Paper Presented by Mr. Olusola Teniola President ATCON at the Indo-Africa EXPO (ITAND TELECOM SUMIT) held from 6th – 7th September 2017 at Eko Hotel and Convention center lagos, Nigeria.
It is gives me much pleasure and excitement to be invited to this very important event in which the objective is set to forge closer cooperation in a determined effort to accelerate growth in Information and Communications Technology with a view to boost both countries’ economies through greater penetration and use of advanced technologies and services.
The Association came up with this topic because the overriding essence of ICT should be to address social-economic issues that have slowed down the progress of our country.
This paper will attempt to discuss the strategic importance of Local Content in the Nigerian ICT sector and the opportunities that are inherent in the pursuit of Local Content in Nigeria.
I like to reaffirm that ICT is crosscutting and it is an enabler for growth and development and maximum benefit.
The much-expected growth in the Nigerian ICT Sector can only be witnessed through closer international cooperation and strategic collaboration with a county like India that has demonstrated its love and has recorded a great feat in that regard.
It would interest you that the following ten key strategies contained in the Geneva Action Plan which Africa Head of states and Government agreed to and signed WSIS in December 2013.
- To connect villages with ICTs and community access points;
- To connect universities, colleges, secondary schools, and primary school with ICTs;
- To connect scientific and research centres with ICTS
- To connect public libraries, cultural centres, museum, post office and achieves with ICTs
- To connect health centres and hospital with ICTs
- To connect all local government departments and establish websites and email addresses
- To adapt all primary and secondary school curricula to meet the challenges of the information society taking into account national circumstance.
- To ensure that all of the world’s population have access to television and radio services
- To ensure that more than half the world’s inhabitants have access to ICTs within their reach and
- To encourage the development of content and to put in place technical condition in order to facilitate the presence and use of internet.
It was also agreed that nations would operate within their economic strengths as they attend to these action plans aimed at bringing about a global information society.
It is now a fact as evidenced by development from other countries that ICT as a sector can contribute immensely to the national GDP of a country and that ICT as enabler, can result in improved market competitiveness of a nation’s products and services. ICT can impact positively on governance and other sector of the economy in turn ICT can effectively assist international economic integration, improve living standard and narrow the digital divide.
The digital divide can be narrowed and poverty reduction can be addressed through effective and focussed utilization of ICTs in key sectors such as education, industry and agriculture.
It should be emphasized that the adoption of ICT requires a business environment that encourages open competition, trust and security, interoperability and standardization and financial resources for ICT development.
This requires the urgent implementation of sustainable measures to improve access to the internet and telecommunication infrastructure and increase ICT literacy as well as development of local internet based content.
Africa countries like most developing countries still depend on content developed and managed in the developed world and as a result substantial costs are incurred while trying to access content.
Efforts should be directed to make ICTs available in local languages if they are to be demystified, adopted and utilized by locals.
ICT goals in Nigeria should be to establish an environment that encourages networking of services and applications; promoting programmes for good and services; promoting internet access to exchanges and access digital content; establishing e-government; promoting e-education and online service; strengthen network security; building and develop e society and the ICT human resources.
The benefits of liberalizing the telecom and ICT sector would not accrue to Nigerian teeming population until the necessary action is taking by the Nigerian government at all levels through strategic collaboration with a country that shows interest in the development of country-Nigeria. I think one of such countries that Nigeria should extend hand of partnership to should be Indian as they have demonstrated a lot of interest in Nigeria in terms of bilateral trade and technology transfer.
Structure of Nigeria Telecommunications and ICT Sector
It is obvious that the structure of Nigeria Telecommunications and ICT sector is not really beneficial to Nigeria as a country in terms of foreign exchange earnings because most of the inputs in the sector are imported from the developed countries.
If we really want to pursue Nigerian Local Content development vigorously as a nation with the intention of increasing its impact on our revenue we must devise a means of producing those inputs locally.
The liberalization of the sector has attracted some Large investments to the country but the country needs to develop the sector by making it less import dependent and to do this, the then Honourable Minister of Communication Technology, Dr Mrs Omobola Johnson created an office under NITDA called the office of the Nigeria Local Content charged with the responsibility of making the ICT and Telecommunication sector less dependent on importation.
