WEST Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) has advocated greater adoption of e-Governance and concerted effort to expand the digital economy in Nigeria and other countries of West Africa.
The executive secretary of WATRA, Aliyu Yusuf Aboki stated that this will boost investment and create quality jobs for young people in Nigeria and West Africa. He stated that despite the comparatively low rate of literacy in West Africa, there is a very wide scope for digitizing government services.
He said he sees the enormous opportunity for e-governance as he travels across the 15 ECOWAS states. He explained that governments at all levels could increase their taxes dramatically by digitizing the identities of taxpayers and tax collection processes. He also emphasized that there is a great opportunity to expand access to education and healthcare through digital tools.
WATRA is a regional organisation that has the mandate to promote the adoption and harmonization of regulations that stimulate investment in telecommunications and increase affordable access for citizens.
The WATRA boss cited the example of India where over 1 billion citizens, including the poorest citizens, could easily receive or make payments using their telephones through a government-supported platform, the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
Other government-backed digital schemes in the country enable municipal governments to manage healthcare online and citizens to store and readily access government documents such as tax returns on their phones.
Aliyu pointed out that the digitalization of government services has transformed the lives of the 273 million Indians who are classified as living in poverty. While noting progress in the adoption of ICT to deliver and manage government services in West Africa, the WATRA boss emphasized the need to scale up existing schemes in the sub-region.
Broadband Commission Seeks Action to Accelerate Connectivity and Progress on SDGs
The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development called for a joint global effort to achieve universal and meaningful connectivity by 2030 at its annual Fall Meeting held today at UN Headquarters in New York.
According to the Commission, the collaborative effort must ensure that people around the world are not only connected, but that they also have the skills and knowledge to use that connectivity.
The Broadband Commission—a high level public-private partnership fostering digital cooperation and developing actionable recommendations for achieving universal connectivity—stressed that accelerating universal and meaningful connectivity through partnership and cooperation is essential to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
“We need to build a digital future that is inclusive, affordable, sustainable, safe and people-centered,” said Commission Co-Chair Carlos Slim. “There should be no digital deserts in the world, and there should be no one excluded from connectivity. People have the right to enjoy a safe, productive and affordable online experience. Broadband should enhance the quality of life of everyone.”
At the meeting, the Commission called for innovative investment models to bring together private and public stakeholders to deliver meaningful access and content to those most in need.
“As technology advances and 2.6 billion people remain unconnected, it’s crucial to prioritize universal and affordable broadband access, coupled with investments in digital skills, and the elements that truly define meaningful connectivity, such as inclusive and localized digital content, accessible hardware, cybersecurity measures, and policies that ensure digital inclusion for all,” said Hon. Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation representing Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Co-Chair of the Commission.
The Commission’s meeting comes amid the recent ITU announcement that 2.6 billion people across the world still lack access to the Internet in 2023. The reduction from the estimated 2.7 billion people offline in 2022 leaves about one-third of the global population unconnected.
This year’s Annual Meeting also took place ahead of SDG Digital, an event convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to highlight how digital solutions can support the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Tech is racing ahead and billions of people are being left behind,” said ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin, a Co-Vice Chair of the Commission. “Our task is to invest in affordable broadband, digital skills, and everything that makes connectivity meaningful.”
At the meeting, the Broadband Commission launched “State of Broadband Report: 2023 Digital Connectivity – A Transformative Opportunity.” The latest edition of the annual report reviews the progress of seven Global Advocacy Targets and highlights the opportunities that would come from broadband that is universally available, equitable and affordable.
This year’s report notes that market trends for consumption and supply are shifting despite gains in connectivity. Those trends may not be strong enough to guarantee that the objective of universal and meaningful connectivity will be met by 2030.
Airtel Nigeria Refutes Report Saying It Awarded Nationwide Solar Contract to WATT Corporation
Leading telecommunication service provider, Airtel Nigeria, has distanced itself from a recent media report that the company awarded a contract to WATT Renewable Corporation (WATT) to deliver over 32MW installed capacity of solar PV and storage across 600 cell sites across Nigeria.
Director of Corporate Communications and CSR, Airtel Nigeria, Femi Adeniran, said in a statement that the involvement of Airtel Nigeria with WATT was limited to only 30 sites as a proof of concept of WATT’s Energy-as-a-Service offering. Of the 30 sites commissioned, 18 are currently up and running.
“The report in the press about Airtel Nigeria awarding this nationwide contract to WATT Renewable Corporation is inaccurate,” Adeniran said.
He added that, “Airtel Nigeria is indeed committed to its sustainability goals and continues to pursue its Net Zero objectives across its operations. As we progress in our path towards achieving these, we will keep the public updated.”
NCC Orders MNO, ISPs on Network Security, Consumer Safety Compliance
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has directed Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Internet Service Providers (ISP) in the country to comply with regulatory frameworks emplaced by the Commission towards ensuring security and safety of their networks for telecom consumers.
The Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, gave the charge at the 2023 annual Nigeria DigitalSense Forum, focused on Internet Governance for Development, which took place in Lagos recently.
Addressing stakeholders at the event, Danbatta said one of the regulatory framework put in place by the Commission is the Internet Code of Practice (ICP for telecom industry, which is essentially to protect the right of Internet users to an open Internet and provide clear guidelines to Internet Access Service Providers on the use of traffic management practices.
He said the Internet Code also outlines the obligations of Internet Access Service Providers in relation to the protection of consumers’ personal data as well as lists the obligations of Internet Access Service Providers in the handling of offensive and potentially-harmful content, and the protection of minors and vulnerable audiences online; among others.
Through upholding the tenets of Internet Governance Code, Danbatta said the Commission, in collaboration with other stakeholders can make networks safe and get telecom consumers protected online.
Speaking to the theme of the event: “5G: Data Governance, Safety and Security in Nigeria”, Danbatta said building robust legal and regulatory frameworks is a crucial requirement for effective data governance in Nigeria and that the ICP provides the framework in this regard.
The EVC, however, underscored the need for telecom licensees, especially the MNOs and ISPs, to adhere strictly to industry frameworks that seek to enthrone effective governance in Internet delivery services.
Represented by the NCC’s Head, New Media and Information Security, Dr. Chidi Diugwu, the EVC said with the emergence of new technologies such as the Fifth Generation (5G), currently being deployed in Nigeria, the need has come to pay greater attention to the issue privacy, data integrity and online trust across telecom networks.
“As we embrace the transformative potential of newer technologies such as 5G, we must prioritize safety concerns because the amount and speed of data generated using 5G technology is unprecedented. As such, we need to always prioritise consumer privacy, transparency, and ethical data use; and this can be achieved by cultivating trust and handling data responsibly, and by doing so, we can unlock the full potential of 5G technology and promote innovation in Nigeria,” he said.
While emphasizing that the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003 requests NCC’s licensees to prevent their network facilities or services from being used in for the commission of any offence under any law in operation in Nigeria, Danbatta said “In this regard, licensees are required to collaborate with the Commission by complying with their legal and regulatory obligations towards ensuring effective Internet governance in Nigeria.”