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NCC Working On Strategic Vision Plan 2021-2025- Prof Danbatta

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NCC Working On Strategic Vision Plan 2021-2025- Prof Danbatta, SiliconNigeria

. Cost of Data Down by 50% Since January

. Airtel Refunding Subscribers N100m SMS Surcharge

The Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Danbatta has disclosed to SILICON NIGERIA that the Commission will soon unveil its next Strategic Vision Plan 2020-2025.

In an exclusive interview with the online tech medium, after receiving the ZIK Prize for Business Leadership, he said the Strategic Vision Plan (SVP), an action plan peculiar to the NCC, was designed to span a period of over five years (2015-2020).

“We are working on the next plan, Strategic Vision Plan II, which has some of the items from the first plan. The first step we are taking is to unveil another plan that will guide us going forward for the next five years (2021- 2025). One of the things we were able to accomplish was broadband penetration, where we surpassed 30 per cent penetration.

“There are so many things to be done in the sector. If there is no plan, we may not be able to do those things we planned for the sector. 2021 will see the unveiling of the SVP II, we shall invite all the critical stakeholders for their contributions.

“So, lots of activities will be implemented in the New Year to transform the digital economy agenda of the federal government. NCC, in 2021 will be very important to the country’s digital agenda,” he said.

The EVC speaking further on the award said, “I was honoured with the ZIK Prize award in the professional leadership category. The reasons I was considered for the award, according to the organisers, was that we at the Commission have succeeded in raising the bar in the telecommunications industry.

“They said we have been able to raise broadband penetration from about six per cent in 2015 to 45.93 per cent as at October 2020. They talked about how we have empowered the telecoms consumers. They noted our efforts on protection of the consumers against unsolicited short message service (SMS), providing them a toll free number they can used to complain. So, when services are being provided to over 207 million subscribers, of course, complaints are expected.

“In fact, they are normal. We however, have an excellent consumer resolution mechanism in place, which is working well. The response time to complaints can be shorter, like the 622 number is on 24 hours to resolve issues. The ZIK Prize for Leadership has made me more humble, it is dedicated to the telecommunications sector, subscribers, the management and board of NCC, and the media. They have all played huge roles in these last six years.

 “I also acknowledge the confidence reposed on me by President Muhammadu Buhari, who appointed me in 2015, and re-appointed me in 2020 after a strong recommendation by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami. So, recognition of this nature comes with a lot of expectations.

“It calls for more responsibilities, dedication, and commitment to the service of the country, and Nigerians, who have shown remarkable confidence in what we are doping despite the challenges. From about 100 million subscribers in 2015 to over 200 million now, it shows that on daily basis, Nigerians are subscribing to telecoms services. And, I think there are expectations from telecoms subscribers, they want to get value for money.

“They want the NCC to address the issue of data depletion. We have seen data prices coming down reasonably well. We have done a benchmark, and found out that the cost of one gigabyte of data has come down to about N500, which is more than 50 per cent at the beginning of 2020. Remember, we have a target of N390 to one gigabit by the year 2025, and we are almost there. The N390 is what is in the New National Broadband Plan, NNBP 2020- 2025. We need to do a cost-based study because it is much more scientific.

“This is a good sign, and I am sure, many subscribers of data services will appreciate it. However, this reduction in data cost by about 50 per cent, has not addressed the issue of depletion. So, we need to put up another measure to get to the bottom of data depletion. The NCC is going to take a strong regulatory action to ensure that subscribers to data services are not shortchanged. We have instituted forensic audit of data, in the same way we conducted audit on the cost of SMS.

 “We conducted an audit on Airtel which showed that subscribers were unlawfully surcharged to the tune of about N100 million. We wrote to Airtel and they making refunds to subscribers, they admitted there was a mistake, and they are working on it. The NCC is extending the audit on SMS from Airtel to other mobile network operators (MNOs). But more than this audit on SMS, we are going to administer the audit on data.

“We believe that by the time this audit is completed, perhaps that will give us comprehensive view of what is happening in the data sub-sector. I am looking up to the time I will be able to address Nigerians that data prices and depletion challenges have been resolved,” he added.

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IT and Telecomms

Nigeria’s Sparkle Partners with Payment Experts Network International for virtual and physical payment cards

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Nigeria’s Sparkle Signs with Payment Experts Network International for virtual and physical payment cards, SiliconNigeria

Sparkle, a mobile-first digital ecosystem providing financial, lifestyle and business support services to Nigerians across the globe, has partnered with Network International, the leading enabler of digital commerce across Africa and the Middle East, to power its recently launched payment card offering. 

Sparkle’s new virtual and plastic debit cards are targeted at SMEs and upwardly mobile, unbanked consumers across Nigeria, bringing them the convenience, flexibility, safety and security of cashless payments across various channels. The cards will enable Sparkle customers to make in-app purchases as well as pay for e-commerce and m-commerce transactions. 

Sparkle was founded by entrepreneur, tech pioneer and financial inclusion advocate, Uzoma Dozie with the mission of helping Nigerians fulfil their financial and lifestyle needs. The company’s collaboration with Network International is based on their shared commitment to further the adoption of digital payments among emerging markets across Africa and the Middle East.    

Collaborating with the region’s largest payment company offers Sparkle access to Network’s years of experience and expertise in creating card solutions for emerging markets. Sparkle can benefit from Network’s advanced digital infrastructure and robust security protocols, avoiding the need to invest in expensive card management infrastructure. 

Commenting on the partnership, Uzoma Dozie, Founder of Sparkle, said, “Digital adoption and customer experience is going to be dependent on the people, platform and partnership. In the area of payment processing and data insights, Network International brings that to our platform, and we are truly excited about the future of the partnership and what it means for the enablement and transformational impact for Nigerians anywhere in the world who are connected to the Sparkle platform.” 

