By Prince Osuagwu (in Stockholm, Sweden)

…Says non political regulation’ll help country grow ICT based economy
A group of professionals from the Swedish trade and invest council, charged with the task of executing a smooth Sweden- Sub Saharan Africa ICT programme, has lauded the efforts of the Nigerian government in opening up broadband investment as a further development strategy for the country’s economy.

However, the group was quick to add that the efforts can only yield desirable results if they are backed by certain known principles that have helped other countries grow technologically.

Speaking with a group of African journalists here in Stockholm, Sweden, the council’s Vice President, Head of business unit, ICT, Mr Niklas Johnsson, said that Nigeria was one of the countries in Africa with great potential to grow her economy with ICT but added that the steps to achieve that must be transparent and devoid of political bias.

Johnsson recounted that though Sweden is now known world wide as number one in internet accessibility and digital economy, it was however not achieved on a platter of gold but with careful and thought out plans that accommodated the future.

He expressed confidence that Nigeria could get it right if it could domesticate the swedish model of ICT development.

According to him, “there were steps and policies we adopted in licensing our broadband platform that helped this country to where we are today.

“First thing we did was to open the market up by deregulation. Immediately we did that, many ISPs across Europe, America and other countries of the world started coming to open up offices here.

At this point, the government decided to build a central network facility where every operator can connect at different points. We had operators to commit to an almost 100 percent services provision, a sort of beauty contest which saw only those who agreed to deliver, get license. Again, we also committed them to sharing infrastructure.

“But even with that, the government did not go to sleep. there were areas of the country which ordinarily were regarded as not needing capacity at the moment, the government visualised that due to hospitals, schools and other facilities, the people in those areas could need it for development, so the government built infrastructures, opened up the networks and attracted the operators to share in them to provide services in those areas.

With all that, it was not long after operations kicked off, all parts of the country got really connected”

He also added that “although there may have been pressures from operators and vendors influence decisions, what helped us included a regulator that is not politically biased and the regulations of the European Union. Every country in the union must adhere to the EU set rules. So, when we came up with set rules, before even the operators would know, we had already made it public and ask them to look it up on the internet. That is the way to go and I believe that every country that tries to domesticate this would record an appreciable success” he said.

Earlier, the State Secretary Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Gunnar Oom, had explained why the Business Africa initiative by Sweden was so crucial to have Nigeria and other West African countries in top participation.

According to him, African countries have different problems from government policies to trade facilities, stating that the constant mobile penetration has the power to influence things. “We are promoting several policies that would transform the sub- Saharan economies. From free trade to reduced import and export duties and knowledge transfer, there are brighter chances of mutual benefits for the countries we are engaging with.

“For instance, there is a willingness to share know-how between Nigeria and Sweden. We are encouraging a lot of Nigerian students to come and study in this country so that there will be skilled labour that can also give us sustainable value in the future.

“We are an engineering country but we play big in ICT, energy sector, Health, food processing and mining and these are areas we want competence in Nigeria and the rest of Africa so that our trade relationship with Africa would be sustainable” he added.

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