Many businesses have seen the need to cut costs and reduce travel time by digitalising many of their processes.
Indeed, new businesses offering services that required the use of the Internet have sprung up across the country since the coronavirus pandemic started and lockdown to reduce the spread of the virus was introduced.
Many retail businesses have launched e-commerce platforms, telemedicine has become relevant, online learning, training and conferences are now customary.
The Minister of Communications, Dr Isa Pantami, while speaking at ICTEL forum organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce noted that the businesses were shifting from brick and mortar form to innovative enterprises driven by digital technologies.
He encouraged more enterprises and organisations in the public and private to reinvent and automate to fit into the global digital economy.
He said, “This new reality and lessons learnt from the ‘new normal’ arising from the COVID-19 pandemic makes it mandatory for Nigeria, like other developing countries, to rise up to the challenge, innovate and occupy her place in the global digital economy.”
The minister stated that the digital economy was creating opportunities in the emerging world.
He added that innovations resulting from digital technologies were impacting virtually every sector, including retail, transport and logistics, financial services, manufacturing, education, healthcare and broadcasting.
In view of this, Pantami said the digitalisation of the economy was crucial to sustainable national development.
However, the increasing use of the Internet has not been met with good network signal and consistent quality of service.
Many people who attend online meetings complain of regular disruptions in connectivity.
A 2008 network/subscriber data report by the Nigerian Communications Commission stated that the number of telecom towers in the country affects the quality of service experienced by subscribers.
The commission stated that telecom operators’ investment in infrastructure dropped by 62.1 per cent to from N84.7bn in 2017 to N32.1bn in 2018.
Findings showed that operators reported a total of 52,160 Base Transceiver Stations and co-location towers, 334,314km of microwave, 151 Gateways and 84,580.7km of fibre optics in 2018.
According to the report, MTN owns the highest number of base stations standing at 14,715 base stations, with Airtel owning 7,966; Glo 7,244; NTEL- 562; EMTS(9mobile) 148 and Smile two base stations, as of December 2018.
Meanwhile, the President, Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria, Olusola Teniola, said that the telecom network in the country was built mostly for voice services.
He said there was an urgent need to build infrastructure that would support a digital economy.
“Until we as an industry can re-calibrate our network to bringing additional capacity to ensure that working from home becomes the new norm with the way we are able to build and design our networks,” Teniola said.
“The implementation of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan will give us an opportunity to build a network for the future. We don’t have a network for the future. We have a network that is built purely for voice. We now need a network that is for the digital economy.”
He added that a network for the future that would support a digital economy should have a speed of 50 megabyte per seconds and above.
He said, “In other jurisdictions, they have been facing congestion because this pandemic is unprecedented. We already have small incidences of fibre to the home in Lekki, Ikoyi and Maitama. What we not need is affordable speed because we need to be able to ensure that Internet speed is high so that the user experience is what one would expect.”
“A typical user uses 20mbps but for the digital economy, we should be targeting between 50mbps and 300mbps and we will be using unlimited data.”
He called for the support of the government in the areas of access to foreign exchange, and facilitating easy clearance of equipment at the ports for telecom operators.
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