THE COMMUNICATIONS SECTOR ROADMAP FOR THE PERIOD 2016-2019
BARRISTER ABDUR-RAHEEM ADEBAYO SHITTU, HONOURABLE MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS
It is with a deep sense of humility that I address you all, Gentlemen of the Press today. Let me begin by expressing our very sincere appreciation to the mass media for the immense support to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration since inception.
You may recall that, the Federal Executive Council was inaugurated on Wednesday, 11 November, 2015, precisely 77 days today when I was appointed as the Minister of Communications by His Excellency, President Muhammad Buhari, GCFR.
As expected, between my assumption of office and today, several events have taken place culminating in this press briefing. I drew an agenda to guide the Ministry in attaining its core mandate in line with the CHANGE Mantra of this Administration. I received briefs from the Directors in the Ministry and also from the Chief Executive Officers of my Ministry’s Agencies. In order to bring the presence of our new Government to the global stage, I attended the World Radio Communications Conference organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), in Geneva, Switzerland. ITU is the World Regulatory Body for Telecommunications where Nigeria has been a member since 1961. I have also had the privilege of attending many other international conferences on ICT in New York and China, all of which have given proper perspectives of the industry.
At the end of my various internal and external interactions, it became obvious that the Communications Sector is presently focused on Information Technology infrastructure development, promotion of ICT local content, ICT deployment in Government, extending ICT access to Nigerians and providing an enabling environment for competitiveness in the industry.
Creating a knowledge-based economy has been the key element in ICT sector policy-making in the last seventeen years. Successive governments have presided over varying degrees of growth in the sector to the point where ICT with a liberalized market policy has produced the explosive but uneven growth in the ICT Sector so far.
The dominant issue now is how to nurture that explosive growth to make sure that it reaches every part of Nigeria both urban and rural. We all know that ICT is now redefining how we live, how we do business, how services are delivered both in terms of Government to Government; as well as between Government and Citizens.
The time has now come to leverage the bountiful opportunities in the Communications Sector to generate additional revenue for government, now that the prices of oil have been on rapid decline at the international market, create employment for our teaming youths, improve access and enhance quality of service delivery and affordability in the country. Undoubtedly, this will ultimately enhance transparency and good governance in line with our CHANGE agenda on which this government rode into power.
To bring about this change we seek, the pertinent questions we should ask ourselves so as to make national progress are:
- How do we build on this growth to ensure that ICT reaches all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria?
- How do we ensure that every Nigerian has access to ICT?
- How do we deepen the penetration of broadband to reach all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria?
- How do we improve the Quality of Service Delivery by Government?
- How do we make sure our knowledge and information is not only secured, but enhances our national security?
- How do we create more jobs for and unleash the creativity of our teeming youth for over-all national development?
The intention of this Roadmap is to create a pathway to answering these questions. This policy document, let me emphasise, is the product of a painstaking consultation process with all stakeholders, who have all resolved that all policies and programmes must be guided by specific time lines while implementation must be measurable.
Gentlemen of the Press, the philosophy of the new thinking is aptly captioned: Continuing Innovation and Innovating Continuity: Creating a SMART Digital Nigeria. This conceptual double helix is what I sincerely believe to be the cultural DNA we need to embed to create a “SMART Digital Nigeria” to bring about the CHANGE we seek.
The Ministry of Communications has identified five steps to get to a SMART Digital Nigeria –
- Building on ICT Sector Growth by Improving Infrastructure and Quality of Service;
- SMART Government to deliver ICT and broadband penetration (Government, soft infrastructure, commerce, broadband penetration and security;
- Raising Revenue and Reducing Waste;
- Policy of Innovative Continuity for Private Sector-led Continuous Innovation; and
- Migration to a Digitally-Native Nigeria through Capacity, Job and wealth creation.
Before addressing each of these Steps in turn, let me digress a little and turn to just one statistic that illustrates both how far ICT has come and how much it has contributed to Nigeria, but also, how much further it could go. At 11. 93 % contribution to the GDP, ICT is arguably one of the fastest growing sectors of the Nigerian economy and is the second largest ICT market in Africa. Given the absence of fiscal buffers in a time of low oil prices and rising unemployment, ICT, which already employs more Nigerians than the oil and gas sector, is poised to drive growth. Industry analysts suggest that the Devices, Software Solutions and e-Commerce sectors alone could employ over 40 million Nigerians and contribute billions of dollars to our economy when appropriately nurtured.
Isn’t it ironic that despite this huge potential, commensurate impact of the ICT sector has not been felt in the lives of many Nigerians?
In view of the forgoing, I humbly submit that tackling the five steps below is key to remedying this anomaly.
Step 1. Building On ICT Sector Growth:
The first Step the Roadmap intends to address is to reduce both the public and private infrastructure deficit in Nigeria’s ICT sector for substantial improvements in Quality of Service.
