ICT Experts Harp On The Critical State Of Infrastructure Needs In Nigeria


Panelists at the just concluded NITRA ICT Growth Conference 2.0, have emphasized the need for an urgent review of Nigeria’s state of infrastructure so as to position the country to massively reap the benefits of a digital economy as obtained in some developed nations of the world.

Themed “Creating a Digital Ecosystem in Nigeria: The Hurdles, The Gains”, the panelists drawn from both the public and private sector establishments, were of the consensus that infrastructure provisioning remained Nigeria’s surest pathway to building a robust digital economy.

At a second panel session during proceedings at the NITRA flagship technology conference held at the Oriental Hotel, Lekki Lagos, and moderated by Mr. Peter Oluka, Editor of _TechEconomy.ng,_ the panelists agreed that efforts at building Nigeria’s digital economy cannot yield the much-desired fruit unless there is sustained commitment on the part of the government to prioritise the provision of infrastructure.

Seyi Olarenwaju, CFO of Medallion Data Centre said infrastructure is going to play a vital role in enhancing digital systems in Nigeria’s digital ecosystem, noting that “if there is no infrastructure in place, there is nothing.”

He stated that since governance has now been replaced by electioneering campaigns in preparation for the 2023 general election, the incoming administration should be focused, identify a particular infrastructure, and fix it, and expressed the hope that if in this regard, power is given priority attention, a lot of things will follow suit.

Kelechukwu Nsofor of Rack Centre, a carrier-neutral Tier III data centre who spoke from a data centre provider’s perspective, said power is the key infrastructure that drives a data centre business, describing it as basically the livewire of any data centre.

According to Nsofor, “The key infrastructure that we rely on is power. Power is basically the livewire of any data centre. Unfortunately, if you go back to 1999 since we started the current democratic dispensation in the country, what has been the installed capacity in terms of power? 20 years down the line, where are we today in terms of power?

“At a point, we were generating 1600MW, today, it’s still hovering around 3000MW. Where does that leave us as an economy of over 200 million people? So, if you look at the population growth rate and try to compare it with what we are growing in terms of power, you see that there’s a total disconnect.”

He said that Nigeria is blessed with a rich reservoir of policies and knowledge expertise but expressed worries that this has not been translated to results in the country’s power industry.

“Now, tying that to Rack Centre and indeed the data centre space, we have been generating our own power in the last nine years that we have been operating. And we’ve been fully in control of generating that power now. As we look to expand, we are also looking at ways where we can continue to generate power or do it more cost-effectively.

“We would like a situation where the government will actually stop the lip service that goes into infrastructure like power and actually start showing serious commitment by playing a major role in the provisioning of power infrastructure,” he said.

Noting that the digital economy is all about using the internet basically to push economic activities, Nsofor stated that what is critical even with the efforts at bringing in foreign direct investment, all the marine cables sitting on the coast of Lagos, is how to work with the private sector and knowledge experts basically on how to get things like multiple taxations and right of way out of the road.

“Operators can now push that capacity where it is actually needed. This will help us increase internet penetration, increase the digital economy growth, and push the economy forward,” he concluded.

In his contribution to the discourse, Babalola Olalekan of Phase 3 Telecoms admitted that the government was doing enough to provide infrastructure but stated that there was a need for stronger synergy between the government and service providers.

“There was a document released last year called Strategic Roadmap/Action Plan: A four-year plan 2021-2024. The key performance indices released in that document classified infrastructure in such categories as soft, service and hardware.

“When you look at the hardware infrastructure, we talk about how far we’ve gone in hardware infrastructure deployments like fibre cables. We talk of active devices and so on and so forth. But there’s something the government has put in place especially at the federal level by cutting down right-of-way charges all over the federation.

“Another area we have taken advantage of is the concession plan we call public-private partnership (PPP), where I expect the operators and players to key into and take advantage of our existing infrastructure, and opportunities.

