Barrister Adebayo Shittu, Minister of Communication has said that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills are critical needs for any national development to take place in Nigeria.
The Minister said this while delivering a keynote address Tuesday at the ongoing ICTEL EXPO 2016, organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), at the Eko Hotels and Suites, with the theme, “Mobility, Technology and the Nigerian Economy.”
ICT stands as a key for development in any nation, as such there is great need for ICT skill development to enable the achievement of local national development, the Minister says.
“The global quest for ICT for development is enormous to both developed and developing countries. This is because ICT skills are critical to the success of enhancing national development in a globalized era.[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”right” arrow=”yes”]While expressing delight that the 4G LTE services are currently being rolled out by some operators, the minister however worried that “only 0.2% of Nigerians have access to fixed telephone lines, while mobile telecommunications have taken over 99% of the market share.”[/quote]
“In this regard, government is focused on creating opportunities for citizenship participation in ICT training, knowledge and skill acquisition and general application and usage of ICT tools to solve problems, promote their well-being and enhance national growth,” the Minister adds.
According to the Communication Minister, as result of the dwindling revenue from the oil and gas sector, the government is giving more attention to telecommunications and ICT as main drivers for development in Nigeria.
“The Federal government has realised more than ever before that telecommunications and ICT are among the main drivers for the social and economic development of Nigeria and play a vital role in enhancing access to basic services in all sectors of our national life,” Shittu says.
He says the ICTEL EXPO 2016 represents a significant milestone in the ongoing commitment of infusing ICT and innovation into government and the diversification of the Nigerian economy.
“Currently at about 10%, the ICT sector has the potential of becoming a major contributor to the nation’s GDP. It is no more news that this sector has currently employs more professionals than the oil and gas sector. It is on record that ICT is the only sector that has recorded a positive growth in the first quarter of this year,” Shittu says.
According to him, “my ministry has in many for a shown that the ICT sector is one of the major priority sectors that Nigeria should target for diversification efforts. I am sure that this expo is one of the chamber’s interventions in starting relevant conversations and providing a platform for the development of ICT and telecommunications sector towards a more connected government and a digital Nigerian society,”the Minister says.
According to him, since mobile services were first introduced in Nigeria in 2001, “the market has grown rapidly, extending connectivity to over 150 million unique subscribers from just 500,000 lines 16 years ago,” and that “the mobile market has been fiercely competitive with five major operators.”
While expressing delight that the 4G LTE services are currently being rolled out by some operators, the minister however worried that “only 0.2% of Nigerians have access to fixed telephone lines, while mobile telecommunications have taken over 99% of the market share.”
Nigeria stands to gain a lot from leveraging opportunities in the ICT sector to boost the economic fortunes of the country, the Minister says with particular emphasis on the telecommunication industry.
He reckons that “the telecoms industry has become a success enabler to the other industries with the upsurge in telephone density cutting across the technology platforms. The role of mobile service in delivering economic and social impacts in Nigeria is widely recognized.”
Listing the ways in which mobile telephony has enabled growth strategies by delivering wide-ranging benefits to Nigeria, he observes that “mobile services promote digital inclusion, enabling Nigerians to benefit from the exchange of information for business and social needs for increased productivity.”
According to Shittu, “mobile services provide access to essential information such as health advice, educational information and government to citizen’s services; mobile ecosystem currently contributes over $10 billion in value added to the Nigerian economy; Mobile operators in the country have supported the creation of over 200,000 jobs across Nigeria in 2015; Mobile services have the potential to increase digital inclusion and drive even greater across the entire sphere of the economy.
“With a significant percentage of the Nigeria’s population having access to mobile cellular services, the increasing and sustained growth in Internet usage and broadband deployment, the government through the Ministry of Communications and its various SMART initiatives are focused on leveraging ICTs to create an inclusion economy” Shittu says noting also some key technology issues the present administration is addressing as priorities to enhance development.
“Global issues as the digital divide, cyber-insecurity, emergency telecommunications and climate change enjoy varying levels of prioritization in the change agenda of the government and it is central to its strategies and work programmes,” Shittu tells attendees at the tech expo.
The Minister pledged support for LCCI and enjoined it to continue to connect businesses and create opportunities for Nigerians in the ICT sector, saying that the nation is striving to diversify its economy towards non-oil sectors.
“The Ministry will not relent from leveraging the existing relationship with LCCI to achieve the mandate of SMART Digital Nigeria initiative. I charge you to seek to draw attention to the available opportunities in mobile technology as the trend is changing the nature and processes of doing business across the globe. Mobile technology as we know is making businesses smarter and easier,” he says.
The Minister is hopeful that investors will be conscious of the time-sensitivity of the market entry of their products and services to meet the needs of today’s Nigeria, saying that innovation at breakfast becomes more obsolete at supper in this fast-paced world of information technology.
Shittu says that “the government will provide the needed, enabling environment for the ICT and telecommunication sector to thrive through enactment of relevant legislations, and that “with eGovernment masterplan implementation, government’s attention on eGovernance as the nucleus to drive other autonomous and IT agenda is assured under my very watch.”
According to the Communications Minister, “the change mantra of this administration comes in different colourations. We in the ICT sector have a responsibility to put the nation on the path of growth. This can be easily achieved when partners like LCCI key into the SMART Digital initiative.”
The ICTEL event will further offer a platform for corporate organizations seeking to build partnerships for enhanced profitability in the sector, and that it is an opportunity for government and private sector operators to meet and articulate policies that would boost the productivity of ICT sector in Nigeria, he says.
The Minister thus unveiled governments plan to establish ICT University in Nigeria, saying that “I am happy to inform you that our effort to establish a multi-campus ICT University is in top gear and of course ICT innovation, cyber Security and entrepreneurship will be one of the major focus of the university.”
Shittu wants ICT stakeholders to “adopt sustainable business models in the interest of the various businesses and the society at large, especially within the context of the commitment of the present administration to economic diversification and job creation.”