Monday, December 19, 2011

ICT sector: Waxing stronger with regulation, policy

The year 2011 could be said to have commenced on a shaky note for the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, especially as the election, every industry wanted to show how much or how well they have contributed to the growth of the economy with potential for further growth in the future, that is after the elections.

Very interestingly President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) has shown that he is ICT savvy when he opened a social media account on Facebook, which at a time growth to multiple Facebook accounts despite the fact that one was designated the official GEJ Facebook page.

Then come a time the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by Prof. Attahiru Jega as chairman, insisted on ICT-driven general election processes, starting with the dusting of the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines agenda, which began his predecessor, Prof. Maurice Iwu, thus paving the way for the acquisition of some 132,000 DDC machines to be used in the registration of voters nationwide.

This step by INEC was obviously seen as giving credibility to elections in the country through data in spite of the controversy that trialed the exercise with the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) and Computer Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN) disagreeing with INEC on the modalities of engagement of supposed experts not registered with them as stipulated by laws of the land, even with court action treats.

ITRealms Online recalls that INEC awarded three firms the contract to supply the 132,000 DDC machines, namely Zinox Technologies Limited - 80,000 units at $1,771.73 per unit. While Messrs Haier Electrical Appliances Corp Ltd was awarded 30,000 units at $1,699.60 per unit and Avante International Technology Incorporated got 22,000 units at $1,699.60 per unit; which brings the total figure to about N34.5 billion when matched with the exchange of 1 United States Dollar to N150, which precisely amounts to about N34,517,640,000 billion.

The bottom line is that Zinox, a Nigerian firm with global aspiration saved the day. And for the Chief Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, the award of the contract, included all taxes and charges, while the machines were to be delivered in 35 days from the date of award, which became public on November 7, 2010 of which duration elapsed on December 12, 2010. Although some instances of public holidays in both Nigeria and China culminated in moving this date forward before December 20.

Zinox he noted eventually met the deadline while Haier reportedly made some supply, whereas Avante’s supplies were missing till after the election. He explained that the reason for Zinox’s contract sum to be slightly higher was because the company being a Nigerian firm is expected to pay the Value Added Tax (VAT) to the government.

The Group Corporate Communication Advisor, Zinox Technologies, Mr. Echika Ezuka told ITRealms Online then that the deployment of 74 supporting staff to aid INEC was simply an act of patriotism as that was not part of the contract to supply 80,000 DDC machines, which was completed almost a week before the registration commenced.

Zinox, he said, had deployed two (2) Information Technology (IT) engineers for each of the 36 States and Abuja, stressing that Zinox published full page color advertisements in all national dailies designed to give vital tips, with graphic details on the DDC machines beginning from, Monday, January 17, 2011, just two days into the voters’ registration exercise.

Ezuka noted that the exercise started nationwide with INEC assuring Nigerians that it had the capacity for an effective voters’ registration, even as he highlighted the fact that the DDC machines, the technology backbone for the exercise had a shaky start in some areas due to the inability of INEC personnel (NYSC ad-hoc staff) to install the machines appropriately.

With assumption of office last quarter of 2010 by the second Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah, the commenced his new year with a message for the operators in the industry, mostly mobile, to brace up for better service delivery as NCC would not tolerate business as usual attitude and unveiled his six point agenda.

He told newsmen that the agenda forms leadership strategies to guide major focus of short, medium and long term actions, programmes and projects during his tenure, noting that NCC in the last 10 years was directed at growing teledensity with the massive deployment of mobile telephony, which resulted in an impressive statistics of over 80 million active lines and more than 110 million connected lines.

The next five years, under his leadership, Juwah said, will focus on six key areas, namely consolidation and integration of mobile wireless services; fixed line and broadband deployment for national development; and enhanced competitive market as well as choice for the consumers.

