ICT Clinic (Punch Newspaper)

Agenda for the new Minister of Communications [ICT Clinic]

How time flies? Yes, one thing that passes by so quickly is time and as one who believes in a supreme being, I also ask for grace to redeem time and hopefully, leave some footprints in the sand of time.

On the flip side, I wonder if those at the helm of affairs think like I do. Do they realise that positions of authority are primarily to serve the cause and the will of the people? Well, I know some do, but majority do not. Be that as it may, I think there are few that listen and my hope is that the new Minister of Communications, Dr Isa Pantami, remains one of them, because power is indeed transient.

I first met this gentleman in 2015 at GITEX Technology Week Dubai, shortly after he was appointed as the Director- General of the National Information Technology Development Agency. We discussed extensively, about his goals and plans for the industry.

Under the watch of the erstwhile DG, NITDA made considerable progress. While I would not say that I agree with all his policy thrusts, I think some of them, such as the data policy guidelines, will certainly help the country greatly as long as we follow through with the execution.

Be that as it may, we need to move the industry and the nation forward, even though a lot of our policymakers still do not realise it. The ICT industry holds one of the keys to unlocking our full economic potential. I was looking at the 2019 budget and it is sad to note that once again, the technology industry remains extremely poorly funded; yet it is one industry that all ministries, departments and agencies of government spend billions on, either procuring hardware or paying for software. What an irony!

It is this believe and conviction that has motivated me, to remain, as one of the strong voices of the industry, selflessly pushing the common good. I remember, also, dedicating a piece in this column to Dr Pantami, when he became the DG of NITDA. Good a thing that the new Minister of Communications, is coming from one of the critical agencies under the Ministry of Communications, hence, he is coming into a familiar terrain, which he understands, pretty well.

Below are three areas I urge the Minister to tackle among many others he may pencil down:

A final solution to the Right of Way debate

This issue has become a torn in Nigeria’s flesh. How can a nation that wants its citizens, particularly, those in the rural areas to become digitally savvy, expect to arbitrarily tax the living day light out of service providers, yet expect such services to become a reality? I agree that the issue of right of way is beyond the Federal Government alone. The state and local government authorities also have to be involved, because, they are the ones responsible for this multiple taxation. The security agencies too should be involved in this, to nip in the bud, the extortionist disposition of the so called, ‘Area boys’, who usually extort money when the workers of these ISP’s are laying the fibre cables.

Ultimately, I hope that, a policy like this would help drive down the cost of Internet. Data is expensive in Nigeria! I know that, many would say that, it is a lot cheaper, compared to where we are coming from. The reality, however, is that many Nigerians cannot afford to buy the data required, to really drive digital economy. It is, certainly, different from the kind used for — Finish Reading on the Punch

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