Inadequate ICT infrastructure is the bane of ICT development in the country and a leading cause of deficiencies in quality of service. From broadband penetration to last mile-fibre-optic-connectivity, this infrastructure deficit is preventing all Nigerians from gaining affordable and reliable access to ICT services. Lack of affordability, due in part, to the proliferation of taxes, fees and levies and associated costs further inhibit investments in infrastructure. Consequently, our priority would be to ensure effective and productive acquisition by stakeholders of the infrastructure required to support and grow our boisterous ICT market.
It does not need stating that the availability of infrastructure has significant impact on the development of ICT. In addition to catalysing infrastructural development, we will pursue Government and Private sector time-bound investments in good quality infrastructural facilities and services, led by our agencies like Universal Service Provision Fund and actively supported by both local and international investors. We will also explore the investment in a second and, possibly a third backup satellite for NIGCOMSAT and actively engage other global infrastructure providers to invest in the sector. I can assure this gathering that we are already holding preliminary talks and negotiations with potential international financiers and investors on this matter.
We will expedite action and deepen the implementation of the National Broadband Plan. Efforts will also be made to promote investments towards last-mile-access. Furthermore, improvements in the quality of existing networks would be addressed with all the seriousness and urgency that they require. To our private sector “infrastructure” partners, we recognise many of the challenges you currently face. We are accessible. We make you this pledge, to listen to those critical issues and challenges. Finally, we commit ourselves to working earnestly to find ways to resolving all those that are of mutual benefit to Nigerians and the health and sustainability of the industry. Our commitment to foster the ICT industry players is that, we will tirelessly advance industry collaboration for national growth and the overall expansion of the ICT sector.
Step 2: SMART Government to Deliver ICT and Broadband Penetration:
The Second Step overlaps with and follows on from the first. ICT and Broadband penetration is essential to sustaining the sector’s growth and ensuring its long term viability and competitiveness. To achieve this step, we have adopted the two-layered SMART Approach. We all know that today, technology and the private sector are moving faster than Government. Therefore the logical place to begin implementation of these reforms is within government itself. Consequently, making Government SMART means making it;
“Social”- We will re-invent Government’s interaction with the citizens personally and collectively in such a way that it would involve improving and innovating delivery of services by government.
“Mobile” –We will ensure Government’s Mobility and agility in responding to changing times –Using the latest mobile technologies to deliver information and services, and obtain citizens’ inputs and participation 24/7 365 – by Apps, SMS, Social Media, and Web-on-the-move – using mobile networks and cloud computing at the back-end.
Building an “Analytic” Knowledge-driven Government – by ensuring our national identity database is harmonised and customised to each citizen, such that service delivery and policy as well as action is evidence-based and driven by Data Analytics.
A Government that practices” Radical Openness” with prudence.- We shall assist our Government to be “open by default” such that Accountability and Transparency in government would be redefined and engage citizens in participatory governance as well as enable businesses to innovate new services via our new e-government deployment.
A Government you can ‘Trust”- Our Government will engender Trust, by deploying ICT to effectively secure our cities, our Critical National Infrastructure, Telco infrastructure and other investments. Consequently our Government will be available and we shall protect our partners’ privacy.
Arising from the foregoing, SMART is our commitment to greater co-ordination and partnership between citizens and the Government, between the private sector and government, and within government itself.
Our first layer of the SMART approach is within government – a Cross-Agency or Government-wide approach. The purpose is to migrate Government to the digital ecosystem of improved e-governance. However, I will dwell on the second layer of the SMART approach – the Agency Specific first.
Agency specific SMART involves Government making or partnering with others to make high impact investments to create new or upgrade existing critical publicly-held-communications-infrastructure assets (i.e. telco masts and cell sites), deliver unified government information platforms (i.e. via Galaxy Backbone shared services), deepen government’s technology dependence (i.e. via e-Government), establish common ICT protocols and standards for government service delivery and foster transparency in governance using ICT
(i.e. via standardisation and consolidation of websites on a centrally-hosted portal on gov.ng).
Some of these proposed initiatives present opportunities for jobs and wealth creation, and for capacity development. It is envisaged that a potential 2 million jobs could be created for Nigerians through the ICT sector under our proposed action-plan.
Our strategic goal would be to create an all-inclusive sector which will explore key under-utilised and potentially game-changing assets through NIPOST. NIPOST, with facilities in over 550 local governments, provides untapped possibilities as a vehicle for socio-economic inclusion and digital access. We will, in keeping with the liberalisation policy and international best practices, offer partnerships with the private sector in order to significantly enhance its prospects of delivering services to Nigerians and revenue to the Government.