Andrew Key, Managing Director – Africa, Network International, said, “We are delighted to strengthen our strategic alliance with Sparkle as it seeks to further disrupt the payments offering to consumers and retailers in Nigeria. Building on our two decades of experience within payments and deep insight of the African market, we look forward to deploying our trusted platform and best-in-class technology towards supporting digital and financial inclusion of Nigerian consumers and businesses.”

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IT and Telecomms

META IT Market Spending Predicted to Top $77 Billion

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META IT Market Spending Predicted to Top $77 Billion, SiliconNigeria

After contracting 4.9% in 2020, IT spending across the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) will make a welcome return to growth this year, increasing 2.8% to $77.5 billion.

That’s according to the latest predictions revealed by International Data Corporation (IDC) as more than 1,000 senior executives from the region’s most influential technology vendors, telecommunications operators, and IT service providers gathered online last week for the first ever virtual edition of IDC Directions Middle East, Turkey & Africa.

The annual event is a firm fixture on the ICT industry calendar and this year focused on the theme of ‘Resetting for the Next Normal: Strategies for Enabling the Future Digital Enterprise’. Opening the day’s proceedings, the firm’s group vice president and regional managing director, Jyoti Lalchandani, explained that spending on digital transformation (DX) is set to gather even more pace in the post-pandemic period, increasing from 25% of total IT spending in 2020 to 37% in 2024.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic fallout has accelerated digital transformation across the region, spurring unprecedented demand for contactless services, cloud solutions, and collaboration applications,” said Lalchandani. “Most economists predict a return to economic growth this year as vaccines become more widely available, and we expect that by 2022, 70% of organizations worldwide will have increased their use of digital technologies, transforming existing business processes to drive new levels of customer engagement, employee productivity, and business resiliency.”

Lalchandani’s other predictions for the META region’s dynamic ICT markets in 2021 included the following:

  • Overall ICT spending (telecom services and IT) will grow 1.9% to surpass $209.5 billion.
  • Spending on public cloud services will grow 26.7% to top $3.7 billion.
  • Spending on SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS will grow 24.5%, 30.6%, and 30.7%, respectively.
  • Spending on professional cloud services will grow rapidly to total $1.6 billion.
  • Spending on AI software will grow 23% to top $540 million.
  • Spending on security (hardware, software, and services) will grow 7.1% to reach $3.3 billion.

IDC’s global president, Crawford Del Prete, presented the event’s keynote address, outlining IDC’s long-term outlook and explaining how many of the changes instituted during the last 12 months will lead to a permanent shift in IT customer behavior. “COVID-19 has brought about huge changes in IT demand across almost every segment of the market,” said Del Prete. “A clear example of this is the dichotomy between DX investment and non-DX investment, with the former set to grow at a CAGR of 15.5% globally between 2020 and 2023, while the latter will contract -1.4% over the same period. We expect 65% of the world’s GDP to be digitalized by 2022, with direct DX investments totaling $6.8 trillion globally between 2020 and 2023.”

The agenda also incorporated a series of track sessions that enabled the delegates to deep dive into the individual markets that top their agenda for the year ahead. These dedicated sessions outlined trends and forecasts for key countries/sub-regions and explored the latest developments in critical technologies such as cloud, security, artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and the Internet of Things. They also included fascinating market-focused panel discussions that showcased invaluable demand-side insights from leading end-user decision makers such as:  

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IT in Healthcare

54gene Unveils World-class Scientific Research Laboratory in Lagos State, Nigeria

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54gene Unveils World class Scientific Research Laboratory in Lagos State Nigeria, SiliconNigeria

54gene has unveiled its new lab in Lagos State, Nigeria, capable of human whole genome sequencing and a variety of other scientific investigations. Hosting a suite of world-class molecular genomics capabilities, including the Illumina Novaseq 6000 and NextSeq 550Dx the lab is part of 54gene’s mission to enable Africans to conduct genomics research and will be fully operational from January 2021.

The new lab, recently inspected by the Commissioner of Health for Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, is geared to crucially expedite internal and external research projects designed to facilitate precision medicine for Africans and the global population. 

54gene is currently conducting research to discover novel biological insights based on genetic modifiers, by deriving information from its unique and rich data set. This will allow the company’s researchers to determine the underlying drivers of infectious and noncommunicable diseases prevalent on the African continent as well as genetic variants unique to its population. The new lab strengthens 54gene’s capacity to enable more research that yields insights from the world’s most diverse populations to solve some of the biggest global healthcare challenges.

Commenting on the significance of 54gene’s advanced molecular capabilities, Founder & CEO, Dr Abasi Ene-Obong said: “Over the last two years, our growth has been underpinned by a supremely experienced world class team, and the collaboration of key stakeholders on the continent. I am proud of the impact our work is making scientifically and economically on the African continent and globally; and the many scientists around the world, who collaborate with 54gene. 

“Our vision is not just to address the health disparities in Africa but to distinctly advance research in some of the most common and rare diseases that affect the global population. To do this we need to scale our operations and continue to collaborate on cutting edge research. The possibilities are immense and we look forward to expanding this impact even more.”

Visiting the Molecular Genetics Operations labs and the Biobank, the Honourable Commissioner of Health for Lagos State, Prof. Emmanuel Akinola Abayomi, said, “This is quite an impressive setup,

and I am happy that 54gene has chosen Lagos as its base. I believe this is going to be a mutually

beneficial arrangement as Lagos is keen to promote a medical innovation hub in the State. We will continue to create an enabling environment for the private sector, like 54gene, to flourish, while ensuring that the public’s interests are adequately protected. We look forward to partnering with 54gene and other stakeholders alike to power innovation and a sustainable bio economy.”

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