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NCC Seeks Robust PPP to Drive Digital Infrastructure

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NCC

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has called for more innovative Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) approaches aimed to make telecommunications infrastructure safer, more resilient and robust in Nigeria.

This was made by Mr Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, while delivering his keynote address at two-day Virtual Information Communication Technology & Telecommunications (ICTEL) organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) themed Disruptions, Resilience and Governance in Digital Economy.

He said the agency was always exploring means to attract more investment into the sector.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that the next frontier for enriching digital economy globally is through sustained investment in broadband or high-speed Internet access.

Speaking on Exploring Public-Private Collaboration for a Robust Digital Infrastructure, Regulations, Investment and Policy, he said that the concept of PPP has become one of the commonly used models of collaboration among stakeholders to fast track socio-economic development whether at the global, regional and national levels.

According to him, in 2017, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) signed a joint declaration in Geneva, “on the advancement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular, industrialization, infrastructure development and innovation”.

The UNIDO and ITU, driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 member states and over 700 private sector entities and academic institutional membership, planned to strengthen country-level collaborations.

The two agencies, Mr Danbatta said, “resolved to contribute to global, regional and national efforts toward achieving SDG9, and particularly through action plans that are designed to attract public-private partnerships and investment.

“The collaboration between ITU and UNIDO, thus, represents a very important commitment from global organisations to deliver measurable and sustainable solutions within countries, towards achieving the SDGs, with a focus on “infrastructure, industry and innovation,” through a PPP arrangement.

“It is on record that this kind of partnership is helping to fast track the realization of SDG9 with derivable quantifiable benefits to industry, including small and medium-sized enterprises in emerging economies.

“Similarly, it is particularly of interest that the African Development Bank (AfDB), in a White Paper on PPP Framework released in September 2020, was emphatic that the infrastructure gap in African countries acts as an impediment to their economic growth and development”.

According to the White Paper, the gaps impact not only the economic situation of the citizens of Africa but also the countries’ global competitiveness.

The paper also estimates that poor infrastructure shaves off 2 per cent of the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rates.

“Suffice it to say that, the role of public-private partnership in infrastructure development in Nigeria cannot be overemphasised because an adequate, robust and functioning infrastructure is the bedrock of communal and societal development.

“Therefore, to meet future challenges, our industries and infrastructure must be upgraded by evolving an enduring PPP model that services all the sectors of the economy.

“Objectively, the high level of infrastructure deficit and its attendant effect on socio-economic development in Nigeria explains government’s concern and search for an alternative means of providing infrastructure for Nigeria’s teeming population.

“Thus, in 2005, the Federal Government established the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) with a clear objective to accelerate investment in national infrastructure through private sector funding; and to assist the Federal Government of Nigeria and its Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) to establish and implement effective PPP processes.

“It is gratifying that state governments have also adopted variants of PPP models in order to tackle the challenge of infrastructure in their respective jurisdictions”, the EVC recalled.

The NCC boss added that if the telecom and ICT sector is the real ‘infrastructure of infrastructure’ as it is often referred to because of its impact, efficiency and effectiveness on the growth of other sectors, it stands to reason, that the telecom sector is the most important sphere PPP should be adopted.

Interestingly, a 2012 World Bank report already documented how PPP projects have been used to provide broadband access nationally, regionally, or in rural areas to improve broadband access to unserved and underserved locations.

Indeed, the World Bank equally revealed in its 2021 report PPP that the PPP scheme is also helping in key areas of supporting the development of innovative policies, actions, standards and technologies in order to connect the unconnected in any nation, create jobs, enable efficient natural resource utilisation, and electronic waste management.

“The report also states that Public-Private Partnerships have also served as organising principles to facilitate product interoperability, reduce the digital and gender divides, and support growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

“In Nigeria, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is particularly noted for its faith in strategic collaboration and partnership as a central principle of its stakeholders’ relationship management and regulatory activities.

“Our daily regulatory processes are marked by consultations with a wide spectra of stakeholders as well as strategic partnering and collaboration with both private sector players and other sister public sector organisations”.

He said that following the liberalisation of the telecoms sector in 2001, the Commission has continued to facilitate investment inflow into the country’s digital space through licensing of many private sector players, who are deploying services in a different segment of the nation’s telecom market.

“This has resulted in rollout of massive infrastructure ranging from the deployment of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) and laying of thousands of kilometres of fibre optic cables to every nook and cranny of the country.

“Hence, the sector has grown significantly in investment with significant access to an array of voice, data and other kinds of enterprises.

“The commission has also continued to enhance existing infrastructure through the licensing of a category of private sector players known as Infrastructure Companies (InfraCo), who are to deploy fibre optic cable on a wholesale basis across the country with broadband Point of Access (PoA) in each of the 774 Local Government Areas of the country.

This InfraCo scheme is running on a PPP arrangement, where the government provides a counterpart fund as a subsidy to stimulate faster, more robust and resilient broadband infrastructure rollout across the country.

While broadband penetration in Nigeria has reached 45 per cent at the moment, from less than 6 per cent in 2015, and by that fact stimulating digital activities in the country, there still exist access gaps which the Commission is making efforts to bridge.

It is noteworthy that the hitherto existing access gaps of 217 identified in the country have been reduced to 114 through increased collaboration between the Commission and stakeholders in the telecom ecosystem.

“Hence, the InfraCo project being implemented by NCC and other similar regulatory initiatives which has PPP component are in line with policy expectations of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025; the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) 2020-2030; the NCC Strategic Management Plan (SMP) 2020-2024, as well as a number of regulatory instruments and frameworks which envisioned the PPP model as a central organising principle for fast-tracking the development of Nigeria’s telecoms industry”, he said.

The EVC said that NCC is renowned for its tradition of engaging in robust stakeholder consultation on the development of its various regulations and policy initiatives.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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MTN Partners Huawei to Deploy Premium Wi-Fi Service in Nigeria

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MTN Group Premium Wifi service

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.

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Cyber Attacks: Africa Must Encourage Digital Skills Development—Experts

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Adopt Digital Skills

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.

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Interswitch Receives Fresh Funds from LeapFrog, Tana

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Interswitch

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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