“Another thing I will encourage we should be doing is a collaboration among players. All of us can only fight about a particular position or location. We can join hands on how to collaborate, leverage each other, and supply as a single network.

“So, I think the government is doing enough with policies. The onus is on us to tap into it, put more pressure on the government and be more up and doing in our collaborative efforts and take advantage of what is available to us through the government,” Olalekan said.

He said that going into the 2023 elections, the most important thing to be focused on is security, stating that operators have many works to do out there in the field yet, they find it difficult to restore the network in the shortest possible time. “So, whatever government can do to make sure that our roads, our villages, our towns are secured, we will surely have a good general election.”

Chidi Okpala of Galaxy Backbone, in his intervention, acknowledged the fact that government understands the importance of infrastructure in growing the country’s digital economy, noting that one of the things the current administration holds dear to its heart, is infrastructure.

“Have they done all the things expected of them as government? Maybe not. But have they made some efforts in bridging the infrastructure gap? The answer is yes. But there is a whole lot of learning, a whole lot of training in trying to create that awareness, into fully understanding how this impacts the day-to-day living of everyone.

“As an organisation, what we are trying to do is to bridge that gap of understanding especially, people in leadership level in government; to let them understand this is what this infrastructure stands for, this is what it is all about. It is not just for sending emails but how it affects your life, your family, and the work that you do.

“We have done quite a lot together with some of the other organisations within the information technology space in the public sector. We are still doing a lot to raise that awareness of what this infrastructure means so that people can understand more and collaborate more.

“Collaboration is the key, talking about the benefits and not dwelling more on talking about the problems because sometimes when we do that, we cloud ourselves of the opportunities around us,” he said.

Okpala expressed the need for policymakers to be much more intentional about what the country is doing, how it the affects everyone, and how the efforts at building the country’s digital economy can be sustained.

The session, which was anchored by the Editor of  TechEconomy, Mr. Peter Oluka, was unanimous with its position that infrastructure is the bedrock of ICT development and global competitiveness in Nigeria.

Stakeholders @NITRA ICT Growth 2.0 Task Nigerians To Brace Up For Emerging Techs

Stakeholders in the country’s ICT sector have spoken of the need for Nigerians to brace up for the disruptions occasioned by the emergence of modern technologies, especially now that the country is on the verge of experiencing the Fifth Generation (5G) network commercial services.
The Stakeholders spoke during a panel session at the Nigerian Information Technology Reporters’ Association (NITRA) ICT Growth Conference 2.0, held on Thursday at Oriental Hotel, Lekki Lagos. 
At the first panel discussion on the topic, “The Roles of Emerging Technologies in Bridging Nigeria’s Digital Divide and Exploring Funding Options For Driving Digital Economy,” the Stakeholders were of the opinion that challenges of the post-COVID-19 era have brought about such life-transforming technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), becoming part of human existence.
Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr. Gbenga Adebayo said modern technologies are today challenging our way of life and our mindset, noting that technologies will continue to be more disruptive.
“The fact remains that the world is moving with the speed of light, and technology is moving with the same speed. We cannot be always ready for all things, but we can be ready to be receptive to things coming,
“When new technologies are coming, do we have the capacity to withstand them? We must be ready to adapt to those things when they come. With what we have, we will be able to take care of what is coming,” Adebayo said.
Adebayo noted that the absence of basic infrastructure such as reliable power supply has led to the influx of inverter batteries into the country’s economy, and has further increased cases of vandalization of telecom infrastructure in the country.
“Sites are being vandalized, batteries stolen, about 400 fibre cuts recorded across the country. Certainly, this will be a threat to whatever we have achieved. The threat we have on our local infrastructure has made telecom service expensive,” he said.
Executive Secretary of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Ajibola Olude, who represented the Association’s Chairman, Engr. Ikechukwu Nnamani, while contributing to the panel discussion, stated that emerging technologies have not only contributed to bridging the country’s digital divide but have also contributed immensely to advancing a better life for the citizenry.
He said that government should see telecom operators as development partners and intensify efforts in creating the enabling environment for telecom service providers to contribute their own quota to bridging the digital divide.
In his position, the President of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Destiny Amana who represented the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) at the panel, stated that the digital divide could mean one or two things depending on the prism from which one is seeing it, noting that what is important is for the country to put in place those basics that will guarantee digital divide bridging.
According to Amana, “There is no doubt that emerging technologies are disrupting a lot of traditional institutions, making life easier for people, and giving everyone the opportunity to lead a fuller life and be prepared for a future powered by technology. Nigeria cannot afford to be in the background while other nations take the front seat in promoting the adoption of those things that bridge the digital gap.”
On funding options, the panelists were of the consensus that multiple taxations on service providers should be stopped across the country, while Foreign Direct Investment should continue to be encouraged through the provisioning of an enabling environment that would guarantee ease of doing business.
The session which was moderated by Assistant Editor at the Guardian Newspapers, Mr. Yemi Adepetun, highlighted the need for all strata of government to work in collaboration with the private sector to achieve the height envisaged in 5G adoption in Nigeria.

