently the Managing Director and country representative, Ceragon Networks, Nigeria and Ghana, Bekele in early 2000s as CEO of then Reltel Wireless, stunned Nigerians by his mass market approach to disposing his Reltel hand held devices.
As against the over N50,000 market price of hand held devices at the time, Bekele pressured Reltel management to offer its phone lines at a modest 14,000. That singular act was termed as demonstrating that telephone is for everyone and since then, he has remained more Nigerian than most Nigerians.
The story of Engr. Ernest Ndukwe, though fresh to almost everybody in the industry was also reassuring to hear again. It was Ndukwe that laid part of the foundation upon which the NCC stands today, being the Executive Vice Chairman, EVC for ten years.
Ndukwe who championed the telecom revolution in the country is hoping to replicate same in the broadband sector after being appointed as chairman, Presidential committee saddled with the responsibility of drawing a framework for the promotion and encouragement of accelerated deployment of broadband infrastructures and services.
Editor in Chief, Nigerian Communications Week, organisers of the event, Mr Ken Nwogbo, said that being one of the pioneers of ICT reporting in Nigeria, he has watched with keen interest, the contributions of these icons to the growth of the sector and decided that it would not be out of place to honour them.
He believed that the honour would encourage more people to invest time and resources to further growth of the ICT industry.