ICT Will Replace Oil and Gas If Properly Developed, Says ATCON

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Emma Okonji

As prices of crude oil continue to fluctuate in the international market, the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), has re-emphasised the need for the federal government to pay more attention to the development of information technology (IT) sector.

President of ATCON, Mr. Olusola Teniola, who made the call at a technology forum in Lagos recently, said ATCON had at different fora emphasised the urgent need for government to diversify partly or completely from depending on the revenue derivable from oil to an ICT driven economy to run the economy, but that the association was not taken seriously then.

According to him, the ICT sector, if properly developed, can serve as a replacement for the oil and gas sector in boosting Nigeria’s economy.

The price of oil has continued to experience volatility and this poses a threat to our national economy therefore we have to look for a way out by devising viable policy pathways and economic sectors that will enhance national wealth and create employment for the populace. He said one of the surest way out is to give due attention to the development of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector.

He cited experiences from India, China, Singapore and Brazil, Teniola said ICT is used as the basis by these countries to develop innovative solutions, such as cars that use electric/solar power energy.

He therefore called on government to expedite action in developing the Nigeria ICT sector and provide the necessary infrastructure that will boost technology development in the country.

He also called on state and local governments to make ICT a top priority in governance.

“It is surprising that the federal government does not give priority to the ICT sector when planning, despite its huge contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). If more than 70 per cent of ICT components are currently being imported from abroad, then the sector will just be struggling to survive without government support,” Teniola said.
According to him, it has been established that the ICT sector is contributing about eight per cent to GDP, yet members can no longer buy US dollars directly from CBN designated banks, a situation, he said, has further pushed the cost of doing business higher.

“Though the recent introduction of flexible FX mechanism is more than welcome, it is already too late for some of our members, who had already gone under due to the harsh business environment,” Teniola said.

“To stem the imbalance in the supply and demand of foreign exchange, what the federal government needs to consider is to encourage the establishment of companies that manufacture these components or assemble them in Nigeria with some incentives and for government to further sponsor ICT parks in the country,” he added.

He called on government to increase budget of ICT and to enact appropriate ICT policies that will enhance technology development in the country.

“The federal government should begin to focus more on other alternative means of generating income and their focus should be on increasing government spending and budget allocation to funding the ICT sector for the purpose of making its products and services exportable, thereby allowing it to contribute to our foreign earnings,” Teniola said.

According to him, “In order for the ICT sector to supplement or replace the Oil and Gas sector, policies that favour the sector must be put in place. It should be emphasised that the petroleum industry which used to be the cash cow for our nation is not doing so well right now and this is a global issue that will take some time to recover. The direct implication of this is that we may not be able to finance our budget without resorting to further government borrowing.”