Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Odey leads AU ministers’ bureau on ICT

Federal Minister of Information and Communications, Mr. John Odey, has emerged the chairperson of the Bureau of African Ministers of Communications and Information Technologies (ICT) under the auspices of the African Union (AU) Commission.

Mr. Odey election was held at the conference of African Ministers of ICT, which took place at Fairmont Hotel, Cairo, during the just concluded ITU-Telecom Africa 2008 at the Cairo International Conference and Exhibition Centre (CICC).

This, industry observers said was in recognition of Nigeria’s influence and current standing ICT performance in the sub-region.

Responding to the election, Odey expressed appreciation to the African Ministers for the confidence they have on Nigeria to occupy such position.

Odey represented at the occasion by the Chief executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, noted that Nigeria is one of the most liberalized telecommunications market in the continent.

The sector liberalization in Nigeria, he said, has triggered an enabling environment provided by federal government based on a fair and transparent regulatory framework within the telecommunication industry.

This, he said, has accounted for the appreciable level of telephone penetration with the current teledensity at 32.8 per cent.

According to Odey, Nigeria has, in the past seven years, witnessed one of the fastest rates of growth in the world at the current 46 million active subscribers as at March 2008 compared with only 400,000 in 2000.

The teledensity has sharply increased from 0.4 per cent to 32.8 per cent.

He pointed out that with a population of 140 million people, “Nigeria still has very huge capacity to absorb the growth and expansion being currently witnessed in the sector. Having experienced the huge advantages of liberalization.”

Nigeria, Odey said, would continue to promote open market policies in the sector to deepen the growth and penetration of telecommunications services.

Presently the government of Nigeria is pursuing a programme of collective multi-sector economic growth known as Vision 2020, intended to position the country in the league of 20 most robust and vibrant economies of the world by year 2020, stressing that the roles that telecommunications and information technologies are bound to play in realizing this dream cannot be over-emphasised.

He further said that at 46 million connected lines, there is still a very huge market, and is also committed to exploring new telecommunications and information technologies like Internet and broadband access.

Nigeria, Odey said, has witnessed a very fast rate of expansion in the mobile services sector and is willing to sustain such fast rate of growth in Internet and broadband connectivity.

With mobile phone services accounting for 99 per cent telephone availability in Nigeria today, he said, Nigeria has envisioned the possibility to deliver a faster Internet and broadband services on mobile platform as a likely growth path to follow.

“We, therefore, want to encourage investments that are focused on these new areas to compliment current performances in the sector,” he said.

Expressing the wishes of the government of Nigeria to associate with the Connect Africa Initiative of the Secretary General, International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Dr. Hamadoun Touré, he said Nigeria is pleased to have initiated a number of projects that are oriented towards the Connect Africa initiative such as the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) established to deepen the human capacity availability for ICT in Nigeria, the Wire Nigeria, designed to crisscross the nation with high capacity optic fibre cable infrastructure as well as the State Accelerated Broadband, SABI, project, focused on delivering broadband and Internet capabilities to urban and semi urban and rural locations of the country.

Also, he said, Nigeria envisions that a connected Africa with a pervasive broadband infrastructure would present unquantifiable potentials for Africa’s emancipation from years of slow and debilitating economic growth, to a vibrant and more economically independent continent with all the associated benefits.

“We, therefore, urged other African nation’s to join hands with ITU to ensure that Africa becomes really connected. We invite all African countries to support and promote this particular initiative of the ITU,” he said.

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