Returning to the Cross-Agency layer, to sustain continuous innovation requires public investment in skilled workforce of digital natives or at least digital migrants. With Nigerian youth more likely to embrace technology, the digital generation in Nigeria will have to be nurtured from a young age in both the home and the classroom so as to prepare for the workplace of tomorrow, such as the Internet of Things. We will be working very closely with the Ministries of Education to foster Digital Literacy Content in our National Curriculum, encourage the delivery of education via the usage of smart devices, promote e-Content as well as increase the uptake of ICT as a subject. We will support educational institutions with funding and facilitate training to faculty and students. This is an area where our development partners, including those in the Non-Aligned Movement can add significant value to.
Of course, we will start by embarking on a detailed skills-gap-assessment to inform specific intervention strategies to be adopted in the Roadmap. We will also set out minimum digital literacy levels for the Nigerian Workforce (both the Public and Private Sectors) thereby enhancing an upward mobility in their career path.
With this, we are confident of producing a pool of highly skilled Nigerians that meet or exceed the requirements of employers in the sector; who have stated that they find qualified human resource hard to come by in Nigeria for emerging 3rd platform technologies such as cloud, mobility, security and big data/Analytics.
Step 3. Growing Revenue, Reducing Waste:
Ladies and Gentlemen, a technology savvy workforce and SMART government play pivotal roles in raising revenues for government, improving efficiency in governance and in general services, eliminating waste and generating employment for Nigeria’s teeming masses.
We believe that we can considerably increase government receipts within the sector. Leakages such as piracy and vandalism of infrastructure result in high cost to everyone. To protect the health and viability of not only the ICT industry but also the creative and performing arts and to harness ICT for e-commerce, we propose to step up intellectual property protection and enforcement mechanisms to ensure we continue to incentivize and promote creativity. Just by way of illustration some $287 million worth of revenue is lost annually on software piracy from Nigeria alone. Think of the jobs that could be generated, the revenue that could accrue, and the innovation stifled through such practices.
Our SMART strategy of e-Government will reduce the cost of governance while making revenue generation easier at the same time. This administration would be assisted to promote online-payments and support the enforcement of the payment of taxes and levies such as stamp duties while also using technology to ensure accountability in both public and private sectors.
Step 4: Policy as Innovative Continuity for Private Sector led Continuous Innovation:
The ICT sector is a key driver of the Nigerian economy and therefore needs well-thought-out, joined-up and linked reforms. Effective reforms must be planned in the context of an integrated framework. While there are many policy and strategy instruments and sub-plans in the sector, there is a need for an integrated Medium-Term- sector plan to bring together the disparate policy threads so as to eliminate bottle-necks. Such new measures are Last-Mile-delivery of fibre optics, revitalisation of assets capable of fostering digital inclusion such as NIPOST, sustaining the Nigerian digital revolution through a digitally-ready government and the education sector, among others.
We would encourage and assist all agencies of our Government to ensure that a medium Term Plan ‘SMART Nigeria’ A Strategic digital Plan (2016-2020) brings together all the policy and strategic frameworks in the sector including updating the ICT4D plan, Broadband plan, local content policy, National ICT policy and other strategy documents within the Roadmap.
With technology leading to convergence across every media, it is imperative that we update our legal and regulatory frameworks and design them imaginatively to be ready for regulating a fast changing industry.
Step 5: Migration to a Digitally Savvy Nigeria through Capacity Building, Job and Wealth Creation:
Being ready for the technological changes ahead mean equipping Nigerians with the know-how to compete and thrive in such an environment. Ladies and gentlemen, the world needs online or Internet workers; lots of them!
Demand for online workers will continue to grow both in the international and domestic markets. We shall therefore ensure that the youths of this country have the skills and tools to succeed.
Global demands for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) services present emerging and growing opportunities. “BP’s Energy Outlook 2035” projects that global BPO is expected to rise by 41 per cent by 2035.
Most of that growth – as much as 95 per cent – is going to be driven by emerging economies such as China and India. This bodes well for the Nigerian economy, as the country is uniquely positioned to provide safe and secure ICT to customers around the World, just like Philippines became the ITES- BPO subsector capital of the world in 2010. For the records, ITES being Information Technology Enabled Service contributes over 2.5% to Philippines GDP.
Again, the potential of Nigeria ICT sector is huge. But with our low penetration and significant infrastructure shortfalls, we are not likely to do this on our own any time soon. We need investments in ICT sector infrastructure and ICT manufacturing. We have, at different fora with stakeholders, declared our unwavering commitment to promote Local Content Development in Nigeria’s ICT Sector. We, as a government, will offer every support to ensure that our local ICT firms (i.e. service providers and manufacturers) have a qualitative competitive advantage over others.
We need to work together to seize this window of opportunity and deliver the potential this sector promises by agreeing on and implementing a Roadmap.
If we do so, Nigeria’s Communications sector will attract international investors to an admirable and mutually beneficial level.
