Information Communication Technology (ICT), the knowledge economy, the fourth economy in the series of economies that the world has experienced to date, is an appropriate tool for the much talked-about diversification of the economy.
But in spite of the sector’s growth and its attendant benefits which include employment, access to internet and data, improved means of communication and information sharing, supporting start-up companies, access to affordable means of communication, creating an innovative workplace, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of over 18 billion dollars and an addition of 4 percent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) amongst others, the sector is still bedeviled with a number of challenges, a recent report by NOI Polls has indicated.
NOI Polls noted: “Customers have consistently complained of issues such as high tariff, poor network service, undue credit deductions, dropped calls, excessive billing, charges for services not rendered etc. In this regard, the sector which has been considered hugely successful, has greater potentials for the future if the challenges identified by subscribers could be effectively dealt with.
“With the current expansion of the Nigerian telecoms industry owing to the introduction of new service and product offerings, it has become pertinent for NCC (which is empowered to establish minimum Quality of Service (QoS) standards) and other stakeholders to become more vigilant to ensure that consumers continue to have access to high quality telecommunications.”
The introduction of GSM phones in Nigeria revolutionized the telecommunications industry as in 15 years, (2001-2016) the country’s tele-density has grown from 0.5 percent to over 106 percent (NCC 2016). The sector remains one of the fastest growing sectors of the Nigerian economy; this astronomical growth can be attributed to the launch of Global System for Mobile (GSM) Communication. In 2001, Econet (now Airtel) and MTN Nigeria were licensed to launch their GSM network services, in quick succession was Globacom (now Glo) in 2003 and then Etisalat in 2007. Stiff competition also played a major role as telecoms companies in the scramble for subscribers, have made concerted efforts to extend their services outside of major cities and into rural areas.
Over all, Nigeria’s telecoms industry has recorded huge successes and made giant strides technologically but it still faces hurdles that must be surmounted as factors like winds and rainfall still affect the performance of telecommunications and the manufacturing of some or all of the equipment used by the sector is still not localized leading to a lack of expansion in the sector.
Results from polls conducted by NOIPolls show that over the years, more Nigerians have adapted the use of two lines either from the same network provider or from two different operators. This trend has consistently increased from 2012 (45 percent) to 2015 (49 percent) with a total of 4-points within the period in view. Apart from the non-reliance of subscribers on one line due to some issues generally associated with mobile telecommunications in Nigeria, this trend may also have been promoted by an increased introduction of dual sim mobile devices in to the market, thus making it less expensive and more convenient to own more than one phone line.
Analysis on value for money in the telecoms sector, according the polls, showed that some subscribers believed they weren’t getting appropriate value for their money’s worth and when probed further, results indicated that subscribers who reported they were not receiving value for money mainly emphasized high tariff, poor network service, poor promotions and undue credit deduction from their mobile network operators. This findings cuts across all operators, although with varying degree for individual operators.
In summary, NOI Polls said issues of high tariffs, poor network service and undue loss of credit have been recurring in the four years of tracking the Telecoms Industry and these problems are yet to abate, the National Communications Comission (NCC) must work with telecoms companies to address these issues. Policy makers must also note that telecommunication is unarguably a very important sector as its operations remain critical for the efficiency of other sectors.
For NOI Polls, “The advancement of ICT and Telecommunications is a huge imperative, as it has been said that Technology is the world’s next big thing making it the Holy Grail for nations looking to exit the recession. Nigeria as a nation currently facing an economic downturn needs to explore the huge potentials in ICT as a means of diversifying the economy and creating much needed jobs.”