9th LaPRSC: How ICT can be leveraged for poverty reduction, eradication – NCC

L-R: Mr Sina Thorpe, Council Member, NIPR; Mrs Nnena Ukoha, Head, Corporate Communications, NCC: Mrs Comfort Obot Nwankwo, Chairman, NIPR Lagos and Conference Convener, Mr Olabamiji Adeleye, Lead Consultant, Addefort Limited at the 9th Lagos PR Stakeholders’ Conference on Leadership and Poverty Eradication on Thursday August 18, 2022.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has called on Nigerians to explore the opportunities in the Digital Economy to eradicate poverty in the country.

Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta disclosed this on Thursday while delivering a keynote address at the 9th Lagos Public Relations Stakeholders’ Conference themed: “Conversations on Leadership and Poverty Eradication”.

Danbatta who was represented by Mrs Nnena Ukoha, Head, Corporate Communications, NCC, said a key benefit of the Digital Economy is poverty reduction and eradication.

” This is so important because as the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) has posited, “everyone, everywhere should have the opportunity to participate and no one should be excluded from the benefits the Information Society (ICT) offers.

” Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to address this esteemed gathering on this very important topic, “Poverty Eradication in Nigeria: Leveraging Opportunities in a Digital Economy”.
It must be noted that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) combined with other technologies provide the platform on which the Digital Economy operates. I will therefore dwell significantly on how ICT can be leveraged for poverty reduction and eradication because ICTs are seen as a critical resource in the promotion of socio-economic development, with potency to alleviate poverty.

Danbatta defined poverty as general scarcity, dearth, or the state of lacking a certain amount of material possession or money. “But a new definition of poverty has been drawn giving the strength and possibilities derivable with ICT and Digital Economy. Poverty as defined by Subbiah Arunachalam is the lack of access to the internet in the developing world; this is called Information Poverty/Digital Poverty.”

He said Digital Poverty is the lack of means with which to access ICTs, the lack of skills to use the ICTs, and inadequate information about the usefulness of ICTs.

He explained that Digital poverty thus incorporates a demand component (the service cannot be afforded), a capability dimension (the skills to use the service are not available), and a supply component (the infrastructure to deliver the service is not in place).

“The challenge encountered by developing nations is no longer poverty in its traditional sense, but a lack of access to ICT tools and the vast potential derivable from ICT, which translates into an inability to participate in and benefit from the Digital Economy.

“Fosters defines ICT (Information and Communications Technology – or Technologies) as the group of technologies that is revolutionizing the handling of information and embodies a convergence of interest between electronics, computing and communication (Drew and Fosters 1994).

“It goes without saying that ICTs have the potential to combat poverty, be it rural or urban poverty. However, it must be clear that investment in ICTs alone is not enough for development to occur, for development to be sustained or for poverty to be eradicated. Successful ICT poverty reduction interventions can only be achieved if there is an enabling environment, the participation of the private sector and NGOs, the free flow of information, access to ICTs by women and youths, and capacity building.
Consequently, ICTs may be regarded as enablers of other developmental efforts and infrastructure required for sustainable development. Only a bouquet of strategies duly implemented can attempt to resolve the global menace of poverty,” he said.

On relationship between ICTs and Poverty, Danbatta said most developing countries, particularly those with large populations, inadequate infrastructure has made it difficult to participate as equal partners in the worldwide enterprise of knowledge production and dissemination. He said this portends an unequal distribution of access, resources and opportunities in this new economy, the Digital Economy. He said to avert the birth of a new type of poverty (Information Poverty), the ICT gap (digital divide) between the developed and developing nations must be bridged.

“Nigeria like most developing nations is not enjoying the full benefits of the ICT revolution due to inadequate telecommunication infrastructure, capacity to maintain existing infrastructure, and policies for equitable public participation as producers and consumers of information and knowledge.

“A nation’s development is measured in economic terms such as per capita income, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and Gross National Product (GNP), among other indices. Indices such as level of literacy, social development, human capital development, cultural innovation and technological preparedness are not regarded as a measure of development. If we must tap into the ICT revolution, then it is time for a paradigm shift! The traditional economic terms are not a reflection of the new age of the Digital Economy,” he said.

On measures to reduce poverty, Danbatta explained that Poverty reduction measures are strategies developed to enable the poor or socially disadvantaged to create wealth for themselves as a means of ending poverty.

He said the strategies must respond to the questions around service accessibility, affordability, skill/competence availability and infrastructure adequacy.

“These strategies should rely on widespread access to communication networks; the existence of an educated labour force and consumers; and the availability of institutions that promote knowledge creation and dissemination.
While poverty may appear to be widespread in developing nations, developed nations are not exempted. The difference is the strategies adopted by each group to reduce the poverty mass. It is therefore fortunate that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, places premium on diversification of the economy using ICT.

