NCC: Digital Enabler of ‘Renewed Hope’ Agenda

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The executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission, Dr. Aminu Maida.
The executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission, Dr. Aminu Maida.

In Nigeria, burgeoning young, tech-savvy population is actively exploring the benefits of digital technologies. This exploration is driven by rapidly expanding internet access and a steady broadband penetration rate, currently at about 43 percent. The country’s digital economy is poised for significant growth, positively impacting various sectors and benefiting the nation through enhanced connectivity and digital skills.

Globally, digital transformation is occurring at a record pace. During the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work and virtual collaboration tools became essential. Platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet became crucial for meetings, conferences, and team collaboration. E-commerce and online retail have revolutionized how consumers order and receive goods and services. Even traditionally brick-and-mortar businesses are adopting digital solutions to improve customer experience. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are also revolutionizing our lives for the better, impacting education, healthcare, public services, energy management, and more. 

Underlying this global digital transformation is the indispensable role of telecommunications infrastructure. Universal, affordable, reliable, and fast telecom services are becoming social rights. Mobile networks and data centers form the backbone of digital transformation, enabling the storage and processing of large amounts of data and the integration of digital technologies into numerous use cases.

For President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the ‘Renewed Hope’ agenda draws us all to a more promising outlook. A key part of his agenda is to empower and support the youth and women by harnessing emerging sectors such as the digital economy. In delivering this vision, the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, unveiled a blueprint aptly titled “Accelerating our Collective Prosperity through Technical Efficiency,” aiming to support Nigeria’s economic growth by enhancing productivity facilitated by digital innovation.

Recognising the criticality of resilient telecommunications infrastructure to a robust digital economy, Dr. Tijani’s Strategic Agenda 2023–2027 sets ambitious targets. These include a 50 per cent improvement in Quality of Service (QoS) by the end of 2024, boosting Nigeria’s broadband penetration rate to 70 per cent by the end of 2025, delivering data download speeds of 25 Mbps in urban areas and 10 Mbps in rural areas by the end of 2025, providing coverage for at least 80 per cent of the country’s population by the end of 2026, reducing the gap of unconnected Nigerians in rural areas from 61 per cent to less than 20 per cent by 2027, and securing a 300–500 percent increase in broadband investment by the end of 2027.

Drawing from the Strategic Agenda of the ministry, the executive vice chairman and chief executive officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Aminu Maida has outlined three strategic focus areas for the Commission: the consumers, the industry and licensees, and the government.

Dr. Maida’s approach to delivering on President Bola Tinubu’s ‘Renewed Hope’ agenda comes from the recognition that each of these stakeholders has unique perspectives and different, occasionally paradoxical expectations of the Commission. His goal is to forge a path that carefully balances each stakeholder’s needs while meeting their expectations. 

For example, Dr. Maida places the consumers—who are central to his focus—at the forefront. His approach emphasizes ensuring that they receive an enhanced quality of experience, beyond the narrow, technically evaluated quality of service. Quality of experience considers all touchpoints along the consumer’s journey in using telecom services, from selection through onboarding, usage, support, and off-boarding. This means that consumers are empowered to make the right network selection, enjoy seamless onboarding into their chosen network, receive quality service at fair costs, obtain responsive customer service, and enjoy protected off-boarding if they choose to leave the network. To address consumer complaints about data depletion, the Commission has directed Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to conduct an independent audit of their billing systems and is concluding a consultation process to simplify tariff plans. These initiatives aim to provide enhanced transparency for the consumer.

Under Dr. Maida’s leadership, the Commission has adopted an approach where more granular data is collected from operators and analyzed to determine the quality of service at very local levels. This allows for the deployment of optimized solutions or regulatory actions where needed.

On the side of the industry and licensees, Dr. Maida’s focus is on forging a resilient industry and enhancing the delivery of regulatory services. Since he came on board, the Commission has shown commitment to tackling industry debt issues more seriously. It has embarked on critical advocacy initiatives to address long-term challenges in the sector, including advocating for the designation of telecom infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure. The Commission has successfully persuaded over six states to waive Right of Way (RoW) fees and is initiating discussions with more states. Under Dr. Maida’s leadership, the Commission is also engaging with the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms to address multiple taxation issues in the telecom sector.

To ensure that the industry is aligned with current realities, the Commission is reviewing its extant regulatory instruments and licensing frameworks. For instance, quality of service regulations have been updated to incorporate key performance indicators (KPIs) for 5G and other participants that are critical to the quality of service.

By achieving expected QoS KPIs, high-speed internet connectivity, and fostering a resilient and innovative telecommunications industry, the Commission is actively supporting the Ministry’s vision of boosting economic growth and productivity through technological innovation. This will deliver on the promise of ‘Renewed Hope’ for all Nigerians.

Muoka is the director of public affairs at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Reuben Muoka
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