ITU Challenges Nigeria over Telecom World Hosting Rights


Emma Okonji in Bangkok, Thailand

The International Telecoms Union (ITU), organiser of the annual ITU Telecom World has challenged the Nigerian government over the hosting rights of the annual event, which Thailand, a country of 65 million people is hosting this year.

Secretary-General of ITU, Houlin Zhao, who gave the challenge during the opening ceremony of ITU Telecom World 2016, which was declared open on Monday in Bangkok, Thailand, by Her Majesty, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhornat, said Nigeria and most African countries have not summoned up the courage to request for the hosting rights, which he said, could be granted, if only the country has the infrastructural facilities to host the yearly global event.

“I have no issues about taking the hosting rights to Africa, but any African county that is interested in hosting ITU Telecom World, must first make its interest known to ITU and I am convinced that ITU would grant such request, if the country has the infrastructural facilities to host exhibitors and participants that would come from over 120 countries of the world,” Zhao said.

According to him, although South Korea has been given the hosting rights for ITU Telecom World 2017, the Ethiopian government has made an official request to ITU to be considered for the hosting rights in subsequent years, and such request could be granted if Ethiopia meets the global requirement for hosting.

In the case of Nigeria, Zhao called on the Nigerian government to first summon up to apply for hosting rights, which will be screened for consideration. “Nigeria has done so well in telecommunications development in Nigeria and the African continent, but the Nigerian government has never applied for the hosting rights. So Nigerian government should be brave enough to make such request.

Despite the challenge posed before the Nigerian government concerning the hosting rights for ITU Telecom World, most Nigerian telecoms operators present at the ongoing ITU Telecom World conference in Bangkok, Thailand, said it would be difficult for Nigeria to successfully host the world, even when ITU decided it grant Nigeria the hosting rights.

They accused the government of leaving the task of developing telecoms infrastructure in the hands of telecoms operators, even after the operators had paid so much to acquire licence for commercial rollout. The situation, no doubt, affected the speedy development of telecoms infrastructure in the country. The operators were of the opinion that Nigeria would have been fully developed in terms of telecoms infrastructure, and become fully ready to host ITU Telecom World and other global Information and Communications Technology (ICT) events, if government had started long ago to invest in telecoms infrastructure.

Telecoms operators that participated in the Digital Mobile Licence auction in 2001 in Nigeria, paid $285 million each, when at that time, the exchange rate was N100 to $1, but the proceeds were not used by government to rollout telecoms infrastructure in the country. Instead, the proceeds were shared among the three tiers of government and telecoms operators were left to rollout out network infrastructure by themselves, a situation they affected the growth and development of telecoms infrastructure in the country till date. What happened was that telecoms operators were forced to invest back their revenue on telecoms infrastructure and network rollout, a situation that slowed telecoms development in the country, the operators said.

Speaking on how Thailand was quick to move 18 steps up in the global ranking of ICT development from 92nd position to 74th position within a short space of time, the Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Digital Economy and Society, Kingdom of Thailand, Prajin Juntong, said the country had to shift from concession system of obtaining telecoms spectrum to the spectrum licensing system, which he said was more transparent and gave room for rapid growth of the telecoms sector of Thailand.

Collaborating in the Digital Economy, with a specific focus on the key role of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the digital ecosystem was the theme that kicked of the ITU Telecom World forum debate in Thailand. The opening session provided unique and powerful perspectives from heads of state, government and international organisations worldwide.

Zhao spoke of the importance of ICTs as enablers, noting that “Within the ICT industry, it is the innovative tech SMEs that are key to industry disruption, to job creation, and to the technological innovations that are taking the industry forward.”