“There are several past and ongoing efforts by the Nigerian Government to alleviate poverty through ICT using organizations and programmes like the National Information Technology Agency (NITDA), using the offices of the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) across the country as ICT hubs, the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) to ensure that telecommunications services are accessible to the widest number of people (and communities) at affordable prices. USPF has poverty-reducing activities like the Community Resource Centers, USPF Hackathon, RUBI – Rural Broadband Initiative, UnICC – University InterCampus Connectivity, BTS – Base Transceiver Stations, IRC – Information Resource Centres, SKC – School Knowledge Centres, and the E-Health Project.

“At the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), we will continue to support the vision of the present government to put Nigeria amongst the top twenty in the comity of Nations and to align our developmental goals in keeping with the seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but particularly the goal to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere which is currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day, by year 2030. The following initiatives at the NCC directly or indirectly target poverty eradication:
Advanced Digital Appreciation Programme: Transforming the Academics: Advanced Digital Appreciation Programme for Tertiary Institutions, ADAPTI is aimed at bridging the digital divide existing in academia with the provision of computers and other ICT facilities to equip the lecturers and other experts in order to improve ICT skills and also to enrich the students.

” The overriding objective of this intervention has been to elicit the pervasive application of ICT skills in academia for enhanced staff output, institutional efficiency, and student enculturation to e-based learning for sustainable national growth.
Digital Awareness Programme (DAP): this is a special intervention programme to address the digital information knowledge gap in the country, especially among the teeming youthful population. On the last count, the DAP Project supports 229 Secondary Schools across the Six (6) Geopolitical Zones of Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory.

” The strategy in this programme is to expose schools and colleges to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) awareness, usage and application by facilitating access to ICT tools by the provision of twenty one (21) Desktop Computers, Local Area Network, Printers, Scanners, VSAT Dish and deployment of one Year Bandwidth Subscription for Internet Access.
NCC- Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) Projects: Nigeria’s ICT flagship institution, the Digital Bridge, DBI, came into existence in 2004 to impact on the national ICT human capital building efforts by bridging the ICT knowledge gap.

“Frequency Auction: Contributing to National Purse: The Nigerian telecom regulator has contributed to the Federation Account from proceeds of frequency auctions and licensing. The frequencies auctioned, are in turn used for the deployment of services for poverty reduction and the benefit of the citizenry. The Commission has a clear understanding of this value chain and is determined to uphold it.
Value Added Services (VAS): Telecommunication has given birth to several value-added services that open up benefits to all cadre of people irrespective of location and level of education. These VAS are great channels for revenue generation. Some VAT are content development, Phone repair network, IT device accessories sales market (phone pouches, screen covers etc), Ringback tones, and even government agencies providing service on telecom platform e.g NAFDAC – drug authentication code,” he said.

On Broadband and Poverty, the NCC boss noted that the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020–2025 (the “Broadband Plan”) devotes an entire section to targets, strategies and roadmaps to promote pervasive broadband deployment, increased broadband adoption, usage and availability to all at affordable prices. These all point to government’s commitment to harmonizing and utilizing the benefits derivable from ICT for the good of all.

“In 2020, the latest National Broadband Plan was approved to foster fuller economic exploitation of ICTs. This means that there will be more pervasive deployment and usage of ICT to push the development and economic attractiveness of the nation.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria is committed to sustainable development of the ICT subsector for the growth of the economy and the eradication of poverty. This was made evident during the just concluded Communications sector retreat where the Ministry of Communications and the agencies under it converged to chart a five-year plan that would make communications services, affordable, accessible, and available to all persons in Nigeria.

“The credit for Nigeria’s ambitious broadband pursuit is traced to the potentials and prospects of broadband technology, the ease of deployment and the vast opportunities available through it. The Commission will continue to put strategies in place to pursue last mile deployment of broadband. This would ensure small businesses are positioned to compete globally and communities and individuals are able to create wealth through access to ICT,” he said.

Danbatta said the fight against poverty would require collective effort. “We must all join hands, support the government, protect our resources and infrastructure, grow our economy and push poverty away from our nation for the benefit of all Nigerians.

“Technological progress has been the biggest driving force behind economic growth since 1990. It has lifted over 10 percent of the world’s population out of poverty. ICT Infrastructure is a major driver to any country’s growth and development in ICT. In Nigeria, ICT has attracted huge investment, and generated significant fiscal revenues and employment opportunities.
By providing access to information, making markets more efficient, fostering social inclusion, and equalizing opportunities in rural areas, ICT offers an innovative and unprecedented tool to directly reduce poverty,” he said.

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