Stakeholders and experts in the telecommunications industry have called for intervention by engendering local innovation into the sector for national growth.
These experts, stakeholders in the industry gathered at the quarterly seminar of Nigeria Information and communications Technology Reporters Association NITRA, to discuss on the theme “Engendering local innovation in the Nigerian telecoms sector” agreed that innovations leads to creating millions of job opportunities to Nigerians, upgrade quality of service and boosting revenue to the country.
According to the Executive Vice Chairman, EVC, Nigeria communications commission, Dr. Eugene Juwah, who said that from a regulatory point of view, innovation is key to the telecom industry.
Juwah hinted that after the initial discoveries and development in the telecom sector, it is innovation that has catapulted growth in the sector to the height that it is achieved today.
The EVC who was represented by a commissioner in the commission, Dr. Mike Onyia, said Innovation in the industry is also an attribute that is not exclusive to nations or states as ready examples of uncountable number of apps developed in different parts of the world, riding on all available networks or platforms, shows that innovation is driving the industry.
According to him, You may be aware that the Commission has adopted technology neutrality in its licensing process. The reason for this is to provide opportunity for creativity and innovation in the provision of services. Restriction of service to specific technologies may not allow for innovation.
“Provision of choice with the entry of multiple providers, and encouraging competition using regulatory tools is also designed to encourage local innovation in the provision of services. It is well known that innovation provides mutual benefit to bother the service provider and consumer of the service.
“You may have heard stories about how regulators in other African countries have been visiting the Commission to learn from our experience successful regulation of the industry. This success is measured in terms of how we have managed to used innovations surmount our local environment, which otherwise would have been overwhelmed by many extraneous factors.
“We will therefore continue to encourage innovations in all aspects of the industry. It is also appropriate to predict that when broadband services become very much available in Nigeria as planned, it will also come with inevitable push for more innovations in the ways services are delivered today.”
Speaking further, He however said that “innovations in the ICT industry may have contributed to the way you practice your profession as journalist. It is evident that today’s journalists have found life much easier in performing their jobs as a result of innovations that have been achieved, than their colleagues of 20 years ago.
“I am optimistic that this seminar will discover many more profound innovations that have enriched the ICT industry in Nigeria. But let’s not forget that at this stage, we are talking more about innovations that add value to existing technologies that are not necessarily, developed locally.
“We wish to restate that innovation is highly encouraged and appreciated in our local telecom industry and would continue to do so today and in future.”
Affirming his belief in innovation, Chairman of zinox group, Mr. Leo stan Ekeh, said that Zinox saw the future of the industry close to two decades ago, citing the Abacha regime as setting the pace and subsequent regimes have continued to bring transformations to the industry; even Zinox now a Group, has been focused since then on the trajectory.
Ekeh commended the industry regulator, the Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC that gave room for local partnership in the early days of telecom licencing which spurred the revolution that is being witnessed in the sector.
With reference to the just concluded general elections, he highlighted technology and Prof. Jega’s integrity as key in rescuing the country from envisaged breakdown in law and order.
He said that innovation in the sector through technology empowered electorate with live recordings and videos of some abnormalities exhibited in some quarters. At this point, he said technology has deleted massive rigging.
According to him, “For instance, Zinox was among the first group of companies that started the revolution about 5years ago when they supplied the first 17,500 card-readers for data capturing.
“As part of the impact of technology on the society, integrity is being enhanced and foreigners can conveniently and confidently do businesses with Nigerians because authentication, applications and other solutions have made businesses to be at par with its counterparts in the world.
“Zinox Group believes that should government be bold enough to invest about $500m on just four Nigerians, they can build multi-billion dollar companies that will take million of young people out of labour market; even more than Dangote and some other sectors have done.”
He however commended Etisalat’s innovative role that changed the face of communication, advertorial, consumer engagement and other transformation they brought adding that NCC ability to rebuff personalities and authorities and have gone ahead to sanction when necessary, have been yielding results as quality of service in the country can be rated even better than some parts of Europe.
Also, Chairman, Teledom Group, Emmanuel Ekuwem, empasised that innovation has transformed the world with the seminar theme’ Engendering Local Innovation in the Nigerian Telecoms Industry’, which is appropriate to buttress and entrenchment of human civilisation.
Making reference to role of technology in addressing societal ills, he commended the pioneers of the card-readers during the last elections and called for further development of the system for implementation of electronic voting.
Delivering a Keynote Address by Etisalat’s, Public Relations Manager, Chineze Amanfo, said, Etisalat is happy to be part of the seminar because NITRA is forward looking in realising the need to support and promoting local capacity.
She said that the telecoms sector is growing with countless opportunities as Etisalat realises the need for capacity building for the sector because most of the resources are sourced abroad, but Etisalat has decided to tackle the challenge.
To achieve it, she said that Etisalat has gone ahead to establish a Masters’ Degree with Ahmadu Bello University in conjunction with, Etisalat Academy in Dubai and Billmort University, UK to train engineers and develop a poll of manpower for supporting the telecom industry.
The Company, as part of its innovative strides, came up with the idea of Etisalat Prize of Innovations’ Award and believes it is high time industry stakeholders came together to develop the sector.
Speaking on the need for the seminar, NITRA president, Engr. Emma Okonji, said that in order to build upon the current achievements in telecoms, the association has taken it as a point of duty to the industry to use its Quarterly Seminar Series, as veritable platform, to advance discussions on the need to promote local innovations in the telecoms industry.
Okonji said that the topic for the seminar was apt and timely as it gives the lee-way to discuss issues around the use of local content and local innovations in creating relevant ICT devices and solutions that will drive further development in the telecoms sector.
“Consequently, we at NITRA, also see this as an opportunity for industry stakeholders and the industry regulator to throw more light on what must be done to engender local innovations in the telecoms sector, considering the fact that Nigeria is largely a consuming nation, with little contribution to local content development in the telecoms sector.
But this cannot be said of the Oil and Gas sector, where local content is being fully deployed, following the implementation of its local content act that has been enshrined into Nigerian Law on the 22nd of April 2010.
“This act sets out specific work scopes that must be performed in Nigeria and it guarantees fair access to foreign companies. The Act seeks to increase indigenous participation in the oil and gas industry by prescribing minimum thresholds for the use of local services and materials and to promote Nigerian staff in the oil and gas industry.
“In order to replicate same in the telecoms sector, the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications Technology, released the guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in ICT, which took effect from December 3, 2013. We are, however, still awaiting a well-rounded implementation of this policy, going forward.”
Okonji however appealed to sponsor, the NCC, NITDA and other industry stakeholders, to assist NITRA in financing a befitting secretariat with connected devices, to enable the association function at its best.