Monday, November 14, 2011

Johnson outlines roles of lawmakers on ICT4D

Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, has outlined the roles of lawmakers in the development of Information and Communications Technology (ICT4D) in the country.

Presenting a roadmap of her ministry to the House of Representatives’ Committee on ICT in Abuja, last week, Mrs. Johnson said lawmakers have very critical roles to play in ICT4D through supporting legislations that would increase the spread of ICT networks and devices to the populace.

She also said lawmakers’ roles are expected to aid the development of ICT in the country through the provision of legal instruments to deliver the necessary inputs for a profitable and sustainable ICT industry.

She stressed the need for lawmakers to enact relevant cybercrime and cyber security laws that would not just protect Nigerians, but the interest of the nation as well as investments within the sector at large.

She equally said that lawmakers should raise awareness and strengthen the implementation of Intellectual Property (IP} laws as an incentive for growth in the content industry.

The Minister further urged the legislators to protect the vulnerability of ICT infrastructure in Nigeria by enacting laws that will make it a crime punishable by law for anyone to tamper with ICT infrastructure in any part of the country.

Mrs. Johnson called attention to the fact that ICT infrastructure is critical infrastructure that must be protected by law for security and business continuity reasons.

She told members of the Committee that the Ministry has set ambitious targets for itself and will intervene carefully and appropriately to grow the ICT industry and ensure that Nigeria leverages ICTs for national, social and economic development.

Despite the perceived growth of the telecoms sector, she said, Nigeria is at the bottom of the African Broadband download performance table with download speeds of 1.38 mega bytes per second (Mbps) compared to Ghana’s which is at the top of the table with 10.1MPbs.

The Minister emphasised that the availability of broadband (fast internet) at cost effective prices is key to development and  reiterated her Ministry’s focus on deploying  a nationwide broadband infrastructure to enable the country expand universal access beyond basic voice to provision of high speed broadband access.

Development of local software industry, she pointed out, is a key mandate that the Ministry working assiduously on and stressed that the Software industry has the potential to create thousands of jobs if appropriate policy interventions are made and funds are made available.

She identified several challenges and constraints that have hampered the growth of ICT in the nation to include multiple and sometimes illegal taxation on ICT infrastructure, fragmented IT industry, delays in necessary government approvals, and inadequate ICT skills and capacity.

The Committee chairman, Hon. Ibrahim Shehu Gusau, in his remarks, laid emphasis on the policy direction of the Ministry in the area of provision of ICT tools, local content as it exists in the oil sector and harmonisation of agencies of the Ministry that have overlap functions.

Special Adviser on Media to the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Efem Nkanga disclosed that the session was attended by both the Ministry of Communication Technology management staff and House Committee members.

Remmy Nweke

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