Mr Chairman; Your Excellencies; Secretary General of the ITU; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
May I start by relaying the greetings and best wishes of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and of the people of Nigeria. Permit me to also commend the Government and people of the United Arab Emirate for their unparalleled hospitality and to the International Telecommunication Union for the excellent arrangements made for this Conference.
ICT development in Nigeria in the past 4 years
The World Telecommunication Development Conference 2014 presents us all with an opportunity to collectively launch into the future, guided by the lessons we have learnt in the years since our last meeting in 2010. Nigeria brings important and unique experiences to this gather that we believe are relevant as we plan the next 4 years of ICT development.
For one, at the last WTDC, the Ministry I represent did not exist in Nigeria and as such responsibility for ICT development was domiciled in various agencies of government that at times held differing opinions on the priorities the country should pursue.
The creation of the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology by President Jonathan in 2011 was therefore the catalyst for a more coordinated and coherent approach to the development of the ICT sector, and its ability to support the socio-economic development of Nigeria as a whole. The Ministry has articulated Government's position and direction on issues that are key to ICT development at global and national levels.
There exist cogent policies, frameworks and guidelines: a National ICT Policy, a National Broadband Roadmap, Local Content Guidelines as well as (draft) legislation and regulation to advance their implementation.
In the time since WTDC 2010, Nigeria has established itself as one of the fastest growing (and as such one of the most important) mobile cellular markets in the World. As at January this year there were over one hundred and seventy two (172) million active sim cards in the country; yet with an estimated population of 170 million; prevalence of multiple ownership of sim cards; and insufficient mobile coverage in rural areas, Nigeria still has tremendous opportunity for growth. Proof of this is that whilst over US$25billion has been invested in the Nigerian telecoms market since the inception of GSM in 2001 to mid-2012; operators have committed to invest an estimated US$6billion in the (near) future.
Opportunities also exist in the data and Internet markets. Internet users in Nigeria have risen from forty five (45) million in December 2011, to forty eight (48) million by June 2012. That is three million new users in just six months. Figures we have from the four major operators in the country (MTN, GLO, Airtel and Etisalat) show that between January 2013 and January 2014 the number of active data sim cards doubled from thirty two (32) million to sixty four (64) million.
Unwavering commitment to affordable broadband
Where do you aim to go from here (over the next four years)? The theme for WTDC 2014 is Broadband for Sustainable Development; and this is very much in line with our focus in Nigeria.
We will continue to roll-out and strengthen ICT infrastructure (telecommunications, information technology and postal services) and to ensure that they are accessible and affordable to the entire population. Furthermore, Nigeria is a member of the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) and earlier this month we held our first national A4AI multistakeholder forum - the aim is to consolidate and direct the capacities of stakeholders towards increasing the affordability of broadband in Nigeria.
We have implemented initiatives to Connect Nigeria and have found that creating an enabling environment for the private sector to invest in the sector yield significant dividends. We have for example streamlined and shortened the process for procuring relevant permits and licenses, and are reducing the cost of doing business in Nigeria by getting important concessions that streamline the payments ICT infrastructure companies have to make. We have for example drastically reduced right-of-way charges, in some areas by as much as 500%.
Our focus will also be on Connecting Nigerians. As we see the ICT infrastructure being rolled out, we are asking ourselves the "what next" question. How will this infrastructure be used? What will it be used for? How do we get as many people as possible to adopt and appropriate ICTs?
To this end the Nigerian Government has made students its top priority, we have established a National Research and Education Network, we are establishing computer labs and public access venues in schools and communities and subsidising internet connectivity in these locations. We are also providing training in the use of ICTs and funding the creation of content that is useful and relevant to Nigerians. We are also subsidising the purchase of laptops by university students and have strong partnerships with Ministries that are delivering their services with the aid of ICTs; Health and Agriculture being the most notable at this point.
Earlier this year we launched a nationwide digital awareness campaign under the slogan Connected Nigeria, Connected Nigerians with the objective of increasing the capacity, confidence, and trust Nigerians have in their digital lives.
