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While assuring on working towards desirable, increasing global competitiveness, wealth and job creation, Minister of Communications and Technology, Mrs Omobola Olubusola Johnson has said that Nigeria should replicate the successes recorded in the telecommunications industry in the IT arena.

The minister, in an interactive session with IT Journalists last week in Lagos disclosed that Nigeria has the highest number of subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa, disclosing in the process that Nigeria has surpassed South Africa.

lMrs Omobola Johnson, Minister of Communications & Technology

'We have a very strong telecoms policy regulatory environment. We have the highest number of subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa. We have surpassed South Africa.

Even though we have surpassed South Africa in terms of mobile subscription, our GDP is still lower than South Africa. In fact, despite the success of our telecoms industry, the ICT sector accounted for only 3.5 of our GDP compared with 10% for South Africa. So a lot needs to be done,' she said.

On regulatory environment
According to her, Nigeria has a very successful telecoms industry that has helped a progressive and quality regulatory environment. 'The Nigerian telecoms policy is an exemplar all over the world and that is the reason why we have made a great success in the telecoms industry. We have a very strong telecoms policy regulatory environment. We have high number of subscribers in the sub-Saharan Africa.

'We need to replicate the success of telecoms in the IT industry as well. It is becoming less and less about voice. Our success in telecoms is much around voice. We need to move to data and that is really where the growth will come up. Data, meaning the internet.

'Our penetration right now is just 50%. We need to increase penetration to the rural and semi urban areas.The ministry was birthed out of years of canvassing by key stakeholder for a supervising ministry to coordinate, facilitate and drive the development of the ICT sector,' she explained.

Mandate of the new ministry
The first mandate of the new ministry, according to her is facilitating universal, unbiquitous and cost effective access to communications infrastructure that of course includes a national fibre optic backbone.

'Access for all regardless of where you are is our mandate' she added.

The second mandate, she said is to promote utilization of ICT in all spheres of life to optimize the communications infrastructure - digital content, domestic software applications, the delivery of private and public services.

'That is e-business and e-government. Encouraging working with the stakeholders in the industry to ensure that this infrastructure is uses maximally to create job, create wealth and increase IT to GDP.

'Our third mandate is to promote and facilitate the development of ICT industry and in so doing increase the contribution of the ICT industry to GDP. That is to say, we need to move away from an economy that is more dependent on resources, the one that is more dependent on services to the one that is dependent on knowledge.

'The fourth mandate is deploy ICTs to drive transparency in governance and improve the quality and cost effectiveness of public service delivery, and to leverage communications technology to increase the effectiveness of government.'

What ICT can do for Nigeria
For Johnson, the aspirations of what ICT can do for Nigeria are ambitious.

'We believe that policies, programes and plans that will be embarked upon to deliver on this mandate will provide a launch pad for Nigeria to leap-frog from a resource dependent to a knowledge-based economy.

Nigeria can be transformed into a major ICT hub where knowledge, technology and innovation are used as tools to not only drive wealth creation and empower citizens of the country but also deployed to provide security, promote efficiency and national competitiveness for sustainable economic development' she said.

The new Ministry and its agencies
To encourage private-public partnership, the new ministry, she assured will work closely with the private sector of the Nigerian economy, international partners and other supporting governments through its implementing agencies which include the Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC), Nigerian Communications Satellite, (NigComSat), the National Information Development Agency, (NITDA), Galaxy Backbone and the Nigerian Postal Service, (NIPOST).

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