Also, he listed three other areas of focus to include vigorous compliance monitoring and enforcement of regulations and directions, national connectivity for accelerated growth, enhanced international relations. Hence it was not surprising to many industry watchers when NCC sanctioned Glo for non-compliance over the sale of fully activated new SIM cards and guidelines on technical specification for installation of masts and towers, therefore, Globacom was expected to pay a fine of N1 million within 21 days of receipt of the notice or face further sanctions by the regulatory agency, which claimed that non-compliance and monitoring section had received reports nationwide which indicated that most of the SIM cards sold by Globacom were already fully activated.
After several correspondences conveying the findings to Globacom and a directive to fully comply by 17 February, NCC alleged that the company failed to comply, NCC said that further compliance monitoring indicated that Globacom Ltd was, no doubt, in contravention of the directive on the ban on sales of fully activated SIM cards in Anambra, Borno, Kano, Katsina and Plateau states as Globacom SIM cards purchased in April 2011 in these states were fully activated as calls were made unrestricted from the new SIM cards.
The Commission thereby issued notice of sanction on Globacom, having failed to comply with the said directive in accordance with the provisions of Section 55 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, and the Nigerian Communications (Enforcements Processes etc) Regulation 2005, therefore, liable resulting in Globacom mandated to payment penalty in the sum of N5,000,000 within seven( 7) days from the date of the notice and that additional sum of N500,000 shall be paid by Globacom Ltd every additional day as long as the contravention persists.
According to the Head, Media and Public Relations at NCC, Mr. Reuben Muoka, that upon continuous failure to comply with the directive, the Commission may deny Globacom Ltd other regulatory services or invoke its powers under section 45 (a,b & d) of NCA 2003.

May be in living up to his word, Dr. Juwah’s led NCC went further to sound a note of warning to three operators in the last quarter to ensure that  Quality of Service on their networks improves. Thus in October, NCC warned the trio of MTN, Glo and Airtel to improve the quality of services on their respective networks or face sanction, stating that it may stop the three major mobile operators, from further sell of SIM Cards by end of November 2011, if they fail to meet with the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) set by NCC to improve quality of service with immediate effect.

Affirming this Mr. Muoka said that the three operators have been issued a 30-day deadline, effective from November 1, 2011, to reverse the trend, even as the this deadline follows a dismal performance by the three operators on quality of service from the result of an independent monitoring exercise carried out by the Commission across the country which showed that all the three operators failed to meet with four key performance indicators that are crucial for quality of service improvements as set by the Commission.

“Consequently, the Commission has notified the three operators of its intention to issue a direction that with effect from November 30, 2011, any of the operators that fail to meet the targets will be barred from further sale of its SIM Cards or addition of any new subscriber to its network,” he said.

Muoka also informed that any new SIM card sold or additional subscriber added to the network in contravention of the direction, will attract a penalty of N1,000,000 (One Million Naira) per subscriber added. Insisting in a notice of intention to issue the direction to the operators, made available to them that after the expiration of the 30-day deadline, it will strictly enforce the impending direction whose contravention will attract a penalty of N5,000,000 (Five Million Naira), and additional N500,000( Five Hundred Thousand Naira) per day that such contravention persists.

In addition to the above, failure of any of the operators to meet the quality of service targets from November 30, 2011 will attract a fine of N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) for every month of failure.

Part of the direction read: “It is not in doubt that the customer experience on your network has been far from satisfactory, especially as the Commission has been inundated with complaints from various subscribers on this matter,” it said in the correspondence to the three respective operators in which it expressed concerns that the operators are not doing enough to reverse the trend of unacceptable quality of service which has persisted for too long.

Muoka underscored the fact that the Key Performance indicators measured by the Commission included Call Set Up Success Rate, Call Completion Rate, Stand Alone Dedicated Control Channel and Handover Success Rate.

This no doubt must have necessitated some of the affected operators to oil their efforts, especially MTN and Airtel to ensure that they met the guidelines as it was gathered that they acquired more base stations as at first week of December 2011.

Although, experts were not happy with the Federal Government for her inability to deploy ICT in combating crimes, especially the menace of Boko Haram, even as this school of thought led by former president of Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and Group Managing Director, Teledom Group, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem.

They urged FG to optimize ICT and save the lives of Nigerians and their properties as well as creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive by making security top of his agenda.

