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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Vision 2020-20 ‘Nigeria must grow teledensity by 100%’


Based on expert’s projections Nigeria must grow her teledensity upto100 per cent for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to have the anticipated impact on the Federal Government’s dream of having Nigeria amidst the biggest 20 economies in the world by 2020.

Global telecom regulator, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has defined teledensity as the number of telephone main lines per 100 inhabitants in a particular country or territory.

One of those who believe in this strategy to sustain the sector for 2020-20, is the out-going chief executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, who made his opinion known recently at a keynote lecture delivered on

‘Sustaining the Telecom Revolution: The Socio-Political Imperatives for Nigeria as an African example,’ at a one-day second African Telecom Hall of Fame lecture in Lagos.

He also said that for the achievements made in the ICT sector to be sustained, there must be an equivalent success recorded in the power sector.

“The growth recorded in the last decade in the ICT sector is commendable and must be sustained, what is perhaps more urgent is the need to work towards recording the same level of success in the electric power sector,” he said.

Dr. Ndukwe equally outlined two major infrastructure components as pivotal for sustaining of global reckoning for the continent in the bid to advance ICT sector.

As said by Ndukwe, Nigeria still needs to grow her teledensity figure from the current level of about 50 per cent to 100 per cent in order to achieve the vision 20-2020 targets.

“We must reach all parts of the country with both voice and data carrying infrastructure. It is instructive to note that today, over 70 countries in the world have passed the 100 per cent teledensity level,” he declared.

Nigeria, Ndukwe said, must ,therefore, continue to build and update critical ICT infrastructure required to continue drive economic development and empower the citizens. Stressing that though some notable progress has been recorded in this area, the nation, still needs a pervasive fibre optic transmission infrastructure spanning across the whole of the country.

“We still need a much higher penetration of internet and broadband facilities at business premises, educational institutions and homes,” he pointed out.

He argued that availability of constant and reliable power supply, for instance, to industries, businesses and homes is critical to Africa’s future growth.

“It is the next revolution that must happen to give Africa its rightful position in the global ecosystem,” he asserted.

Although, he said, ICT would not solve all the problems of sustainable development and socio-economic challenges, there is consensus that nations that fail to take the great opportunities offered by ICTs are likely to be left far behind in the global economy.

Warning, however, that the best evidence could be found in the widening gap between those communities, cities, regions and countries that have embraced the information society and those that have not.

“We must therefore do all the needful to ensure that the revolution is sustained well into the future,” he said.

In addition, he outlined two major infrastructure components as pivotal for sustaining of global reckoning for Africa, namely by having efficient and reliable public electric power supply and pervasive, reliable modern information and communication technologies.

Africa, he said, needs to get the aforementioned factors right to successfully to sustain the level of development achieved so far and even advance further as well as remain in tune with the global development imperatives.

“I personally believe that any African country that can get these two infrastructure components right, would firmly be on the path of major economic growth and development,” Ndukwe declared, stressing that with respect to the ICT infrastructure component, the wave of market liberalization that swept across the world in the last two decades has positively impacted the continent with several African countries opening up to private local and foreign investment in the sector.

Such countries, he said, may have embraced market reform and liberalization resulting in several notable success stories in the region, thus providing useful examples for other developing nations to emulate.

He pointed out that in the last decade; several African countries have been part of this revolution that has been propelled mostly by digital mobile services.

“With the licensing of competitive operators across Africa, the growth of these services has been geometric,” he said, noting that in Nigeria, for example, an average growth of 8 million lines per annum has been recorded since 2001.
ICTs, Ndukwe said, have been widely acknowledged as presenting opportunities for the creation of unprecedented economic growth for Africa.

“Thankfully, most African governments have demonstrated the political will necessary to foster an environment conducive for investment in this sector,” he asserted.

Pointing out that there has been a revival in the telecom industry and history has been made, especially with a report by Wireless Intelligence which showed mobile subscriber base in Africa at 280 million users by the end of March 2008.

“The African continent has thus surpassed North America in terms of mobile subscribers by early 2008. By the end of 2009, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) stated that the mobile teledensity in Africa was 42 per cent. Wireless Intelligence also reported that Africa is the world’s fastest growing mobile market today,” Ndukwe said.

He emphasized that within the continent, the Republic of South Africa had over the years maintained a lead as Africa’s largest telecom market by subscriber numbers until January 2008, when Nigeria took over the lead as Africa’s largest telecom market in terms of subscriber base.

As said by him, the Nigeria’s example is based on open market approach adopted by Nigeria, hence paving the way for promotion of rapid deployment of ICT services nationwide.

This, he said, resulted in exponential growth in the number of telephone lines, adding however that a lot has been achieved, there remains a lot more to be done.

Government, he said, is also fully aware of the fact that economic development and sustenance of any modern nation is dependent on the adequacy of the nation’s telecommunications and information technology infrastructure.

“The progress made in this sector in Nigeria has made it possible for the nation to become the largest telecom market in Africa in term of subscriber telephone lines,” he said, noting that it has equally in the last decade presented Nigeria as an African example of how a well articulated and well executed sector reform programme could transform the fortunes of a nation.

“Within this period, subscriptions to telephone services have risen to the current level of about 76 million active connected lines. This growth has been made possible by the injection of about 18 billion US Dollars private sector investment into building infrastructure, development on local manpower, empowerment of local companies that provide support services, employment creation as well as stimulating social interactions and economic activities.

Advancement in telecommunications sector within the last decade, Ndukwe said, has improved the nation’s ICT ranking in the world, which has positively impacted all sectors of the nation’s economy, just as Nigeria has become Africa’s largest telecom market.

In order to sustain this revolution, Ndukwe attributed the progress made in last decade largely to the foresight by government in initiating and implementing a successful sector reform and providing the enabling and conducive environment with respect to policies and regulatory regime.

“The Nigerian government has proven its commitment to promoting a policy regime that is purposeful and forward looking as well as a regulatory environment that is fair, transparent and predictable,” he said.

This achievement he also said, translated into the boom that is associated with the sector today, underscoring the fact that to sustain the revolution, certain key technology areas such as wireless systems, optic fibre transmission systems and Internet cum Broadband have been identified for particular attention.

“Digital Wireless and Mobile Communications Systems have helped Nigeria leapfrog into the circle of the world’s top ten countries recording highest mobile subscriber growth. It is also true that digital wireless and mobile systems will be the ‘Last mile’ vehicle to launch Nigeria and indeed Africa into the circle of countries with high internet and broadband penetration,” he said.


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