Who can imagine how Nigeria would look like if we had no access to Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in this era of globalization? The period of erratic service from telecom providers had gradually given way to improved service, expansion of coverage, increase number of lines and connectivity and 22% broadband penetration in Nigeria.
Nigeria, like most developing nations, has come to recognize the importance of ICT as a catalyst for sustainable socio-economic development. This recognition is well captured in the National Development Plan- Nigeria’s Vision 2020 and ICT strategic Roadmap 2017 -2020.
The increasing globalization driven by ICT makes it imperative for Nigeria as an emerging market to irreversibly consider the application and promotion of ICT strategy to facilitate its rapid growth and development in both formal and informal sector of the economy.
We are not yet there now but the rapid adoption of digital technology and 165 million active lines and 100million internet connectivity in Nigeria is huge and ICT is consistently contributing about 10% to the Nations’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) thereby showing the world that there is potential in telecom market in the country.
It is on record that contribution of ICT especially telecomm sector to the informal sector of the economy has not been captured unlike the formal sector that has data to show for its activities. The enormous contribution of ICT in informal sector cannot be quantified because of the inability to measure happiness in human beings. This is the lacuna that needs to be quickly addressed.
ICT has been silently promoting friendship and unity among numerous tribes engaging in the informal sector of the economy despite the isolated crisis in some parts of the country. Just as the game of football which breaks barrier across board regardless of demography and geography.
It has immensely aided trade and building confidence among different tribes, loyalty and dedication on the part of people in the commerce and industry especially informal sector.
Who can imagine the trust a Yoruba/Hausa women would repose on Ibo man to transport his goods from Lagos to Abuja/Kano without incident of mistrust or diversion of customers’ goods.
This activity is very expansive and involves a lot of people in the chain of informal haulage. The use of ICT in trade has turn on happy mode on the face of many businessmen, women and households as just a call made to the owner of goods to claim at designated point in which both parties from different background share happiness through GSM.
The uses of Facebook and WhatApps( New Media) to transact business have gained traction in the informal sector of the economy which has provided income opportunities to many Nigerians. Not only that, it serves as displayed shops for numerous sellers that do not have capacity to rent a shop.
The power of ICT has manifested in both urban and rural areas that have internet connections thereby providing platform for people to share their joy and happiness through exchange of video chatting and thereby reinforcing family ties in the country.
ICT infrastructures have brought about the fastest means of exchanging ideas, educating the populace and also serve as a drive-in knowledge sharing among the people in Nigeria.
The determination of the present government through regulatory agency like Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigerian Communications Satellite(NIGCOMSAT) and Galaxy Backbone (GBB) as well as stakeholders in the ICT sector to meet up with the 30% Broadband Penetration have opened opportunities for Nigerians to be engaged in business activities, reinforce family ties, promote inter-ethnic relationship and engender unity in the country.
The impact of these efforts is lost on shallow memories of human beings because more ground still exists for stakeholders and regulatory agencies to cover the expanse of land in the country. However, we must applaud the effort being put in place to serve unserved areas in the country.
If a lot of Nigerians are keen observant of our highways, they would notice that there is more network availability along the roads especially those travelling from Lagos to Abuja even though the service providers alternate in some areas through them on and off.
Also, some of the rural areas, schools and tertiary institutions were provided with Base Transceiver Station (BTS) project, Community Resource Centre Project (CRC) E-Accessibility, Information Resource Centre, Innovative ICT Solutions & Services, School Knowledge Centre, Stakeholders’ Initiated Projects and University Intercampus Connectivity thereby improving access to ICT service in the country.
The forthcoming National Council on Communication Technology which has its theme as Leveraging ICT as a vehicle for Economic Recovery & Growth is apt for the present situation that give room for ICT mass education and potential opportunities derived from adopting digital operations in all facet of our economy in the country. The NCCT is a consultative body for the government in matters pertaining to ICTs with a view to achieving some degree of uniformity in the ICT sector and to provide a pool of information on all ICT matters for the Government.
It is imperative for the States and Local Governments to move and be on the same page with the Federal Government and stakeholders in the ICT sectors in order to fast-track the digital system in Nigeria.
The knotty issue of the harmonized Right of Way (RoW) has to be permanently thrashed out and implementation strategy commence in the first quarter of 2019 to advance the effort of stakeholders in the provision of infrastructure in the country.
The Ministry of Communications harmonized RoW charges and implementation strategy should be supported by stakeholders especially the state government in the country.
The harmonized RoW strategy will involve the utilization of a shared duct strategy to deploy all public utility infrastructures such as gas pipeline, power cables, optic fiber cables etc. The benefit of the share duct strategy includes economics of scale, reduced cost of infrastructure deployment and fast network deployment.
Also, a firm commitment has to be obtained from State Government on the establishment of State Information Technology Development Agency (SITDA) in order to accelerate development in the Federation through collaboration between NITDA and States in Nigeria.
Additional critical decisions stakeholders have to pursue to logical conclusion is the implementation of e-Government programme and setting up Digital Centres by all tiers of government in Nigeria in order to promote capacity building in the country.
Other initiatives that stakeholders in ICT sector need to promote and ensure full implementation are development of National E-Health, improving access to education through ICTs, optimizing ICT local content, use of ICT in agriculture and deployment of ICT for transport development.
The development of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) technology would tremendously improve conventional transport systems and services by making them to be safer and more effective.
In recent decades, we have witnessed tremendous expansion in application of digital skills and ICT stakeholders have to brace up and forge a partnership to project policy that would enable Nigeria to be part of the fourth industrial revolution through the implementation of Digital literacy in all the local governments of the federation.
It is no doubt that ineffective ICT infrastructure and service delivery would take us back to primitive era which Hobbes noted that human beings live in poor, nasty and brutish state. Based on this fact that nobody would prefer to live solitary life but to enjoy life of interaction with both immediate and far relations as well as deliver services to their clients by using latest ICT infrastructures and there is the need for ICT stakeholders to double their efforts in implementing most of the policies that would improve the quality of life of our people.
The Nigerian ICT sector has recorded significant growth over the years which are as a result of deliberate policies and programmes developed by the government targeted towards the citizens of the country. The Administration of His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari has recorded significant progress towards ensuring transparency and accountability of government by harnessing technology thereby bringing about greater citizen participation and responsiveness to government. This has helped in building a stronger relationship between the citizens and the government The Ministry of Communications in cognizance with its mandate developed an e-Government Master Plan which was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council. This plan intends to refocus the e-Government agenda for Nigeria, through a holistic and citizen centric deployment of ICT in governance rather than the individualistic approach which has been the norm. A faithful implementation by MDAs would result in improved public service delivery, with the ultimate goal of enhancing transparency and accountability of government to its publics.