By Adedapo Adesanya
President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated the Presidential Council on Digital Economy and e-Government, promising that his administration will continue to take advantage of digital technologies to transform every sector of the economy.
At the event on Friday in Abuja, the President directed the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami, to chair the council on his behalf and give regular updates.
He tasked members of the council to work towards further strengthening the capacity of government to develop, adopt and deploy digital technologies to make government more efficient and transparent, thereby improving Nigeria’s global standing in the ease of doing business index.
Mr Buhari noted that the organisation, whose members have been arrived at after a painstaking and thorough process, would provide the oversight needed to bring about a veritable structure for accelerating achievements in the digital economy and in the implementation of e-government in the country.
He enjoined every member of the council to consider the task as a national assignment and justify the trust reposed in their ability to support and significantly enhance the digital transformation of Nigeria.
“I launched the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) on the 28th of November, 2019, and expanded the mandate of the then Ministry of Communications to include Digital Economy.
“The implementation of that policy and mandate has enabled us to achieve significant progress and record a number of unprecedented achievements.
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy showed that the steps we took in developing and implementing NDEPS were indeed timely.
“For example, the Information and Communications Technology sector was the fastest growing sector in both the fourth quarter of 2020 and the entire year 2020, based on the Report by the National Bureau of Statistics.
“The sector’s 14.7 per cent double-digit growth rate was instrumental in supporting our country to exit the recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, far earlier than predicted by experts.
“The significant contribution of 17.92 per cent by the ICT sector to our GDP in the second quarter of 2021 is another example of the important impact of the digital economy on the overall economy.
“In the same vein, the growth of our digital economy sector enabled us to cope with the effect of the lock-down as both activities of the government and private sector, as well as educational activities, were able to move to online platforms,” he said.
Furthermore, Mr Buhari expressed delight that the approval of the National Policy on Virtual Engagements for Federal Public Institutions had helped to formalise government online meetings.
According to him, statutory meetings like the Federal Executive Council (FEC), Council of State, and other meetings can now effectively and legally take place online.
He added that Nigeria’s progress in e-governance had been noted by the international community, eliciting recognition from international stakeholders, including the appointment of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy as the Chairman of the 2022 Forum of the highly regarded World Summit of the Information Society.
While congratulating the minister, the president acknowledged that the ministry has partnered with the Korea International Cooperation Agency to develop a National e-government Master Plan, approved by FEC in August 2019.
The President listed benefits from the partnership, including “the training of over 1,400 Nigerian public servants in both Nigeria and South Korea on e-governance; the launching of an E-Government Training Centre handed over to the Federal Government in November 2019, and the signing off of Phase II of the e-government Project – Project for Building Foundations Towards Digital Governance in Nigeria (2020-2026).”
On his part, Mr Pantami noted that NDEPS launched in 2019, made provision for the establishment of the Presidential Council to coordinate the development of an indigenous digital economy.
While describing the implementation of NDEPS for a digital Nigeria as very successful, the minister said in the last two years, the sector had provided ICT intervention to no fewer than 1,667 institutions at the federal and sub-national levels.
He stated that the recent auctioning of spectrums by the ministry generated over 400 per cent of revenue to the federal government coffers while two virtual institutions established by the government had trained some 500,000 Nigerians on digital and emerging technologies.
The 27-man committee chaired by Pantami on behalf of the president has the following members: Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Governor Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State; Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State; Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State; Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo; Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and Senator Hope Uzodinma, Governor of Imo.
Others are Dr Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Adeniyi Adebayo, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment; Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, Head of Civil Service of the Federation; and Prof. Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO Nigerian Communications Commission.
Prof. M.B. Abubakar, Managing Director/CEO, Galaxy Backbone Limited; Dr Abimbola Alale, Managing Director/CEO, Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited; and Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO, National Identity Management Commission, are also members of the council.
Also on the committee are Mr Oswald Guobadia, Senior Special Assistant, (Digital Transformation) to the President; Olufemi Olufeko, Director, e-Government Dept, Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy; A.B. Okauru, Director General, Nigeria Governors Forum; Prof. Simon Sodiya, President Nigeria Computer Society; and Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON).