To reduce or eradicate the continuous unemployment of Nigerian youth (skilled and unskilled) there is an urgent need to work out a collaborative agreement with the aim of transferring their technical know-how to Nigerians and all relevant agencies in Nigeria should support this initiative as it would certainly accelerate as well give boost to our local production.
Some of the resultant effects of collaborating with the Republic of Indian to;
Fostering Nigerian local content
Low rate of unemployment – This strategic collaboration can reduce the number of Nigerians who are unemployed as this would make them to have the required and needed knowledge to be gainfully employed in the telecom and ICT sector.
Reduce Dependence on expatriate – If we stop to play a leap service to local content drive in the telecom and ICT sector, this strategic collaboration with India would give Nigerians the opportunity to take part in the value chain of Of goods and service that would be sold to Nigerians and we would be able to manage the most critical section of our fledge ICT sector.
Decrease cost of production – the effective pursuance of local content would ultimately result in reduction in the cost of production because there would be no need for international currencies as the service rendered would be valued in Naira
Improve ICT Sector development – The success of Local Content drive in the Telecom and ICT in Nigeria would accelerate the progress of the sector.
The way forward
Draw a plan to comprehensively develop the ICT sector
ATCON noted that since the inauguration of the Office of the Nigerian Content, there is little or no productive activity to drive the guidelines that were published. ATCON would like NCC and ONC to come up with short and long-term plans in partnership with India to turn this dream to a reality.
Establishment of ICT Park
India should out of their love pool resources together for the establishment of ICT Park in Nigeria. The ICT Park would be given the mandate to encourage the production of some ICT inputs like switches, router, mobile phone repairs/assembly etc
Government at all Levels must make the ICT Sector A Top Priority In Nigeria
It is surprising that the Federal Government does not give priority to the ICT sector when planning, despite its huge contributions to the Gross Domestic Product. We all know that more than 70% of ICT components are currently being imported from abroad. It has been established that this sector is contributing circa 8% to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Our members can no longer buy USD$ directly from CBN designated banks again and this has pushed the cost of doing business higher!
Though the recent introduction of flexible FX mechanism is more than welcome, it is already too late for some of our members to stem the imbalance in the supply and demand of foreign exchange, what the Federal Government needs to consider is to encourage and implements local content policy which would encourage import substitution as this will give birth to the establishment of companies that manufacture these components (or assemble them) in Nigeria with some incentives and for government to further sponsor ICT parks.
Educational Policies must be Refocused
Today in Nigeria, the number of people who want to study science related courses are small (and in most cases reducing) in relation to students who want to study commercial or social science related courses. The trend painted above can never solve our challenges, therefore, we need to begin to redirect the focus of students on the need to study science related courses. The Federal Government should make studying of science courses interesting by providing a conducive learning environment and state of art laboratory equipment for students with a view to encouraging local content policy.
Government should Increase the Budget of ICT
The Federal Government should begin to focus more on other alternative means of generating income and their focus should be on increasing government spending and budget allocation to funding the ICT sector for the purpose of making its products and services exportable, thereby allowing it to contribute to our foreign earnings.
Enactment of Appropriate ICT Policies
In order for the ICT sector to supplement or replace the Oil and Gas sector, strong policy frameworks which favour the sector must be put in place. It should be emphasized that the petroleum industry which used to be the cash cow for our nation (from a foreign exchange earning perspective) is not doing so well right now and this is a global issue that will take some time to recover. The direct implication of this is that we may not be able to finance our budget without resulting to further government borrowing. ICT can as a matter of fact serve as the new cash cow for the country provided the right polices are put in place.
ATCON would like to use this opportunity to seek the cooperation and strategic collaboration with India to organize some important local content driven programmes that would accelerate our local content with respect to ICT sector.
We are certain and confident that with all these proposed interventions we have shared and solutions being put in place, we can safely say that the ICT sector would contribute more significantly to the nation’s GDP through India support.
Thank you for your attention.