ICTs and the diversification of the Nigerian economy - addressing youth unemployment
The Nigerian Government is also focusing on harnessing the economic potential of ICTs and looking at ways that its local ICT industry can grow and increase in global influence.
In increasing the economic contribution of the ICT industry we are working to support key sectors - lowering barriers to entry and increasing the participation of Nigerian companies. We have established mechanisms to identify talent and ideas and have created capacity to incubate and accelerate such talents/ideas, and provide access to markets and finance.
We are also aware that most new jobs that will be created in Nigeria will occur at the intersection between technology and the services sector and have initiated a range of initiatives to promote ideation and innovation in Nigeria. Our NaijaCloud digital jobs initiative, creates awareness and increases the use of microworks and elancing platforms, and has facilitated 10,000 Nigerians to be revenue earning online workers in the last 12 months. We understand the pressing need to address the high rate of unemployment (and particularly youth unemployment) in our country and will are collaborating with the Rockerfellow Foundation to expand this programme in selected States of the Federation.
A connected Government; nationally and globally
ICTs are invaluable to the process of governance and the Nigerian Government is increasing its adoption of ICTs to provide better response to citizens' demands, improve service delivery, and make administration more efficient. We are doing this by connecting government, creating an informed citizenry and increasing online service delivery.
We are improving coordination within Federal Government through establishment of a professional ICT cadre in the civil service. With respect to infrastructure our IT shared services model 1-GOV.net was last year awarded the United Nations Public Service Award in "Promoting Whole-of-Government Approaches in the Information Age" category. We are collaborating with the South Korean government to develop a national e-government strategy and will establish an e-government institute that will build the necessary capacity.
Our Open Data programme is increasing the number of non-sensitive government datasets that are available online in accordance with our country's Freedom of Information Act. This programme builds on existing initiatives promoting 'openness' such as the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Act, National Bureau of Statistics Open Data Portal, Bureau for Public Procurement Federal Tenders Portal, and release of the Federal Government budget online.
Our first hackathon on open data from the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) has resulted in three innovative mobile applications that will be refined at the government-facilitated (private-sector run) iDEA incubator.
We are mindful that we are doing all of this at a time when citizens are perceived to be increasingly sceptical of government's use of technology.
ICTs are tools - because it is open to all, the same tools that are considered catalysts of socio-economic development is also the one used by terrorists to 'distribute' their 'product' - fear. The same way ingenuity in utilising the Internet has brought unprecedented social advancements so too criminal networks have in an ethereal manner utilised the Internet to accomplish complex criminal acts. How should we - as a society - respond to this?
Nigeria is actively engaged in the key forums working to answer this question. Our goal is to find a balance between security on the one hand, and privacy on the other for Nigerians; and we extend our cooperation in working with stakeholders that can help us achieve this.
Conclusion: Nigeria in Global ICT Leadership Roles
I would like to conclude by introducing and presenting the country's candidacy for re-election into the ITU Council and Mr Shola Taylor's candidature for the post of Deputy Secretary General of the ITU.
As a country we have valuable experience to share and are recognised globally for the achievements we have made in regulating and developing our telecommunications sector. The recent auction of spectrum in the 2.3GHz band provides yet another example of our ability to auction critical internet resources in a fair and transparent manner. We have also made strides in using our Universal Access Provision Fund to expand access in unserved and under-served areas of Nigeria.
Mr Taylor has over 30 years of experience in the ICT sector, most of which were gained in senior positions. Mr Taylor has worked in both the private and public sectors at national, regional and international levels. Specific to the International Telecommunications Union, Mr Taylor:
- has worked as a senior member of staff for 7 years (as Project Director, RASCOM)
- was twice elected by the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference to the ITU Radio Regulations Board (each time for a mandatory period of 4 years). He was elected Vice Chairperson of the Board in 2004 and Chairperson of the Board in 2005.
- has served as a member of the delegation of Nigeria to numerous ITU Conferences/Councils
Our request is that you favourably consider, and support our candidature for these roles.
I close by again thanking the Government and people of the United Arab Emirates and the International Telecommunication Union for the organisation of this Convention.