The Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Mobolaji Johnson, said on Tuesday in Abuja that the Federal Government would soon launch a $15 million ICT venture capital fund.
Johnson disclosed this to newsmen after presenting the budget performance of her ministry to President Goodluck Jonathan.
She said that the fund, which would be substantially private-driven, would be used to finance commercially viable projects, ideas and initiatives in the ICT sector.
The minister said that the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) would anchor the fund and contribute about $3.6 million to it.
She said the balance of $11.4 million would be sourced from local and international investors, and that the fund would be managed by independent managers, who would work with the ICT incubation team.
Johnson said the managers would identify projects or initiative that “we believe are great ideas that will be commercially successful’’.
“We will use the initial capital development fund of 15 million dollars to fund the development of those ideas until they become commercially viable.”
“Basically, the reward is when they get a commercial viability and you sell them off or you do an Initial Public Offer (IPO) like they do with Facebook and all those companies where the returns go to the investors”.
“As we become more successful we will raise additional money.’’
The minister said that the country had yet to record the expected success in the telecommunication sector because of lack of necessary facilities.
According to her, the perceived success recorded with the increase in the number of telephone lines from 400,000 to 101 million was not enough when compared to other African countries.
She said that inadequate infrastructure was also responsible for the poor quality of service being rendered by service providers to the subscribers.
“When you look at the mobile penetration in Nigeria, we are about 60 per cent which is actually one of the lowest in Africa.
“What is the reason for the poor quality of service? It is the first part that I mentioned, poor infrastructure,’’ she said.
Johnson said that the United Kingdom with a population of about 67 million and less land mass, had over three million sq. km of fibre optic and 60,000 base station.
She said that Nigeria with about 167 million people had one million sq km of fibre optic and 20,000 base stations.
“The industry has grown very quickly and we are not building up infrastructure as quickly as we need to.
“And so what we need to do is to actually build infrastructure, and that is why we are working with the network operators to build infrastructure.”
The minister identified policies, the state governments and destructive tendency of Nigerians as part of the challenges facing the development of ICT infrastructure.
For instance, she said that the procedure for acquiring the right of way for the fibre optic in the states was “protracted, cumbersome and expensive.”
According to her, the Federal Government time limit for approval for right of way is 21 days with a cost of N145,000 per km, while some states charged between N1 million to N2 million per km to rollout the fibre in their domain.
The minister said that there were also reports of willful damage to telecom infrastructure by saboteurs.
She said that 9.8 per cent of the ministry’s N9.2 billion capital budget had been released, while only 16.5 per cent of the amount released had been used.
Group Makes Case For Technology, Entrepreneurial Skills Dev
As part of efforts to redirect the minds of youths towards positive thinking and creativity, a youth body, the Community Reformed Youths Initiative (CRYI), says it is ready to win the youths back via technology and entrepreneurial skills that will sharpen the minds of young people.
The National Coordinator of the group, Engr Gogo Wenike-Briggs, said this during an interview with newsmen in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Wenike-Briggs, however, said that such venture can only be achieved through a public private partnership arrangement.
According to him, his association which has manufacturing and production of goods and services as its focal points, will not rest on its oars until the whole youths are technologically up-to-date.
“The main aim of Community Of Reformed Youths Initiative is to help educate the government to create avenues for new industries through public private partnerships, encourage and support manufacturing and production organisations to have a welcome environment, acceptable and easy paying tax process”, he said.
He said that his group would move for policies that will encourage entrepreneurial drive and technology in communities so as to train, empower and improve professional competence among the youths.
“Our target is to have leaders and professionals in the youth sector to successfully work through formal and non-formal education on improving the entrepreneurial, employability and transversal skills of young people they work with within their organisations and communities”, he explained.
Wenike-Briggs insisted that the only way to combat youth unemployment and promote active participation in democratic life in Rivers State and the country at large is by creating employment for the youths through technology.
“To increase participants’ knowledge and skills in several communities on using new technologies and methods as tools to boost young people’s entrepreneurial, practical and transversal skills can ultimately lead to employment or starting their own business”, he said.
He hinted of the group’s plan to introduce at least 10 international cooperatives and 50 local cooperatives within five to 10 years, while creating workable environments that will boost the businesses of both indigenes and non- indigenes.
