By YEMISI IZUORA
Available data clearly shows that Nigeria is a telecommunications powerhouse, with 82 per cent of the continent’s telecom subscribers and 29 per cent of the continent’s internet consumption.
In addition Nigeria is rated eleventh globally in terms of internet penetration and seventh in terms of mobile phone usage, but despite these remarkable metrics, the fact that the country’s Network Readiness Index (NRI) ranking for 2022 is 109th out of 131 countries is described as both humbling and challenging.
At the Emerging Technology Forum for the telecommunications Industry, Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, clearly states that to navigate the era of transformation, there is great need for the industry to embrace innovation, make strategic investments, and cultivate a growth-friendly ecosystem.
Danbatta at the forum, themed, Contextualizing the Network Readiness Index (NRI) for the Nigerian Telecommunications Industry, recalled that the Nigerian telecommunications industry has embarked on a remarkable growth trajectory, solidifying its position as an engine of economic growth.
The enhancement of digital access and the expansion of networks have left an indelible impact on the lives of our citizens, but he noted also that while the industry celebrate these accomplishments, it must come snider and be aware that our dynamic society requires even higher connectivity, reliability, and accessibility standards.
This points to the surge in data utilisation, the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), the advent of artificial intelligence, and the emergence of cutting-edge technologies clearly highlights the urgent need for ongoing network surveillance and expansion.
To navigate this era of transformation, Danbatta stressed the need for the industry to embrace innovation, make strategic investments, and cultivate a growth-friendly ecosystem.
He considered the forum as an opportunity and gateway to innovative and disruptive solutions that can positively transform the industry.
According to him, “By engaging in conversations about new technologies, collaborating with global best practices and subject-matter experts, and pooling our insights, we open the door to unimaginable future possibilities. Let us grasp this opportunity to investigate emerging technologies, envisage their potential applications, and determine how they can be leveraged to solve our specific challenges.”
The EVC, sad that the global data collected by the NRI team reveals that digital transformation is a global imperative in order to maximize the social and economic effects of the digital era which can create new inequalities and also can hinder the ability of younger generations to engage in the digital economy, but then remains a powerful way to do more with less at all levels of income.
Formal education is evolving, and metrics are important to support informed policymaking and thus requires reskilling and upskilling opportunities to be available, accessible, and affordable in order to have more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies.
Danbatta said, “Nigeria is a telecommunications powerhouse, with 82% of the continent’s telecom subscribers and 29% of the continent’s internet consumption. Our nation rates eleventh globally in terms of internet penetration and seventh in terms of mobile phone usage. Despite these remarkable metrics, the fact that our Network Readiness Index (NRI) ranking for 2022 is 109th out of 131 countries is both humbling and challenging?”
The NRI is a guiding metric that measures the role and impact of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and explores the performances of 131 economies in four key categories: technology (infrastructure), governance, people, and impact. As agents of social and economic transformation in our nation, prioritizing network readiness is not only a strategic necessity but a mandate.
He challenged participants at the forum to engage in thought-provoking discussions that explore the foundational pillars of NRI, through a number of presentations by renowned professionals in the technology landscape.
He said the Emerging Technology Forum acts as a beacon, directing us towards the intersection of transformation and advancement and a forum is where operators bridge the divide between aspiration and achievement.
He went further to note, “Through spirited dialogues, collaborative exchanges, and the exploration of emerging technologies, we move closer to our vision of a fully interconnected, telecommunications-driven Nigeria.”
In an introductory remarks by the Executive Commissioner – Technical Services
Engr. Ubale A. Maska, notes that the primary objective of the forum is to provide standard roadmaps and best practices which can be used to measure the impact of Information & Communications Technology (ICT) on our society and promote the adoption of new technologies.
The forum he said is tasked with the mandate to review the latest findings of Nigeria’s NRI, explore various barriers and key drivers to the implementation of innovative technologies, and ultimately create actionable solutions to help move the industry forward.
According to Maska, We live in rapidly changing times where the proliferation of digital transformation and the use of ICTs are inevitable. With the world becoming increasingly interconnected and our economic activities relying heavily on the digital space, it has become essential for countries to be at the forefront in terms of technology adoption. This is why the Network Readiness Index (NRI) is so important to measure the progress of a country as it relates to ICTs and digital transformation.
He said, Nigeria’s Network Readiness Index is a strong indicator of how the country is adapting to the digital transformation that is happening all over the world, and will help us access our progress and position on the global digital train and the forum would examine the different barriers and key drivers of emerging technologies as far as the Nigerian telecommunications industry is concerned.
“We intend to explore the challenges that are present, and to discuss solutions to ensure that the country is making the most of the digital transformation.In the end, this forum should provide us with valuable focal areas of discourse, with the hope of discovering innovative and effective ways of improving the Network Readiness Index in Nigeria.
“Furthermore, the discussion should be encouraged to discuss how the NRI can be used as a key tool for assessing the development of the telecommunications industry, and how it can be used to inform decision-making relating to technology and network readiness.” he added.
Also, speaking at the event Dr. Chidi Diugwu, head new media and information security department, said the forum aims to establish a National Network Readiness Index (NRI) by exploring the driving factors of emerging technologies, further examining the sustainability and barriers of the NRI’s four pillars – Technology, People, Governance, and Impact.
Diugwu, also stated that the NRI, widely used for monitoring access and impact of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), is an invaluable tool for identifying gaps, stimulating action, structuring policy dialogue, and tracking ICT readiness over time. The Tech Industry is a focal point of Nigeria’s growth, demonstrated by the recent investments in infrastructure and digital services.
Citing statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, he said that Nigeria’s ICT sector contributed up to 14.07 per cent to the total GDP in the first quarter of 2020, and this had grown to 17.47 per cent by Q1 2023.
The Federal Government’s focus on the Tech Industry, particularly on fostering the advancement and growth of technology especially emerging and new technologies is highly commendable, he remarked.
He referenced the forum as one of the objectives of the NCC in its strategic pillar: Promotion of DIGITAL ECONOMY and is cascaded to the New Media and Information Security Department as one of its critical mandates . This goal of enhancing the productivity ecosystem, is expected to result in a significant boost to the nation’s innovative capabilities in the coming years.
“There has been remarkable development in Nigeria’s ICT infrastructure in recent years, with skyrocketing mobile penetration rates, and internet connectivity expanding drastically. The Commission’s commitment to enhance network infrastructure, coupled with the private sector’s contributions has significantly transformed our connectivity landscape. It is crucial to note that the NRI is not just about the latest technologies or high-speed internet access. It also includes elements such as affordability, digital skills, and the availability and adoption of digital services in various sectors of the economy.” Diugwu said.
In further providing more information, he said, “Nigeria’s performance on the NRI index from 2020 to 2022, as reported by the Potulans Institute, indicates a mixture of improvement and challenges that still persists. Thus, applying the Network Readiness Index in the Telecommunication Industry is of paramount importance in our current digital ecosystem. Utilising the insights it brings allows us to amplify our strengths, address our challenges, and propel our nation into a brighter digital future. However, despite the importance of NRI in channelling the strengths and opportunities of our tech ecosystem, it is imperative that the metrics are localized to reflect our current realities.”
He urged stakeholders to embrace the insights offered by the NRI to guide existing policies, investments, and collaborations to enable us harness the potentials of emerging technologies, investing in human capital, and fostering innovation that will unlock new opportunities, bridge the digital divide, and create a prosperous and inclusive digital future for Nigeria.