To fast track development in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has unveiled a four-year roadmap for the sector. Adebayo Shittu, Minister of Communications, who unveiled the plan on behalf of the federal government, said the road-map will drive the sector from 2016 to 2020. “The new road-map involves five steps towards making Nigeria a smart and digital oriented country. It aims to create a pathway to national security and wealth creation for every Nigerian,” the minister said.
The policy document, Shittu explained, is the product of a painstaking consultation process with all stakeholders, who have resolved that all policies and programmes must be guided by specific time lines while implementation must be measurable. According to him, “government will build on ICT sector growth by improving infrastructure and quality of service, using SMART government to deliver ICT, broadband penetration and national security while migrating Nigeria to a digitally native country through continuous capacity and ICT skills building.” He added: “the step in the road-map is to deliberately reduce both the public and private infrastructure deficit in the sector for substantial improvement in quality of service.” The bane of the sector, he pointed out, is the lack of adequate infrastructure. “Lack of affordability, is due in part, to the proliferation of taxes, fees, levies and associated cost which further inhibit investments in infrastructure,” he said.
He assured government’s intention to explore the possibility of investing in a second and a third NIGCOMSAT infrastructure back up to NIGCOMSAT 1R for broadband penetration, adding that the agency is expected to make about $6 million from the In-Orbit-Test (IOT), it is rendering to Belarus.
Narrating the progress made so far since assumption of office, Shittu said: “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, he said, is the world regulatory body for telecommunications where Nigeria has been a member since 1961.
He said that at the end of his various internal and external interactions, it became obvious that the communications sector is 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.
To him, creating a knowledge-based economy has been the key element in ICT sector policy-making in the last 17 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. “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,” he said.
Shittu noted that the time has 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 teeming youths, improve access and enhance quality of service delivery and affordability in the country. “Undoubtedly, this will enhance transparency and good governance in line with our Change agenda on which this government rode into power,” he said.