The recent Network Readiness Index (NRI) report puts Nigeria in 109th position globally and 11th in Africa in terms of technology usage.
This is indeed baffling, considering the fact that Nigeria is a telecommunications powerhouse, with 82 per cent of the continent’s telecom subscribers and 29 percent of the continent’s internet consumption. The country was also rated 11th globally in terms of internet penetration and seventh in terms of mobile phone usage.
According to the executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, the Nigerian telecommunications industry has embarked on a remarkable growth trajectory, solidifying its position as an engine of economic growth in recent years, adding that, “The enhancement of digital access and the expansion of our networks have left an indelible impact on the lives of our citizens.”
While Nigeria celebrates these accomplishments, Danbatta, however, attributed Nigeria’s NRI poor report to the country’s dynamic society, which requires even higher connectivity, reliability, and accessibility standards.
“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 highlight the urgent need for ongoing network surveillance and expansion. To navigate this era of transformation, we must embrace innovation, make strategic investments, and cultivate a growth-friendly ecosystem,” he further clarified.
In line with Danbatta’s recommendations, the Commission, together with relevant stakeholders in the telecommunications industry, recently came together to map out strategies to tackle Nigeria’s poor NRI.
As agents of social and economic transformation in Nigeria, prioritising network readiness is not only a strategic necessity but a mandate, Danbatta affirmed.
Themed; “Contextualizing the Network Readiness Index for the Nigerian Telecommunications Industry,” the EVC disclosed that the forum was the industry’s gateway to innovative and disruptive solutions that can positively transform the industry.
“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,” he further stated.
Speaking on the findings of the NRI report, Danbatta, who was represented at the forum by the NCC’s director of Spectrum Administration, Engr. Abraham Oshadami, said the NRI is a guiding metric that measures the role and impact of Information and Communication Technology (ICT); it explores the performances of 131 economies in four key categories: technology (infrastructure), governance, people, and impact.
Throughout deliberations at the forum, Danbatta said stakeholders engaged in thought-provoking forum discussions that explore the foundational pillars of NRI, through a number of presentations by renowned professionals in the technology landscape.
“As we convened, the innovation symphony resonates with our common goals. The Emerging Technology Forum acts as a beacon, directing us towards the intersection of transformation and advancement. This forum is where we bridge the divide between aspiration and achievement. Through spirited dialogues, collaborative exchanges, and the exploration of emerging technologies, we move closer to our vision of a fully interconnected, telecommunications-driven Nigeria,” he stated.
The EVC, however, thanked all stakeholders at the forum for their unwavering commitment, unrelenting pursuit of progress, and unwavering faith in the potential of the industry.
In the same vein, head, New Media and Information Security Department, NCC, Engr. (Dr.) Chidi Diugwu, said 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.
There has been remarkable development in Nigeria’s ICT infrastructure in recent years, with skyrocketing mobile penetration rates, and internet connectivity expanding drastically, Diugwu said, while assuring that the Commission’s commitment to enhance network infrastructure, coupled with the private sector’s contributions, has significantly transformed the country’s connectivity landscape.
“One of the objectives of the NCC in its strategic pillar, which is Promotion of DIGITAL ECONOMY, 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,” he assured.
On the NRI report, the head of new media explained 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.
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 persist, Diugwu said, while assuring that applying the NRI in the Telecommunication Industry is of paramount importance in the country’s 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 channeling the strengths and opportunities of our tech ecosystem, it is imperative that the metrics are localised to reflect our current realities.
“As we move forward, let us embrace the insights offered by the NRI to guide our policies, investments, and collaborations to enable us to 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,” he advised.
Meanwhile, in his introductory remarks, the executive commissioner, Technical Services, NCC, Engr. Ubale A. Maska said, “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 NRI is so important to measure the progress of a country as it relates to ICTs and digital transformation,” he explained.
Maska said Nigeria’s NRI is a strong indicator of how the country is adapting to the digital transformation that is happening all over the world, and will help the country access its progress and position on the global digital train, adding that the primary objective of this forum is to provide standard roadmaps and best practices which can be used to measure the impact of ICT on the society and promote the adoption of new technologies.
“The Forum will help us 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.
“With the forum, we will examine the different barriers and key drivers of emerging technologies as far as the Nigerian telecommunications industry is concerned, explore the challenges that are present, and discuss solutions to ensure that the country is making the most of the digital transformation. In the end, the forum will provide us with valuable focal areas of discourse, with the hope of discovering innovative and effective ways of improving the NRI in Nigeria,” he said.
In his keynote address entitled “From Global Insights To Local Impact: Network Readiness In Nigerian Telecommunication Industry,” Professor Bashir Galadinchi from the Bayero University Kano, said Nigeria needs more investment in the four cardinal pillars, which include; Technology, People, Governance, and Impact.