Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba

By Emma Okonji

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has assured International and potential investors that Nigeria remains a sure haven for ICT investments.

Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) and Chief Executive of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, gave the assurance at the recently concluded Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, while speaking at a panel session on the topic, ‘Is Closing the Digital Divide in sub-Saharan Africa Myth or Reality’.

Building on the country’s over 107 per cent teledensity for voice segment of telecommunications services already achieved, Danbatta promised the international c community that his eight-point agenda has been carefully packaged to cushion all aspects of investments, especially “as we move to the next frontier of ICT revolution – broadband for internet connectivity.”

The panel discussion was a part of the regional summit for sub-Saharan Africa at the Mobile World congress (MWC), organised by GSM Association, in Barcelona, Spain.

Danbatta also told the panel, which was moderated by Nigeria’s Shola Taylor who is also the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) that the NCC has put in place the agenda to encourage investors.

“Two of the prominent goals are related to deployment of infrastructure for broadband and efficient utilisation of Spectrum to benefit all Nigerians in all the regions,” Danbatta said.

The audience was also informed that the NCC would keep fate with the National Broadband Plans of Nigeria to achieve its objective of massive broadband rollout for the country. He said in line with this, the country now has seven zones and each zone will have one operator which will deploy broadband services to every part of that zone.

So far, two infrastructure licences have been issued for Lagos and North Central Zones including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and the process for issuing licenses for the other five zones has begun.

Danbatta assured that “the regulatory framework has been put in place to ensure a transparent licensing process because we really want to bridge the digital divide.” We want to bridge the digital divide by addressing infrastructure divide and we will be transparent and open about this, Danbatta further said.

Earlier in his presentation, Soumaila bemoaned the general poor connectivity of African continent despite huge investments so far by the 46-member Nations of ATU.

Nyoka said to bridge the digital divide, emphasis has shifted from voice to data and “we need skills to run sustainable businesses”. He advised regulators to make clear goals in terms of Spectrum allocation.”

Head, Government and Industry Relations, Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa, Shiletsi Makhafane, said despite the seeming digital divide, there are more mobile phones than TV sets but admitted that “we can reach more people through mobile broadband”

Meg Charles-Horn of Africa Mobile Networks, said adequate connectivity is the only way to bridge the digital divide and “we want to galvanise the opportunity for everyone to have connectivity hence our partnership with the operators across Africa.”

On the South African experience, Mkhize told the audience that internet provides GDP growth and has helped to connect remote communities that have been cut off by the outlawed apartheid regime of the past.

“Mobile technology has brought the people together and this has transformed the social and economic activities across the country,” Mkhize said.