- As country ranks 11th on world internet penetration
- Leads Africa’s telecoms subscriber base with 82%
- But stakeholders urge quick impact policy action in NRI infrastructure
Ben Eguzozie, Alexander Chiejina & Saby Elemba, in Owerri
With focus by the federal government on fostering the advancement of new technologies in the tech industry, Nigeria’s ICT industry has inched up on sectoral contributions to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), accounting for 17.47 percent by the first quarter of this year, 2023 (Q1 2023), according to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) citing the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This is up from 14.07 percent recorded in 2020.
At the same time, the country leads Africa’s telecoms subscriber base with 82 percent, and accounts for 29 percent of the continent’s internet consumption, as well as ranking 11th in global internet penetration. According to these statistics, Nigeria also ranks seventh in the world for mobile phone usage.
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The NCC pointed out that Nigeria’s Network Readiness Index (NRI) is still relatively low despite these remarkable results. The NRI is a metric used to evaluate the function and influence of information and communication technology (ICT). Additionally, it assesses how well economies function in relation to four important areas: technology (infrastructure), governance, people, and effect.
Nigeria’s NRI ranking of 109th out of 131 nations in 2022 suggests there is opportunity for growth in these crucial areas. Because it forms the basis for a country’s social and economic transformation, network readiness is essential.
Umar Danbatta, the executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), who spoke recently through Chidi Diugwu, NCC’s head, new media and information security, emphasised that giving network readiness priority is not only a strategic necessity but also a mandate. In order to use information and communication technology (ICT) effectively, one must have the technological infrastructure, governance structures, qualified staff, and measurable impact.
However, industry watchers and stakeholders are urging for a quick impact policy action in upscaling Nigeria’s NRI infrastructure base to be at par with comity of nations. New realities coming out of an “Emerging Technology Forum for the Telecommunications Industry – Contextualising the Network Readiness Index (NRI) for the Nigerian Telecommunications Industry” indicate that the nation’s telecoms sector requires urgent policy action to rejig it.
According to Chidi Diugwu, NCC’s head, new media and information security, the NRI index is widely used for monitoring access and impact of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), as an invaluable tool for identifying gaps, stimulating action, structuring policy dialogue, and tracking ICT readiness over time.
He said the tech industry is a focal point of Nigeria’s growth, demonstrated by the recent investments in infrastructure and digital services.
“The Federal Government’s focus on the tech industry, particularly on fostering the advancement and growth of technology, especially [in the] emerging and new technologies is highly commendable. This is one of the objectives of the NCC in its strategic pillar: Promotion of Digital Economy, and 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,” Diugwu said.
The NCC said there has been remarkable development in Nigeria’s ICT infrastructure in recent years, with skyrocketing mobile penetration rates, and internet connectivity expanding drastically. The Commission said its commitment to enhance network infrastructure, coupled with the private sector’s contributions has significantly transformed the connectivity landscape.
“It is crucial to note 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, the commission said at the just-concluded forum tagged “emerging technology forum for the telecoms industry”.
The telecoms regulatory body also said 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 persists. It conceded that, applying the Network Readiness Index in the telecoms industry was of paramount importance in the nation’s current digital ecosystem; adding that utilising the insights it brings allows the country to amplify strengths, address challenges, and propel it into a brighter digital future.
However, Diugwu, NCC’s NCC’s head, new media and information security, admitted that, despite the importance of NRI in channelling the strengths and opportunities of the nation’s tech ecosystem, it is imperative that the metrics are localised to reflect 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 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 said.
According to Ubale Maska, the executive commissioner, technical services, NCC, the NRI is a strong indicator of how the country is adapting to the digital transformation that’s happening all over the world, and will help us assess our progress and position on the global train.