In 2001, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) embarked on complete deregulation of the telecommunications market by issuing the Digital Mobile License (DML) to two private operators, thus breaking the monopoly of the incumbent sector operator, Nigerian Telecommunications. Limited (NITEL).
Today, the telecommunications industry has registered tremendous growth in all market segments. The industry has witnessed quite impressive statistics, showing how telecom policy and government decisions have continued to influence the growth of Nigeria’s digital revolution, marked by positive multiplier effects in other sectors of the economy.
Historically, the Wireless Telegraphy Act (WTA) enacted in 1961 and which preceded all other existing laws in the sector provided clarity on the nature of regulatory management of communications in Nigeria.
Essentially, the Act seeks to regulate the licensing, location and operation of wireless telegraphy services in Nigeria. Combined with the Nigerian Communications Commission Ordinance 75 of 1992 and the National Telecommunications Policy (NTP) of 2000, the WTA provided the springboard for the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) of 2003, which set the tone for deregulation and liberalization of the telecommunications sector.
It is fair to say that Nigeria’s communication policies over the last 22 years have brought about remarkable, concrete and measurable revolutionary changes. The NCA 2003, which is the main regulatory instrument for the telecommunications sector and is now being considered for revision considering the rapid developments in the digital space, provides a firmer foundation on which the telecommunications sector gained prominence and impact. in the last 22 years. .
Suffice it to say that between 2001 and now, Nigeria undertook several forward-thinking policy and regulatory initiatives that have set Nigeria on the path of digital growth and innovation.
In specific terms, the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) 2020-2030 is a major policy driving the digital revolution in Nigeria. The NDEPS, combined with other policy documents, strategies, regulations, guidelines, and directions, developed by NCC, facilitated the implementation of the Commission’s mandate.
Other policy strategies include the National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025, the Nigerian National Policy on 5G Networks for the Digital Economy, the Commission’s ongoing Strategic Management Plan (SMP) 2020-2024 and the Strategic Vision 2021-2025 (also called SVP). II, and continuation of the Eight Point Agenda that was implemented between 2015 and 2020).
The SVP II is in fact an intentional, conscious, and dedicated effort by NCC management to streamline the telecommunications component of the Federal Government’s key policy vision (including the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan) toward more strategic implementation and measurable.
The Commission has championed the implementation of these policies on digital connectivity and access through various initiatives and regulatory interventions to ensure that more Nigerians have access to affordable digital services.
The NDEPS 2020 – 2030 revolves around the following eight pillars to accelerate the development of a digital economy in Nigeria:
- Development regulation (effective regulation of the digital and ICT sector in a way that enables and enhances development).
- Digital Literacy and Skills (provide political backing for mass training of Nigerians from all walks of life so they can gain digital literacy and other digital skills).
iii. Solid Infrastructure (deployment of fixed and mobile infrastructure to deepen broadband penetration in the country) and
- Service infrastructure (support for government digital services and provision of robust digital platforms to drive the digital economy).
- Soft infrastructure (strengthening public confidence in the use of digital technologies and participation in the digital economy).
- Development and Promotion of Digital Services (development of a vibrant digital ecosystem that supports Innovation Driven Enterprises (IDE) and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in a way that generates innovation).
vii. Digital society and emerging technologies (focus on linking the development of the digital economy to well-being indices in the lives of ordinary citizens; mentoring startups in emerging technologies to enable them to implement their solutions).
viii. Development and adoption of indigenous content (provision of a policy framework that gives preference to digitally-skilled Nigerians for projects funded by the government in accordance with Executive Orders 003 and 005 of President Muhammadu Buhari).
The NCC, in line with its commitment to regulatory excellence, has tirelessly pursued the implementation of NDEPS to achieve the objectives of the Federal Government. Among these objectives are: a broadband penetration goal of 70 percent in four years; Accelerate the digitization of government processes and improve service delivery, transparency and accountability.
Others are to improve trust and security around digital processes and activities; attract and grow digital jobs in all sectors of the economy; develop the ecosystem of technology start-ups by actively promoting innovation and entrepreneurship.
Support the digital literacy of Nigerian citizens, businesses and government workers and enable them to acquire cutting-edge digital skills; achieve a digital literacy level of 95% in Nigeria in the next 10 years; develop a digital education curriculum to meet the current and future needs of the Digital Economy.
Ensure that indigenous technology companies can actively participate in government-funded technology programs; and to ensure that policy and regulatory instruments are fit for purpose and supportive of the digital business environment. The implementation of these policies and strategies by the Commission and other interested parties has resulted in an impressive growth of the economy that goes to impressive statistics published by the telecommunications sector.
Today, active telecom subscribers have grown significantly to 218.6 million from approximately 400,000 phone lines added in the country in 2000, on the eve of liberalization. This represents a teledensity of 114.7 percent. Basic Internet subscriptions grew from zero to 152.9 million today, while broadband subscriptions exceed 88.2 million, representing a penetration of 46.24% as of November 2022.
The industry has also become a major contributor to our national economy with the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry contributing 18.94 percent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as of the second quarter of 2022, according to the latest data published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Of this, the telecommunications sector alone contributed 15 percent of GDP.
The contribution of ICTs to GDP is by far the second largest contributor to the national economy, apart from the agricultural sector. From an investment of less than $500 million in 2001, the investment profile in the nation’s telecommunications sector has also exceeded $70 billion. The telecommunication sector has also created direct and indirect jobs for millions of Nigerians to date.
With all these growth rates in the telecommunications industry, stemming from the effective implementation of various telecommunications policies and strategy documents, the industry has continued to redefine the way in which operational and professional activities are carried out with greater efficiency and effectiveness. Access to the Internet and, more importantly, broadband, has become very central to personal and official life.
To emphasize, the influence of telecom/communications policies, strategies and regulatory frameworks on Nigeria’s digital revolution has been phenomenal and the NCC will continue to do everything possible in fulfilling the mandate of the Commission, especially to facilitate the deployment of band broad, which is critical to diversify the Nigerian economy and build our national development in line with the National Digital Economy agenda.
Stakeholders believe that the communications industry, under the leadership of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, will take a leap forward and retain its current leading role in the telecommunication space to take Nigeria to the next level of development.