By: King Onunwor
Airtel Ranks Nigeria’s Best In Broad Band Coverage Speed
A newly published report has ranked Airtel Nigeria, a leading mobile telecommunications company, as Nigeria’s best in broadband coverage speed, following a nationwide broadband assessment by Umlaut.
Airtel confirmed this development in a statement it issued in Lagos.
Umlaut is an international company full-service cross-industry, end-to-end that offers advisory and fulfilment services to clients globally.
Chief Executive Officer, Umlaut Telecommunications, Hakan Ekmen, said that based on their assessment, Airtel achieved the best-rated broadband coverage and user download speed among other mobile network operators in the country.
“In our nationwide assessment, 82.8 per cent of the urban built-up areas and 83.9 per cent of the population areas were tested.
“An extensive analysis revealed that 263,000 users contributed 707.4-million samples in 24 weeks from October 2020 until early April 2021.
“We concluded that Airtel Nigeria is Best in the Tests, achieving the highest Umlaut score with 697 points”, Ekmen said
“Airtel scored the highest with 697 points, while MTN emerged second with 663 points, 9mobile with 591 and Glo with 486 points.
“The tests were carried out with Umlaut’s crowdsourcing methodology, which was used to evaluate the mobile networks in Nigeria”, he added.
Ekmen noted that umlaut’s sophisticated methodology enabled the results to be compared across network operators globally, adding that the transparency it provided not only boosted network quality and performance, but also improved experience for every customer.
He commended Airtel for emerging the best-rated, citing this remarkable feat as a positive step towards attaining digital equality in Africa.
However, Ekmen added that while the results in Nigeria were quite impressive, there was still room for improvement in global comparison.
The competition in Nigeria’s telecoms landscape was working favourably for consumers in the country, he noted.
Twitter Writes FG Over Suspension, Seeks Dialogue
The Federal Government yesterday confirmed that Twitter has formally written to seek for dialogue on issues leading to the indefinite suspension of its operations in the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, confirmed this when he featured on “Politics Nationwide,’’ a Radio Nigeria call-in programme in Abuja.
“I can confirm that Twitter has written the Federal Government that they are ready to talk.
“As we have always maintained, the door is not locked and we are open minded but Twitter must work toward it,” he said.
The minister reiterated the government’s position that it would not tolerate any platform that would be used to destabilise the country.
Mohammed said among other conditions for Twitter to resume operation in Nigeria, there must be an agreement as to what contents it could post.
He said Twitter and other platforms must also register as a Nigerian company, obtain license from the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and be guided by the rules of the licensing as well as pay taxes.
According to the minister, regulation of social media platforms is becoming a global practice.
He said most countries were just waking up to the fact that the platforms were becoming more powerful than even government and needed to be regulated.
“Singapore, Algeria, Pakistan, Turkey regulate the social media, Australia has done so.
“ Even EU that does not have particular laws on social media has made recommendations in a white paper,” he said.
The minister said that the UK initiated a new law which would make social media companies to be fined up to 18 million pounds (about N10.8 billion) if they failed to stamp out online abuses.
He said Google was fined 220 million Euros (about N110 billion) on June 7 by French Competition Regulator for abusing its dominance in the online advertising market in France.
Similarly, the minister said the Federal Cabinet of Pakistan had approved a new set of rules to regulate social media.
In the rules, according to the minister, companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even TikTok were to register and open offices in Pakistan.
He said in compliance with the new online broadcasting rule of Turkey, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video had obtained licences from that country’s broadcasting authority.
Mohammed noted that regulation of the social media was not synonymous with stifling press freedom.
“We must not confuse press freedom with irresponsibility.
“How can you stay in your country and allow your own platform to be used to propagate war in another country?
“The suspension of Twitter is to ensure that no particular platform is used to cause war in Nigeria.
“Secondly, to ensure that whoever is making money in Nigeria must be made to pay tax.
“Our appeal to Nigerians is that they should understand where we are coming from.
“We have no intention to stifle people’s freedom or to cut off the source of livelihood of anybody.
“There must be a country devoid of war before we can talk of freedom and a source of living,’’ he said.
The Federal Government had on June 4 suspended indefinitely the operations of the microblogging and social networking service in Nigeria.
Mohammed, who announced the suspension, cited the persistent use of the platform for activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
He said the Federal Government had also directed the NBC to immediately commence the process of licensing all Over the Top (OTT) and social media operations in the country.
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