The continued dependence on oil as the primary source of revenue in the country has been faulted by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), while recommending the development of the Information and Communications Technology sector as a viable substitute.
Speaking at a Technology Conference with the theme: “Beyond Oil: ICT As A Viable Alternative For Wealth Creation’’ which held in Lagos, ATCON President, Olusola Teniola, advocated the implementation of measures that will see the ICT sector could serve as a replacement or a greater supplement, to the Oil and Gas sector in terms of national revenue generation.
Teniola, while noting that ATCON had at different fora emphasized the urgent need to diversify partly or completely from depending on the revenue derivable from oil, to an ICT-driven economy in running the nation’s overall economy, said that with the free fall of global oil price, Nigeria needs to look for a way out.
He said this could be achieved by devising viable policy pathways and economic sectors that will enhance national wealth and create employment for the populace. “And one of the surest way out, is to give due attention to the development of the Information and Communication Technology sector. The price of oil has continued to fall uncontrollably and this poses a threat to our national economy. For example in India, China, Singapore and Brazil, ICT is used as the basis by these countries to develop innovative solutions, for example, cars that use electric / solar power energy.”
The ATCON President listed some of the interventions the government should take to include stemming the imbalance in the supply and demand of foreign exchange; encouraging with some incentives, the establishment of companies that manufacture ICT components or assemble them in Nigeria and for government to further sponsor ICT parks. He noted that currently, more than 70% of ICT components are currently being imported from abroad.
He also said there should be a refocusing of educational policies to encourage studying of science-related courses; increment in the government budget allocation to ICT to encourage exportation of products and services; and enactment of appropriate policies.
“It should be emphasized that the petroleum industry which used to be the cash cow for our nation, from a foreign exchange earning perspective, is not doing so well right now and this is a global issue that will take some time to recover. The direct implication of this is that we may not be able to finance our budget without resorting to further government borrowing. ICT can as a matter of fact serve as the new cash cow for the country provided the right polices are put in place,” Teniola opined.
While accusing the government of not enabling the deployment of broadband through multiply taxation, unbearable cost of Rights of Way, and non-implementation of telecom infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) thereby allowing for incessant destruction of such infrastructure, Teniola reiterated the need to deploy Broadband as an economic growth enabler.
“If all these challenges are removed, then ICT sector would conveniently serve as a perfect substitute and/or at the very least a complement for revenue derived from the Oil and Gas sector, and our dream as a nation for pervasive and ubiquitous broadband would soon become a reality in Nigeria. Broadband has the potential to solve the unemployment challenges which are confronting our economy if those obstacles just shared with you are removed. It would create new segments like e-medicine, e-education and so on for youth employment as witnessed in India and other Pacific Rim based countries,” he concluded.