Another interesting thing that happened in the year 2011 was the creation of Ministry of Communications Technology with Mrs. Omobola Johnson to be the pioneer minister. In her maiden outing in Lagos, Mrs. Johnson outlined the mandate of her ministry and assuring that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is keen on bridging the digital divide in the country.

She listed some mandates of the Ministry to include promoting and facilitating the development of the ICT industry and in so doing increase the contribution of the ICT industry to GDP. Also by deploying information and communication technologies to drive transparency in governance and improve, she expected the quality and cost effectiveness of public service delivery to improve.

Speaking at her maiden interactive session with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) editors in Lagos, Mrs. Johnson said that this is evident with the creation of the ICT Ministry under her care, which is in response to the calls by stakeholders, simply because he is acutely aware of the strategic and important role ICT plays not only in national development, but in national competitiveness.

Mrs. Johnson maintained that her Ministry was birthed out of years of canvassing by key stakeholders for a supervising Ministry to co-ordinate, facilitate and drive the development of the ICT sector. Even as she recalled that Nigeria had tremendous success in the telecoms sector as a result of the liberalization of the sector.

“Today, we have one of the fastest growing telecoms markets in the world as well as the largest mobile subscriber base in Sub-Saharan Africa,” she said, stressing that unfortunately the Information Technology (IT) sub-sector for a variety of reasons has not been as successful.

“In fact, despite the success of our telecoms industry the ICT sector accounted for only 3.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), compared with 10 per cent for South Africa,” she said.

As said by Johnson, the opportunity for Nigerians as a country now comes in how to take the telecoms sector to the next level, namely the data, internet and electronic business as well as how to build a more robust and successful IT industry.

“This is the charge from Mr. President to the Ministry of Communication Technology,” she said, adding that the mandate of the Ministry could be summarized in four key areas, comprising facilitating universal, ubiquitous and cost effective access to communications infrastructure that of course includes a national fibre optic backbone.

Additionally, she said, the ministry is to promote the utilization of ICT in all spheres of life to optimize the communications infrastructure; digital content, domestic software applications, the delivery of private and public services, that is, e-business and e-government.

She further listed some of the implementing agencies within the ICT ministry to consist of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Galaxy Backbone and the Nigerian Postal service (NIPOST).

Equally, with the launch of the replacement Nigerian Communication Satellite (NigComSAT 1-R) in China, today, Monday, December 2011, the chief executive officer of NigComSAT Limited, Timasaniyu Ahmed Rufai, reassured that it would rewrite the history of the country in the space industry, recollecting that NigComSAT 1-R  was launched by 5pm local time.

Pointing out the potentials for the country, Ahmed-Rufai, noted that Nigcomsat 1R is a replacement satellite of Nigcomsat 1 which was deorbited on November 10,2008 due to solar array problem. He said that NigComSAT1-R built by China Great Wall Industries Corporation{CGWIC}, thus a replacement satellite at no cost to Nigeria. As said by him, the launch was to boost Nigeria’s Global Competitive Index (GDI) ranking as the services will offer telecommunications, broadcast, broadband internet among other customers to greatly enhance the country’s race to achieve the Vision 20:2020 goals of President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda.

He also said that NIGCOMSAT Limited was incorporated as a limited liability company in April 2006 and charged with the  responsibility to operate and manage NigComSAT starting with NigComSat-1 which was launched May 2007 and de-orbited after 18 months.

A replacement satellite, NigComSat-1R, he pointed out, has the same features but with a few modifications as NigComSat-1. NigComSat-1R, according to him is the second Nigerian Communication satellite, placed into a geosynchronous orbit and positioned at 42.5oE, with a launch mass of 5,100 kg, and has an expected service life of 15 years. Meaning that by 2026 Nigeria will have to launch a new satellite in the same orbital slot.

On a happy note, NCS elected the Group Managing Director of Chams Plc, Sir Demola Aladekomo, as its president while his counterpart at Omatek plc, Mrs. Florence Seriki was elected president of Information Technology Development (Industry) Association of Nigeria (ITAN).

Remmy Nweke

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D


Stew said...

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