ICT, a veritable alternative to oil, say experts

Prof. Danbatta NCC

Prof. Danbatta NCC

Expert have urged the Federal Government to explore the opportunities of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as veritable option to crude oil, in the quest for economic diversification.

At the third edition of the Nigeria Digital Agenda in Lagos, with the theme: ‘Beyond Oil – ICT, A Veritable Alternative,’ the experts noted that the manageability of oil has become a thorny issue in Nigeria.

Though they said oil is still relevant to the economy, they stressed that ICT can be used to re-engineer the mistakes the sector has created and expand the growth frontiers of the economy.

They equally observed that to remain competitive in a digital world, infrastructure and education challenges, amongst others must be surmounted.

Speaking at the forum, organised by the Centre for Cyber Awareness and Development (CECAD), the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta acknowledged ICT as a veritable alternative source of revenue for the country.

Danbatta stressed that the present administration is geared towards exploring other avenues for the creation of wealth for the nation rather than depending almost exclusively on the obviously dwindling revenue from oil, more so in an era where wealth creation through application of human knowledge and creativity is steadily outpacing wealth creation through extraction and processing of natural resources.

According to him, to ensure we move to the next frontier of ICT revolution, broadband Internet is crucial to the growth in the ICT industry. This, he said would also encourage investors.

“The country now has seven zones and each zone will have one operator which will deploy broadband services to every part of the zone. So far, two infraCos licenses have been issued for Lagos and North Central Zones including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and the process for issuing licenses for the other five zones has begun and will soon be completed”, he disclosed.

Danbatta added that NCC has published the Information Memorandum for the auction of 14 slots 2×5 Mega Hertz in the 2.6 Giga Hertz spectrum band, for auction that will be held from May 16, stressing that the auction will enable winners to deploy wireless broadband services, as a compliment to existing services with an assurance that regulatory framework has been put in place to ensure a transparent licensing as NCC intends to bridge this ‘digital divide.’

Other deliberations reached by stakeholders including the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) at the forum believes that to enhance development of local content, there should be a deliberate policy on local production in the ICT industry to replicate the steady success story being recorded in the auto industry.

According to them, there was need for such innovation, can only be achieved through education backed by the right policies on local production. For instance, the forum disclosed that the auto policy introduced in the last three years, the country has been able to create 40 local assembly plants across the country.

Going forward, they stressed that, there is need for the university authorities to constantly rejig their ICT-related curriculum and not wait for the government. According to them, to bridge the lacuna in the educational system where ICT-related curricula have become obsolete with the reality in the industry, making the ivory towers produce students, whose skills are at variance with the requirement of the industry.

“Also, Nigeria needs to re-engineer how it captures and document the data of players in the industry so as to know how to analyse and plan in order to equalise wealth across board as Nigeria lacks proper data of players in the various segments of the nation’s ICT industry for analysis, industry planning and for necessary supports

“On research, government should channel part of the N3 trillion projected revenue through stamp duty into research and innovation in ICT. Also, government need to encourage capacity building in sciences by supporting students and university lecturers majoring in technical courses through innovation funding as 70 per cent of graduates from our higher institution take courses in humanity as against 30 per cent that go into sciences and engineering because studying technical courses is capital intensive.”

Policy implementation, they observed that NITDA has been engaging in building institutional and human capacity initiatives, especially through various innovation hubs but the forum observed that awareness of these initiatives remains a challenge.

On funding, they called on the banks, Bank of Industry to give more support to start-ups, and provide availability and accessibility of the funds.

Earlier, the Executive Director, CECAD, Dr. Bayero Agabi, as technology continues at a breakneck speed, with social networks, mobile, analytics, cloud and other technologies driving the rapid evolution of digital businesses, major enterprises, nations and individuals are rewriting the digital play field.

“They are stretching their boundaries by tapping into a broad array of other digital businesses, digital customers and even devices at the edge of their networks’ to create ‘digital ecosystems’ that are re-shaping the entire markets and changing the way we think, work and live.

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