By Adedapo Adesanya
After one year of piloting its affairs, Nigeria has handed over the mantle of leadership of the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) to the Republic of Guinea.
Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Mr Umar Danbatta, who headed the group, handed over to the newly elected Chairman, Sekou Oumar Barry.
The handover ceremony was one of the major highlights of the 19th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of WATRA which took place in Conakry, the Republic of Guinea, where WATRA’s new Strategic Management Plan (SMP) 2022-2024 was approved.
Mr Barry, the new chairman, who will preside over the affairs of the Executive Council of WATRA for the next one year, is the Director-General of the Telecommunication and Posts Regulatory Authority (ARPT) of the Republic of Guinea.
The Assembly also elected the representatives of Mali and Sierra-Leone as 1st and 2nd Vice Chairmen respectively.
In his address at the event, Mr Danbatta acknowledged the important role WATRA has been playing in creating policy, legal and regulatory frameworks for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the sub-region since the mid-1990s and commended the synergy among member states, which he noted has continued to provide an economic defence for member countries against global shocks, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Danbatta said some of his achievements as WATRA Chairman included the delivery of a four-year strategic plan draft in line with the 18th AGM resolution, partial payment of long-outstanding membership dues by some member states after long periods of inactivity, deployment of the new WATRA automated Asset Management System, successful organization of various high-quality capacity building programs for members, optimization of WATRA accounting, finance, and budgeting process, as well as the institution of procedures for improved accountability, marked by a weekly financial dashboard.
The achievements recorded under Mr Danbatta’s one-year chairmanship also included the deployment of an automatic external phone answer and routing system, completion of front-end and back-end development of the redesigned WATRA website, joint development by WATRA, the Coordination Team, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission of a new organizational framework for roaming regulation implementation, reactivation of Niger participation in ECOWAS roaming regulation implementation through WATRA-ECOWAS Commission collaboration.
While congratulating Mr Barry, he expressed the conviction that the new leadership will build on the modest achievements of the last one year.
“When members see the unique role that WATRA plays in easing the task of national regulators to adopt or fine-tune regulations through mutual learning and capacity building, they see more reason to engage and be active within WATRA. So, if we build on the modest achievements of the Assembly, the benefits will be with the region for decades,” he said.
He also stated that both at home or in the Diaspora, West Africa has the talent to study the most efficient ICT regulations in the world and adapt them for the region’s purposes so that it can attract greater investment into the region and transform the economy of member states.
“As I hand over to the incoming Chairman, please be assured of my continued support and that of the Nigerian Communications Commission and, indeed, the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to WATRA,” he said.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Barry, who thanked Mr Danbatta for making giant strides in the last 12 months, promised to work with the Executive Committee team and the Management Team to consolidate the achievements of the Assembly, and to ensure greater success of the Assembly for the future.
MTN Partners Huawei to Deploy Premium Wi-Fi Service in Nigeria
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
To improve the experience of end-users on its network, MTN Nigeria has partnered with Huawei to launch a premium Wi-Fi service in the country.
According to MTN Nigeria’s Chief Technical Officer, Mr Mohammed Rufai, the deployment of the premium Wi-Fi is geared around delivering a superior user experience with high technology.
He stated that this also became necessary due to an increase of smart home device quantiles and new types of services such as video clips and online games which demand a better home network quality.
MTN is working with Huawei on an Autonomous Driving Network project, including various innovative practices such as target architecture design, autonomous level evaluation and high-value use-cases of autonomous networks.
“Home network experience has become a vital area in improving network quality for us. In addition, we want to solve problems such as Wi-Fi interference, coordination between home network terminals and Wi-Fi coverage which occurs frequently and leads to a large proportion of user complaints,” Mr Rufai said.
“With this, we can proactively identify and accurately locate fault points on home networks. It will help us to improve O&M efficiency and reduce customer complaints,” says Daniel Smith, a senior engineer with the MTN Group.
“In the future, MTN and Huawei will implement more innovations regarding network automation and intelligence, quickly deploy them on the live network to promptly deliver superior user experience of high tech,” he concluded.
The premium Wi-Fi can play back the historical home Wi-Fi performance in the last seven days. It demarcates faults based on speed tests by segment and diagnoses major issues in just one click to rectify problems in the cloud.
Besides, with the self-trouble shooting function on the mobile app, home broadband users are able to solve certain network problems by themselves, allowing them to manage the broadband performance much easier.
Cyber Attacks: Africa Must Encourage Digital Skills Development—Experts
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Urgent steps must be taken by African leaders to encourage general digital skills to tackle cyber-attacks and crimes on the continent, some experts in the industry have advised.