As the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria is already a regional hub for West African countries. We must now become the preferred destination for vendors to set up operations that cover the entire West African sub-region. This will provide opportunities for the country to act as a supply hub for training, skills transfer, technology leadership and investments.
2016 COMMUNICATIONS SECTOR RETREAT
In order to ensure that our SMART Digital Nigeria initiative is stakeholders-based, all relevant stakeholders including Members of the National Assembly Committees overseeing the sector, key Ministry officials, Chief Executive Officers of Agencies under the Ministry, ICT industry captains and major stakeholders met in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital from 22-23 January, 2016 where the maiden Communications Sector Retreat was held. The two-day retreat, with the theme: Repositioning the Nigeria Communications Sector as the Key Driver of the Nigerian Economy, was held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, drawing no fewer than 400 industry stakeholders and policy makers.
After extensive deliberations, stakeholders, in line with the SMART Digital Nigeria initiative:
- Agreed that although a number of strides had been recorded in the ICT sector, there was need for repositioning in order to ensure that Nigerians benefit optimally from it;
- Identified challenges to ICT development in the country to include: inadequate infrastructure, poor human capacity development, inadequate/disconnected legal and regulatory framework, poor implementation of the local content and other laudable policies;
- After exhaustive deliberations, the participants recommended the following strategies to address identified gaps:
- Implement fully the National Broadband Plan as the foundation forinfrastructure development;
- Implement a policy to encourage service providers to use renewable energy for powering Base Transceiver Stations for improvement of Quality of Service and Access;
- Engage with the Ministries of Education to ensure mandatory ICT education at the Primary level and alignment of the ICT educational curriculum through Research and Development and to meet current global trends;
- Accelerate the bridging of the Knowledge Skill Gap in the Nigeria ICT Skills ecosystem;
- Encourage implementers of e-services to incentivise users to migrate from lower to higher technologies in order to promote ICT utilisation and exploitationacross all sectors;
- Promote initiatives that will advance innovation and creativity;
- Create a sustainable funding framework for the implementation of the e-government master plan and other ICT initiatives of government through active engagement with the private sector;
- That with effect from July 2017, all ICT terminal equipment (fixed or mobile telephone set, laptops, i-pad, tablets, desktops) manufactured in Nigeria or imported must be equipped with solar power charging features inserted or direct input ports for external solar bay.
- Enforce implementation of the Local Content Guidelines to ensure patronage of indigenous products and services, as well as increase participation of Nigerians in the ICT economy; including patronage of NIGCOMSAT by all government MDAs and the private sector.
- Implement the National Addressing Policy to promote national security and support e-commerce;
- Accelerate the passage of Nigeria Postal Commission Bill to optimise the capacity of NIPOST to be relevant for improved and diversified service delivery, and bridge the digital divide towards inclusive development;
- The need for the National Assembly to expedite action on all matters requiring legislative actions such as ICT development and cybercrime laws;
- The Federal Government to ensure that ICT infrastructure across the country is declared as Critical National Infrastructure as applicable in the Power, Oil and Gas sectors;
- Enforce mandatory regulation of equipment specifications and standards in order to reduce Cybercrime and improve Cyber Security.
- Harmonise incidence of multiple taxation across Federal, State and Local Government Councils, including obstacles on Right of Way across the country.
- Ensure that subscribers get value for money; address the vexed issue of unsolicited text messages, credit deductions and exploitative tendencies of telecoms service providers.
Participants further identified a number of high impact projects and initiatives to be implemented by Government in the roadmap. These include:
- Free Hotspots across the country in partnership with service providers as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility;
- Free broadband should be provided by TETFUND & UBEC for higher educational institutions across the country;
- IT parks, innovation hubs and labs for employment creation;
- Subsidisation of cost of data for access to government e-services; and
- As a priority, implement the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) to cover budgeting, procurement, monitoring & evaluation and all other government processes in order to reduce cost, ensure efficiency and transparency.
We need to work together to seize this window of opportunity and deliver the potential this sector promises by supporting the successful implementation of this Roadmap. If we do so, Nigeria’s Communications sector will attract international investors. As the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria is already a regional hub for West African countries. We must now become the preferred destination for vendors to set up operations that cover the entire West African sub region. This will provide opportunities for the country to act as a supply hub for training, skills transfer, technology leadership and investment.
I will close by saying frankly, that Innovation, Research and Development gave us this information revolution and a portal to a better future. If we are to thrive in this borderless information age, we must be ready to accept that continuous innovation must be constant. Government in turn must innovate continuity to direct this galloping speed safely to a better destination for us all. This is our duty to this and future generations of Nigerians. I hereby invite you to join me to make Government SMART and Nigeria fully Digital.
I commend you all for being part of this defining moment and thank you for your attention.