By Oluwatobi Opusunju
The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Garba Danbatta has assured the global investment community of the commitment of the Nigerian government to expanding the country’s economy through improving the ease of doing business and robust digital transformations. Danbatta spoke at a panel session during the just ended 2018 World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
The Nigerian telecom regulator disclosed that move towards a digital economy is already in the works and the government is aggressively pursuing five interdependent elements of the digital transformation processes which are vital towards accelerating innovation and overall growth of the ICT industry for economic development.
Danbatta, who has sought to deepen the stakeholders-regulator engagement process in Nigeria said government has resolutely committed to the five elements of enabling policies and institutions, human capital, applied ICT industry, communications infrastructure for ICT applications and institutional change.
“In Nigeria, we are trying to digitally transform and the process is on-going. Hence we’ve been paying attention to five interdependent elements of the digital transformation processes: enabling policies and institutions, human capital, applied ICT industry, communications infrastructure ICT applications and institutional change,” said Danbatta in the panel discussion that had notable industry giants such as: the chief regulator of the United States Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Varadaraj Pai; the chief regulator of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Ram Sewak Sharma; and Executive Director, Commission for Communications Regulation, Colombia, Germán Darío Arias Pimienta.
He told the Barcelona audience that the strategic vision plan he unveiled two years ago in form of 8-Point Agenda has so far made a significant impact on the growth of telecommunications sector in Nigeria.
He said broadband penetration in the country merely stood at about 8 per cent when he took over the mantle of the leadership of the industry, but it is now 22 per cent, according to the ITU-UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.
He explained that the successful auctioning of the spectrum, 2.6 GHZ band, which he said has already been assigned contributed to the increase in broadband penetration in the country.
“We also decided to look at how we can improve ‘Quality of Service’ consistent with key performances indicators that characterize the quality of service. The information we are getting from the consumers as well as what we source from network operators is that ‘Quality of Service’ has improved. The experience by consumers through their accounts has also indicates significant improvement,” he noted.
He explained that the year 2017 was dedicated as the year of the consumer to empower telecoms’ consumers in the country, and that has immensely improved consumers’ experience in terms of quality telecom services.
“When we started the campaign, we were inundated with a deluge of complaints, especially on unsolicited text messages sent to consumers, and in many cases, they were surcharged. We have put behind this menace in Nigeria through the campaign.
“As I am talking to you we have a Do- Not- Disturb- facility, which is very easy to use by consumers. More than 9million users have activated this facility. Again, close to that number have gained access to our 622 toll-free line which is provided to consumers to lodge their complaints on the quality of service provided by the telecommunication firms,” he explained.
While on the podium, the Nigerian regulator tasked global policymakers in the telecommunication industry on seeking out of the box solutions in developing policy frameworks as well as in promoting innovation and investment in the sector.
“There is a need for renewed thinking in developing policy and regulatory framework in the industry. The Regulator should promote innovation, investment and better quality of service, as well as put in place mechanisms that will limit unfair pricing and exploitation of consumers,” urged Danbatta.