Other members are Prof. Kabiru Bala, representative of the academia and Vice-Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Prof. Nnenna Oti, representative of the academia and Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Owerri; and Mr Kashifu Abdullahi, Secretary and the Director-General/CEO, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
Mr Sungil Son, Country Director (KOICA); Dr Olufemi Adeluyi, Technical Assistant (Research & Development) to Minister of Communication & Digital Economy; and Abubakar Dahiru, Special Assistant (Cyber Security & Digital Identity) to the Minister are also members of the committee.
Airtel Wins 5G Licence Auction in Nigeria
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Airtel Nigeria, trading as Airtel Networks Limited, has made payment for the Intention to Bid Deposit (IBD) for the second 5G licence auction of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The company, alongside Standard Network, expressed interest in the exercise, but the other bidder did not pay the required fee of $273.6 million on or before the December 5 deadline, as stipulated in the Information Memorandum (IM) guiding the auction process.
As a result, Airtel was announced as the winner of the offer and will join its rival, MTN Nigeria, to roll out 5G services to its subscribers in Nigeria.
MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communication had won the first 5G licence auction, with Airtel losing out because of the fee. However, only MTN has commenced operations, with the other yet to announce when it would roll out its services.
In October, Airtel Africa confirmed that it would partake in the plans of the NCC to auction additional two slots in the 3.5GHz spectrum auction to deepen the 5G network in Nigeria.
At the exercise, according to a statement issued by the Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Mr Reuben Muoka, Standard Network could not meet up with the IBD payment, a development that compelled the agency to announce Airtel as the sole bidder of the spectrum auction.
“The NCC hereby announces that by the close of business on Monday, December 5, 2022, only two companies expressed interest in the auction of the 3.5GHz Spectrum band, namely Airtel Networks Limited (Airtel) and Standard Network & Connections Limited (Standard Network).
“However, only Airtel paid the Intention to Bid Deposit (IBD) as stipulated in the Information Memorandum (IM) whereas Standard Network sent an email appeal for the deadline to be extended by 12 working days which was not acceptable in view of the auction timetable.
“Having met all the provisions in the IM, Airtel has, therefore, emerged as the sole Bidder.
“Consequently, there shall be no further bidding, and the commission will proceed to the Assignment Stage in line with the published Information Memorandum guiding the licensing process,” the NCC said in the statement.
FBNQuest Advises Firms What to do to Manage Rising Cyber-Attacks
By Adedapo Adesanya
As Africa faces the threat of rising cybercrimes, FBNQuest, through its Thought Leadership medium, has called on the need to recognise the strategic importance of managing companies’ security infrastructure.
In a note made available to Business Post, it stated that organisations of all sizes should be looking at what to do when (not if) they are hit by cyber-attacks.
Cybercrime is estimated to cost Africa $4 billion a year (a figure that hits $450 billion worldwide), broken down into yearly losses of $570 million, $500 million, and $36 million for the economies of South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya, respectively.
Drawing real-life parallels, in early October 2020, Uganda’s telecoms and banking sectors were plunged into a crisis in the wake of a major hack on Pegasus Technologies that compromised the country’s mobile money network.
Hackers used approximately 2,000 mobile SIM cards to gain access to the system, and an estimated $3.2 million was stolen.
In June 2020, the second-largest hospital operator in South Africa, Life Healthcare, was hit by a cyberattack in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, paralysing the 6,500-bed provider and forcing it to switch to manual backup systems.
As per the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol), the most prominent threats in Africa, based on input from Interpol member countries and data drawn from private sector partners, identified that the top five threats listed in the report include online scams, digital extortion, email account compromise, ransomware, and botnets.
FBNQuest noted that “the current international threat landscape is incredibly diverse and includes a resurgence of bored teenagers who hack just for the fun of it, nation-state groups, and cybercriminal syndicates and gangs. For the latter groups, the operational objective is to leverage a new exploit to extort millions and achieve an extraordinary return on investment.”
