By Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta
- It gives me great pleasure to give this keynote address at the 3rd Discourse Series of the Advocaat Law Practice. I am pleased to note that the theme of this Discourse is “Powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Nigeria” – I believe that this theme is of immense importance at this stage of our national development, as it gives us an opportunity to assess ongoing efforts and refocus our energies as appropriate.
“As African nations, we must strive to reposition our various economies for digital prosperity and abundance to drive efficiency, productivity and create jobs for the tsunami of our youth population to deploy their creative energy for African economic development.”
- I am aware that a number of subject-matter experts have been assembled to do justice to the topic. I will therefore keep this keynote address brief so as not to detract from the rich discussions that I am sure will follow.
- To place the theme of this Discourse in its proper context, permit me to start by highlighting the historical perspective to the revolutionary trends which have brought humanity to its present position.
- As the letter of invitation correctly noted, “the three previous industrial revolutions … have liberated mankind from animal production, made mass production possible, and brought about digital capabilities to billions of people. The fourth industrial revolution brings with it the potential to connect billions of people to digital networks ad dramatically improve the efficiency of organisations”.
- Putting this within the Nigerian context, the challenge before us today is clear. It is one we must approach with the strongest resolve, and with the full co-operation of all critical Stakeholders in order to ensure that “no one is left behind” in the evolving digital future.
- I tried to capture this challenge at an earlier forum in the following words: we “must take drastic and deliberate measures by reawakening our consciousness to the power of technology in this 4th Industrial Revolution, where technologically advanced nations are the ones dictating the pace of the global economy. The ongoing trade war between China and the United States is a testament to this reality. As African nations, we must strive to reposition our various economies for digital prosperity and abundance to drive efficiency, productivity and create jobs for the tsunami of our youth population to deploy their creative energy for African economic development.”
Policy and Regulatory Considerations
- As you would note from the above context, we can only harness the opportunities of the 4th Industrial Revolution as a nation if we put in place effective guiding frameworks, to address the various aspects of the digital ecosystem and ensure their effective interworking in the national interest.
- In this regard, I am pleased to note that Nigeria is not lacking in key Policy and Regulatory frameworks and instruments which will enable us to play a leading role in powering the 4th Industrial Revolution.
- As an example, The National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy Policy (2020-2030) boasts of eight (8) pillars designed to, amongst others
o Enable Nigeria become a leading player in the global digital economy;
o Provide a catalyst to facilitate the diversification of the economy; and
o Accelerate the attainment of the key national objectives of improving security, reducing corruption and expanding the economy.
- Similarly, the Nigerian National Broadband Policy (2020-2024) clearly highlights the various implementation strategies that would aid the pervasive inclusion and rollout of broadband services across the country whilst also developing a robust and holistic digital economy.
- The NCC’s Strategic Management Plan (SMP 2020-2024 or “ASPIRE 2024”) consolidated on the vision we earlier articulated in the Strategic Vision Plan and 8-Point Agenda. We have responded to the policy goals highlighted above to harness the immense socio-economic benefits of ICT for national development; to ensure that ICT infrastructure are up to the standard necessary to provide ubiquitous broadband services in Nigeria; and to align the Commission’s regulatory efforts with the aforementioned Policy Instruments, as well as the growth strategies of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to ensure Growth, Inclusiveness, and Sustainability. We have recorded a number of significant achievements in this regard. These include:
a. The licensing of six (6) infrastructure companies (InfraCos) speed up the deployment of broadband infrastructure throughout Nigeria;
b. The provision of training and supporting public institutions with ICT interventions like School Knowledge Centers, ADAPTI etc.
c. Enhancement of physical infrastructure: in the last five (5) years, the Commission has expanded broadband penetration from 6% to 42.06 as at February 2021; access gap clusters have been reduced from 207 to 114; Fibre Optic coverage has increased from 47,000km to 54,725 km and Base Transceiver Stations for 3G and 4G deployments have increased from 30,000 to 53,460.
d. The creation of a full-fledged department Digital Economy has been created to support Federal Government’s Digital Economy agenda. We also increasedfunding of Telecom Research to N336.4m and have endowed four (4) Professorial Chairs.
e. We have also commenced requisite engagements on 5G deployments and some of our licensees have already carried out trials.
- These strides will enable the telecommunications sector provide the infrastructure backbone for powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Nigeria. We are firmly committed to ensure that Nigerians in Nigeria play a leading role in Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things (IoT), Robotics, Blockchain, Autonomous Vehicle, Drones and other innovative technologies which are now driving growth and national competitiveness.
- The question of regulation of disruptive technologies without stultifying innovation is one that we, like all other regulators globally, are carefully studying. For now, we have maintained a sharp focus on critical cross-cutting aspects like consumer protection, enhancement of competition, data protection and enhancement of trust in digital platforms through the prevention of cybercrimes and other abuses.
Citizens’ Identification and Digital Identity
- Permit me to also use this opportunity to highlight – and seek the support of all Stakeholders – on the issue of citizens’ identification and digital identity – something we all agree, I am sure, is critical to our country’s digital emergence and its future growth.
- As we all know, the Federal Government has articulated a Policy that all Nigerians must possess a unique National Identification Number (NIN) issued by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC); and that the NIN must be linked with all identity databases, particularly the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Registration database. To achieve this, we had to take the difficult decision of suspending the actuation of all new SIMs and to mandate all citizens to link their SIMs to their NINs.
- I am pleased to note that we have achieved very significant success in the articulation of a template for the activation of new SIMs linked with authenticated NINs, and that the activation of new SIMs will now be carried out across the country in earnest.
- This development further underscores government’s commitment to ensure that all the pre-requisites for our citizens full, effective and productive participation in the digital economy is guaranteed. I call on all Stakeholders to support these efforts in the overall national interest for a robust citizens’ database that supports socio-economic, health, education, national security and other public interest aspirations of the country.
- In essence, Nigeria can only maximize the potentials of the 4th Industrial Revolution if we
a. Articulate effective and forward-looking Policy Instruments to guide our emergence into the future digital landscape;
b. Ensure the ubiquitous presence, the seamless operation and the cost-effective availability of communications infrastructure which will power the digital aspirations of all sectors of the Nigerian economy and ensure that national competitiveness is guaranteed; and
c. Deploy effective regulatory instruments and harness the efforts of all critical Stakeholders so that we can derive the utmost benefits from the 4th Industrial revolution and not be reduced to digital laggards, spectators, or, merely a consumptive class.
- The Nigerian Communications Commission is keenly aware of the critical need to harness the contributions of all critical Stakeholders across all industry platforms and professional groups to ensure that Nigerians fully participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution as drivers and innovators. We hope that we can continue to count on the support of all stakeholders in this quest.
- I thank you for your time and wish you successful deliberations.
This is a keynote address by the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, at the Virtual 3rd Discourse Series of the Advocaat Law Practice