NITRA Hails Muoka, Ibietan On NIPR Fellowship

The National body of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Journalists under the aegis of the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA) in Lagos, has applauded the stride in attainment of Fellowship position conferred on two management staff of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) by the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).

The Fellowship investiture to the duo of Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Reuben Muoka, and Head, Media Relations in the Public Affairs Department, Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan, has been described as a call to duty, as it places them on the pedestal of being reference points to anyone ascribing to PR professionalism in Nigeria.

Speaking to the Fellowship award, the National Chairman of NITRA, Mr. Chike Onwuegbuchi noted that the awards are very befitting as Mr. Muoka and Dr. Ibietan have shown immense professionalism in their PR roles both in their present capacities at the NCC and prior.

Mr. Onwuegbuchi however challenged them to remain an example of what PR professionals should be, both in conducts and duties.

He also advised that they, in their various capacities, should endeavor to mentor and train younger Nigerians in the act and art of public advocacy and situation management in order to keep their legacy alive in decades to come.

While acknowledging the teething display of PR qualities by Mr. Muoka during his years as a journalist with Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Onwuegbuchi noted that he was instrumental to the training of those that served under him and mostly stood as a liaison between his media house and the public.

Mr. Muoka, who is the Director of Public Affairs Department at the NCC, holds a M.Sc. and a Post Graduate Diploma in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos with M.Sc specialisation in Public Relations and Advertising. He had earlier obtained a Bachelors degree in Performing Arts from the University of Ilorin. He is also an Associate of the Registered Practitioners of Advertising, (arpa).

Mr. Muoka was formerly the Communications Editor in Vanguard Newspapers during which he also chaired the League of Communications Correspondents. He also worked for MTS First Wireless, Nigeria’s first mobile network operator, where he rose to the position of Deputy General Manager. In 1999, Muoka received a fellowship involving a Pan-African training and tour, leading to the award of a Diploma in Journalism, at the instance of the Egyptian Ministry of Information, and the African Journalists Union (AJU), in Cairo, Egypt.

Dr. Ibietan earned a PhD in Communication from North-West University in South Africa. He had earlier obtained MA in Communication and Language Arts from the University of Ibadan, a BA in Communication Arts from the University of Uyo, and a Journalism Diploma from the Moscow-based International Institute of Journalism, Abuja Campus. A noted advocate of freedom and democracy, he was Freedom House Nigeria Project’s Regional Media Researcher in the Niger Delta until his appointment in 2006 as Special Media Assistant to the Federal Minister of Information and Communication, during which he popularised the use of new media for public communication in Nigeria. He is a member of the African Council for Communication Education (ACCE) and the International Institute of Communications (IIC).

