By Emeka Aginam
Despite tremendous improvements recorded in the Information and Communication Technology, ICT in 2016, the country faced a number of challenges in the sector.
While consumers of ICT products and services, especially telecoms services were hit with consistent poor quality of service, mobile phone sales dropped to about 80% as a result of impact of the economic recession. This is even as mobile phone vendors attributed the lull in the mobile device market, to lack of liquidity and inability to access foreign exchange.
From dropped calls, unsolicited commercial text messages to undelivered text messages, importation of substandard mobile devices, 2016b was so rsy for subscribers. Poor quality of service among others remained unabated among service providers throught the year despite policies and regulations put in place by regulatory agencies.
However, stakeholders believe that 2017 will unlock diverse opportunities that will lead to rapid convergence between the industries that power today’s digital economy.
GDP contribution: While the ICT sector’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product, GDP, increased to 9.8 per cent, the telecommunication sector’s investment climbed to $68 billion, with $35 billion coming from indigenous operators.
Meanwhile, the ICT sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP fluctuated during the course of the year. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), revealed that in the first quarter, spanning January through March, the sector contributed N1.41 billion and N1.58 trillion in second quarter. By the end of third quarter, according to the data, it fell to N1.398 trillion as a result of the recession.
Similarly, the GDP for telecommunication as at Q3 of 2016 under Information and Communication contracted at 0.95 per cent in Q3 2016 from 1.49 per cent in Q2 2016 and 4.69 per cent in Q3 2015.
Internet users decline to 92.4m in Nov 2016
The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, in its Monthly Internet Subscribers Data for November, 2016 revealed that the number of internet users in Nigeria’s telecommunications networks have further reduced to 92,446,687. According to the data, internet users on both Global System for Mobile communications, GSM and Code Division Multiple Access, CDMA, networks reduced by 759,683 in November.
Government policies: While other countries around the world have either reduced taxes on ICT or mulled the plan, the Federal Government of Nigeria had last year expressed its readiness to tax Nigerians who use ICT through what it described as Communication Service Tax (CST). The bill, which is about to pass second reading at the National Assembly, if implemented would see ICT users pay extra nine per cent tax on calls, SMS, MMS among others.
Implement ICT University project – Uwaje
Speaking on the year under review, the Director, Delta State Innovation Hub, Chris Uwaje said that the national IT development strategy suffered a great deficit along the line due to government’s inability to foresee the role of ICT in shaping the future.
“We were just focused on consumption and left IT research and innovation behind. 2017 is therefore the critical time to get it right. This is why the mission for the establishment of an ICT University, strategically focused on micro-electronics and software capacity building is imperative.
“The vision of the Minister of Communication, Barrister. Adebayo Shittu is to ensure that the future of ICT Nigeria is secured in the hands of Nigerians.There can be no greater achievement for the industry than the full implementation of the ICT University project for Nigeria.
“Going forward, the concept of ICT University must be designed within the digital knowledge chemistry and equation of 60 percent software framework and 40 percent hardware infrastructure capacities and capabilities.
We are moving slowly but —Adebayo
For the President, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria , ALTON, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, despite challenges, Nigeria has recorded tremendous progress in telecommunication taking a look from where the country used to be years back.
He said Noting that telecom remains the most reliable public socio-economic infrastructure, adding that operators have been able to break the impossibilities and made Nigeria’s economic life better than what it used to be.
“We are moving slowly but rightly towards realisation of the set broadband penetration objective of 30% by 2018:- players are doing massive investment in infrastructure, we are optimising exiting network element to deliver on an on regular basis the best in class technologies for the benefits of consumers.
Minimise incidences of disruption of telecom services
“The challenges of multiple regulation and taxation are still there. Our appeal to all stakeholders on taxation is to consider the socio-economic benefits and Impact of telecoms on our national development and therefore minimise incidences of disruption of telecom services on account of revenue generation”, he added. Listing expectations for 2017, Adebayo said that, “ We expect access to foreign exchange in order to enable us honour forex based obligations both for spare part procurement and new systems requested to optimise the networks.
“We also look forward to a full declaration by Government of telecommunications as critical socio-economic and security infrastructure, and accord the networks high priority in protection and security.
Unlock local content -Teniola
Noting that the ICT sector at large witnessed a very mixed set of circumstances in Nigeria in 2016, the President of Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria, ATCON, Mr Olusola Teniola believed that the ICT recorded almost 9.9% to GDP in 2016 despite all the headwinds and against a slow-down in the overall economy.
Drawbacks: While commending the release of 2.6GHz and 5.4GHz spectra by the regulatory authority, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, and the continuation of the NCC Open Access Model, he said that the drawbacks have been the delay in awarding the remaining INFRACO licences as well as the hurdles faced by the INFRACOin rolling out.
Commending also the government’s commitment to accelerating the digital migration in 2017 to achieve the ITU June 2017 deadline, he lamented that the re-introduction of a price floor to protect the industry failed,adding that it needed to be re-introduced in a manner that sees increased competition and vibrancy in this very dynamic space for innovation to strive.
Launch of 4G network
Believing that the launch of 4G network utilizing LTE advanced technology was a positive step towards achieving the broadband penetration target of 30% by the end of 2018,the ALTON President noted that the focus for 2017 should be in unlocking ‘local content’ in the industry and ensuring a level playing field exists to bring about increased employment for the growth in the skills set required to generate a digitally transformed industry.
“The ecosystem will bring about new players from the OTT space and regulation that balances the interests of these players versus the investments already made by the telco players will need to addressed. The investments required to fund the mobile broadband revolution must be addressed, so all incentives and an enabling environment is put in place by the Federal Government, so that investors’ confidence is not eroded any further”, he explained.
NITDA should promote software Nigeria – Olufuye
For the Chairman of Africa Information & Communication Technologies Alliance, AfICTA, Dr. Jimson Olufuye, NITDA empowered to champion the use of made in Nigeria software by its IT development mandate is yet to focus on this assignment.
“When it decides to take the responsibility seriously it could convene an indigenous software adoption Working Group that would effectively map all sectors of the Nigerian economy and detail indigenous software available as solutions to those sectors and where there is none encourage intervention in such areas through incentives.
“The focus on foreign software at all tiers of government and the academic sector is unpatriotic and has impeded the growth of the sector notwithstanding the success story of indigenous payment gateways. A lot more need to be done”, Olufuye explained.