It then tasked organisations to apply the fundamentals of cybersecurity that will offer protection. This includes tightening the email loop, which makes it difficult to fall for phishing attacks.
Others include fending off malicious ransomware, securing network access, shutting down internal threats, solidifying storage and backups, as well as managing vulnerabilities, noting that, “The key to successful vulnerability management is to identify all the ways an attacker can move throughout your network and reach your business-critical assets. Once you have identified these attack paths, you can focus on locking down chokepoints and stopping hackers before they even get started.”
It also tasked parties to ensure that a detailed Incident Response Plan (IRP) is put in place.
“Cyberattacks may be inevitable, but a detailed Incident Response Plan (IRP) provides both a buffer and an antidote if the plan is tested. This means that the first time to verify an IRP is not in the middle of a crisis.
“The best way to determine whether the company’s IRP is effective is through tests that assess the readiness of their incident response teams. These tests, which work for all-size companies, come in the form of fire drills and tabletop exercises (TTXs). Each test serves a different purpose.”
The company noted that while cyber-security has been largely associated with computers and IT infrastructure, greater consumer use of smart devices has raised overall vulnerability. At the enterprise level, shifting to cloud computing may have cut company costs significantly, but it has also increased the risk of digital attacks.
“Despite the broad-based implications of these risks, many businesses are unprepared to deal with them, as the alarming number of threats clearly indicates. These developments imply that security is no longer merely a concern of IT managers, but a key boardroom topic because enterprises need to recognise its strategic importance. Companies need to beef up their security infrastructure to prevent breaches while simultaneously building a sustained organisational culture of safety,” it warned.
African Fintech Targets 800% Revenue Growth by 2025—McKinsey
By Adedapo Adesanya
Revenues from financial technology (fintech) companies could grow by 800 per cent to reach $30 billion by 2025, consultancy firm McKinsey & Company has revealed.
As the fastest-growing start-up industry on the continent, African fintech raised over $1,3 billion in 2021 alone; the success of fintech companies is being fuelled by several trends, including increasing smartphone ownership, declining internet costs, expanded network coverage, and a young, fast-growing, and rapidly urbanizing population.
African fintech has a significant impact on day-to-day life on the continent, and with its current upward trend, it can be perfectly poised to rapidly advance Africa’s global competitiveness with an increase in the exporting of fintech services globally.
However, it said these fertile grounds do have challenges. Regulatory uncertainties and differences between countries are a bottleneck, throttling the expansion of financial inclusion in Africa. This has led to the continent’s fintech’s calling for a Pan-African regulatory body to define comprehensive regulatory policies for regions rather than countries.
Certain governments and the private business sector continuously work on providing regulatory policy frameworks for businesses, customers, and economies with the current focus on regulations, anti-money laundering scrutiny, consumer centrism, and protection of privacy and security of data.
In terms of regulations, digital-only banks and fintech are influenced by but independently regulated from the traditional financial system regulations.
For Anti Money Laundering Scrutiny, more regulatory bodies are insisting on compliance herewith; worldwide, there is a clampdown on non-compliant companies. This requires the verification of information received from the client to avoid fraudulent, terrorist, or other illegal activities being facilitated, supported by other processes such as Know Your Customer.
Also, fintech must be vigilant in consumer education, especially the consequences of services and products that did not exist before, protecting the consumer from being exploited.
For the protection of privacy and security of data, it warned that stored personal consumer information is susceptible to cyberattacks, and as a result, fintech companies must comply and have the necessary security systems and protocols to secure sensitive data.
The Global fintech Index of 2020 lists the top 100 fintech ecosystems, and four sub-Saharan African cities features, that are leading this sector, namely Johannesburg, Nairobi, Lagos, and Cape Town, and account for most of the continent’s fintech start-up funding.
“The countries represented by the four cities above have taken significant strides towards regulatory systems designed to protect stakeholders. Each country’s approach to regulations shares similarities, while others are unique to the challenges faced in their market.
“Regardless of the size of the fintech, these changes become prohibitive to the success of fintech due to the cost and/or inconvenience caused since they impact all areas of the customer relationship lifecycle,” it said.
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