CATCO 2019: Digital space records evolutionary advancement in six years – NCC

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…says Regulators should safeguard interests of consumers

By Ikenna Odionye

The Nigerian Communication Commission ( NCC) has announced tremendous evolutionary advancement in the  digital space within the past six years which requires provision of enabling environment by regulators to safeguard the interest of consumers and subscribers in the Information Technology Industry.

This announcement took place on Tuesday during the second edition of the Conference of African Telecom Regulators on Consumer Affairs (CATCO)  hosted by the NCC with theme: Empowering the Telecom Consumer in an Era of Technological Evolution. The three days event kicked off yesterday at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission Professor Umar G. Danbatta who was represented by the Director of Public Affairs, Dr Henry Nkemadu said within six years, the digital space has recorded tremendous evolutionary advancements which consequently has exposed the need for regulators to do more towards providing an environment where the interests of consumers are well safeguarded. “it is also instructive that during the six years hiatus, the digital space has recorded tremendous evolutionary advancements. This advancement in technologies has, nonetheless, thrown up various issues on the need for regulators to strengthen necessary regulatory valves towards safeguarding the interest of consumers of digital tools and services”.

In the keynote  address  of the Vice Chairman presented  after receiving all stakeholders and delegates from several african countries, Dr Nkemadu reminded all participants of the first edition of the programme that held in October 17- 18 2013 in Lagos, which hosted telecom regulators from some African countries including Nigeria as they discussed issues on how to harness regulatory policies to protect telecom consumers in Africa which ultimately led to a 17-point resolutions that was reached on various approaches African regulators can deploy to safeguard and protect telecoms consumers.

He futher said the conference will help reach concrete resolutions on how regulators can empower the ever growing consumers of telecoms/information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools and services in the light of the technological advancement in the industry.

He  said the  growth recorded in the African telecommunications sector and shift of emphasis from protection have increased both the scope and complexity of regulating telecommunications.

According to him, the 2019 edition of CATCO, therefore, is expected to critically examine, analyse and identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to how telecoms regulators can empower the consumers in this era of technological evolution.

He added that the commission is more commited to ensuring that every consumer get value for money spent by providing adequate information needed to protect themselves from being shortchanged by service providers, also stressing the need to enlighten consumers to know their rights and priviledges which he said will help them fight for their rights.

“ The popular clause that “Consumer is King” is held in high esteem at the NCC. This is because everything we do focus on how the consumers can get maximum value for money spent through effective protection and empowerment with vital information they need to safeguard themselves from being shortchanged by a service provider. In this era of technological advancement where all services either from the private and public sector are riding on digital platforms, you will agree with me that without being empowered to know their rights and privileges amidst the multiplicity of digital services being offered, consumers would not be able to fight for their rights and privileges”.

Also present at the event was the Chief of Staff  to the  Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Polycap Shambo who  represented him and delivered a speech on behalf of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari.

The president congratulated the entire NCC team for creating a platform where the telecom regulatory bodies across the length and breath of Africa can gather to exchange ideas and compare notes on how best to improve telecom service experience in Africa.

He confirmed that the ICT sector has been driving the Federal Government’s digital transformation agenda aimed at boosting efficiency in governance and all the key sectors of the economy aslo adding that the contribution of telecoms to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) now stands at over 10 per cent by the first quarter of this year. He expressed hope that the telecoms industry will further play a bigger role as an enabler of economic growth and development not only in Nigeria but also across Africa.

President Buhari further charged telecoms regulatory agencies to focus more on the effects of technological changes on the consumers which have created a borderless world with powerful impacts on the lives of millions of telecom consumers on the one hand and may constitute threats to consumers on the other hand especially if left improperly regulated.

He said globally, technological evolution has facilitated innovations in various sectors of the economy such as banking, agriculture, healthcare, commerce, entertainment, transport, and so on, bringing a lot of efficiency in service delivery as we are witnessing in Nigeria.

However, these channels may also be hijacked and manipulated to the detriment of vulnerable consumers as can be demonstrated by rise in e-fraud activities and cybercrimes.

The President therefore, implored all participants at the conference to come up with tangible proposals and policies for governments in Africa on how to enhance telecom consumers’ quality of experience across Africa as well as increase accessibility, affordability and safety for all users of digital services.

Panelist sessions were held later on, during which major issues facing the African telecom Industry were highlighted and also possible ways for solving these problems was stated.

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