Speaking at the April edition of the Information Security Society of Africa – Nigeria (ISSAN) event, the stakeholders warned that if efforts are not taken, the governments, citizens and businesses may suffer “catastrophic consequences.”
It was stressed that at the moment, Africa is struggling to match its counterparts in the other parts of the globe due to a shortage of general digital skills caused by brain drain.
At the workshop themed Addressing the Cybersecurity Skills Quagmire, the founder/CEO of Digital Jewels, Mrs Doyin Odunfa, in her presentation, lamented that the shortage of general digital skills at all levels is expected to become more critical as economies grow, noting that the supply of digitally skilled labour must also increase to meet anticipated labour market needs.
She observed that highly skilled African professionals have been emigrating from African countries to pursue lucrative cultural and socio-economic opportunities on other continents leading to a brain drain and skills gap on the continent.
Whilst proffering solutions, she recommended intentional development of digital skills at all levels, smart technology support, collaboration with the Diaspora and strategic supply to Africa and Western economies.
“These young Africans are looking for higher-paying jobs outside Africa to escape socio-economic limitations such as poverty, limited infrastructure, and rudimentary jobs.
“They look for enabling environments in developed countries that provide rewarding businesses and obtain lucrative jobs, matching skilled individuals’ aspirations and expected socio-economic recompense.
“Many highly talented African students that obtain opportunities and scholarships of training abroad do not return home after completing studies,” Mrs Odunfa stated.
In his welcome address, the president of ISSAN, Mr David Isiavwe, said the brain drain in Africa as well as the digital skills shortage currently being experienced around the world calls for concern.
According to him, “The cyber threat landscape is still evolving. The cybersecurity space keeps getting very busy by the day. We have seen how daring cybercriminals can be, targeting both national assets and highly reputable firms. Even individuals are not left out.
“Consequently, it becomes imperative that organizations never relent in upholding and reinforcing information security best practices.”
The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) of Stanbic IBTC, Abumere Igboa; CISO of Heritage Bank, Eduje Ighoakpo; CISO of First Bank, Harrison Nnaji; CISO of Standard Chartered Bank, Oghenefovie Oyawari and the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of Digital Jewels, Tokunbo Taiwo, were the other speakers at the gathering.
ISSAN is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection of Nigeria’s cyberspace. It is significantly involved in ensuring the security of banking systems and applications, ATMs, e-government systems, and the entire cyberspace in Nigeria.
The group also seeks to achieve its objectives through awareness heightening measures including the promotion of appropriate legislation and best practices.
Membership cuts across both public and private sectors of the economy including Banks, Telecommunications Operators, Government parastatals, switching companies, IT and IT security consultancies, Legal Practitioners with a keen interest in cyber-related matters, and regulators.
Interswitch Receives Fresh Funds from LeapFrog, Tana
By Adedapo Adesanya
LeapFrog Investments (LeapFrog) and Tana Africa Capital (Tana) have invested in Interswitch, one of Africa’s technology-driven companies focused on the digitisation of payments.
In a joint statement from both companies, the exact amount was not disclosed, but it was stated that the investment will assist in supporting the company’s drive to advance the payment ecosystem across the continent.
A portion of the investment has been acquired from existing shareholders, with Ignite Holdco Limited, made up of Helios Investment Partners and TA Associates, remaining the largest shareholder in the business following the transaction.
Interswitch Group CEO, Mr Mitchell Elegbe, in a statement, said the company was “excited to welcome LeapFrog and Tana on board, as we continue our work to advance the future of the African payments landscape.”
This will further advance its offerings after it launched some new products in March.
The services unveiled include an enhanced Biometrics feature for Point of Sale (PoS) terminals & Automated Teller Machines (ATMs); Tokenization, and Card Fusion, with the services addressing digital payment fraud, problems with card issuance and portfolio management.
Interswitch, in collaboration with SterlingPRO, designed the Biometrics on Point of Sale (PoS) and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) to protect customers against digital payment fraud and to avail them faster and more convenient ways to validate payments. The solution utilizes physiological features unique to everyone such as fingerprints, voice, and facial features to verify payment transactions.
Tokenization on the other hand replaces sensitive data such as the 16-digit account information with a unique digital identifier known as a token. Tokenization will enable merchants to fast-track and collect payment seamlessly, enabling customers to check out faster in-store, in-app and online.
In addition, Card Fusion is a web-based instant card issuance platform that enables banks to conclude new card production requests and issue cards within a very short time, thus enhancing their customers’ experience while customers get to personalize their cards instantly.
Interswitch is one of Africa’s largest electronic payments and infrastructure companies and services providing online banking system offerings in areas like point-of-sale terminals, online consumer payment platforms, Quickteller, and Verve, the biggest domestic debit card scheme in Africa, issuing over 35 million active cards since launch.
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