Ibietan joined the NCC in 2008 and was deployed to Legislative and Government Relations (LGR) Department where he was frontline liaison staff of the Commission with the National Assembly. He also served as Manager, Media and Public Relations and later, Senior Manager, Media Management until January 2017 when he was redeployed to the Public Affairs Department (PAD’s) emergent Online Media and Special Publication Unit, and subsequently designated as the head of the Unit. He also worked at the Consumer Information and Education Unit of the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) until his redeployment to PAD. He became an Assistant Director in January 2021 and was appointed Head Media Relations in July 2022.

Their Fellowship status at the NIPR is seen as a boost to their career.

Established in 1963, The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), is the professional body of qualified Public Relations Practitioners. The Law mandates NIPR to regulate the practice and direct the development of Public Relations as a profession in Nigeria.

The Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA) is an umbrella body formed in 2013 to harness the thoughts of ICT journalists in Nigeria, and contribute to the development of the industry and the economy at large. It also has a primary objective of catering to the welfare of its members to ensure conducive and progressive ICT media industry. The association, which has its registered office in Lagos, has a Chapter in Abuja.

Pantami To Lead Stakeholders To NITRA ICT Growth Conference 2.0

As the industry media body, the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA), prepares for its stakeholders engagement event, the 2nd edition of the NITRA ICT GROWTH CONFERENCE, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, is billed to lead stakeholders to the annual roundtable that x-rays the industry and how to chart growth path for them.

The event, which is scheduled to hold at the Lagos Oriental Hotels on September 29, 2022, has its theme as “Creating A Digital Ecosystem In Nigeria: The Hurdles, The Gains”.

Prof. Pantami will lead industry regulators and decision makers in the various ICT subsectors, both in the private and public sectors, to discuss issues that will engender growth in the industry, and further position it as the nation’s economy driver.

Speaking on the event, the Chairman, NITRA, Mr. Chike Onwuegbuchi noted: “The theme of this year conference is aimed at the various efforts by governments and private sector towards a digitalized Nigeria”.

The event targets to bring stakeholders in the ICT industry, both from the public and private sectors, to discuss and find ways of accelerating growth in the industry as a means of achieving laudable federal government set targets and policies, including those recorded in policy documents by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the NCC and NITDA.

These documents include NITDA’s Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2021-2024); The Nigerian Cybercrime Act of 2015; the National Policy for the Promotion of Indigenous Content (NPPIC); The National Telecommunications Policy; the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025; National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), the CBN Monetary Policy, among others.

Under its “NITRA ICT Growth Conference”, which seeks to bring a multi-sectorial development agenda, NITRA is organising a multi-panel interactive conference that will look at the themes that include:

  • “The Role of Emerging Technologies in Bridging Nigeria’s Digital Divide”
  • “Exploring Funding Options For Driving Digital Economy”
  • “Digital Currencies And the Challenge of Regulation in Emerging Markets”
  • “Infrastructure As A Ladder To Building A Digital Economy”

Mr. Onwuegbuchi, while commending stakeholders for their support of the event and passion for the growth of technology in Nigeria, noted that the growth in the ICT industry will impact all other sectors of the economy positively.

“Specifically, the Forum will offer stakeholders the opportunities of reassessing and reinvigorating some policies to make maximum impact in the growth of ICT in Nigeria. This is a growth conference, and stakeholders will be allowed to speak out on what the growth indices should be.” he said.

Expected to be at the event, which will be led by Prof. Pantami, include the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Garba Danbatta; the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi, The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele; CEOs of other government and private ICT companies, the Media including the full membership of NITRA and other stakeholders in the industry, including COOs, CIOs, CFOs, CROs and CCOs.

According to the National Secretary of NITRA, Mr. Chidiebere Nwankwo, industry associations will also make their inputs. They include NCS, CPN, ALTON, ATCON, ISPON, NiRA and ITAN.

As part of the event, special recognition awards will be given to some industry players that have played strong roles in the growth of ICT in Nigeria, and still contributing to the development of the industry. The Awards will also be for those companies and individuals, who through their innovativeness have revolutionized the ecosystem they play in.