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Federal Govt Policies, COVID-19 Pandemic Boost ICT Sector 17.92% GDP Growth

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Despite the threat of the COVID-19  pandemic, 2021 has emerged as a successful year for the Information and Communication Technology(ICT) sector, as most activities shifted online, thereby, bringing more businesses in an already thriving sector.

LEADERSHIP checks indicate that while the world was crying over the nemesis that Coronavirus pandemic brought on humankind, the ICT sector was counting its gains, as the pandemic accelerated the digital transformation journey, making the sector a disruptor to virtually every sector of the nation’s economy.

For instance, the ICT sector contributed a significant 17.92 per cent of Nigeria’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the second quarter of 2021.

According to the minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, this represented a growth of 20.54 per cent, higher than its contribution a year earlier and in the preceding quarter, in which it accounted for 14.91 per cent, adding that, it is the highest contribution ever of ICT to Nigeria’s GDP.

Pantami had also revealed that, the growing contribution of ICT sector to the GDP is as a result of the commitment of the current administration towards development of a digital economy.

“The 16 National Policies developed by the ministry, the 1,667 projects and programmes, the large scale digital skills and general capacity building efforts, stakeholder engagement and creation of an enabling environment, have all played an important role in this achievement,” he explained.

Based on industry statistics released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the contribution by the ICT sector to the country’s GDP was largely attributable to the telecoms industry, which alone contributed 14.43 per cent to the GDP for the second quarter of 2021.

The reason for that is not far-fetched, says the founder of MainOne, Ms. Funke Opeke, adding that, during the pandemic, internet speed increased, while price of data per unit decreased, there was increased data competition, adding that consumers enjoy better speeds, increase their consumption of digital content, products, and services.

“More businesses used the cloud for the first time. New firms and startups emerged to serve consumers and businesses. There was growth in productivity, efficiency, and revenue from new business opportunities,” Opeke said.

For instance, Opeke said, Subsea cables led to an increase in employment in fiber-connected areas, adding that, financial services sector, among the most ICT-intensive industries, is more active, productive and for every one million people living in fiber-connected areas, an additional 78,000 become employed, relative to unconnected area.

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The CEO said, COVID-19 led to digital growth in Nigeria, adding that, from January 2020 to January 2021, over 17 million Nigerians have mobile connection, an increase of over 10 per cent.

“In terms of internet users, from 2020 to 2021, over 19 million Nigerians used the internet, an increase of 22.1 per cent with six million active social media, an increase of 22.2 per cent. Also, before COVID-19, only 15 per cent of companies in Nigeria used cloud computing but in post-COVID, it increased to 22.45 per cent. Cyber security increased from eight per cent to 13 per cent. Mobile internet penetration also increased from 12 per cent to 17 per cent and e-commerce increased from 16 to 23 per cent.,” she said.

She noted that, enterprises or businesses that earlier adopted online/digital platforms thrived during the pandemic, while traditional enterprises that relied on person-person engagement found it difficult to adapt to digital disruption by competition.

In the same vein, founder, Interswitch Limited, Mr Mitchell Elegbe, said the Fintech sector is booming because everybody wants to be connected and they are using digital technology to solve problems, adding that, this growth will continue beyond the pandemic.

Nigeria is moving digitally, says the chief transformation officer, MTN, Bayo Adekanmbi, noting that, the country witnessed growth in broadband penetration in 2021 as a result of the pandemic.

Adekanmbi, however, urged all companies and SMEs to key into digital, social and cloud tools to deliver value.

For instance, a farmer can use the internet to showcase his farm produce, sell and get paid almost instantly with the help of Fintech, he added.

The director general of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi also revealed that COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation journey faster, more dramatic and disruptive, giving opportunities for more convenient online presence with less disturbance.”

Abdullahi stated that, “innovation drives growth in the internet economy, process of taking ideas from inception to impact inspired three digital capabilities; firstly, Ubiquitous Data which is used to make decision and have Information at your disposal anytime. Secondly, Unlimited Connectivity particularly Internet of Things (IoT) which ease connectivity and learning things easily.

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“Lastly, Massive Computing Processing Power which has no limit to what can be processed. These Capabilities are the source of inspiration that ignites innovation and create demand in the digital era.”

In Nigeria, NITDA DG disclosed that, president Muhammadu Buhari has laid foundation for a digital Nigeria by expanding the mandate of ministry Communications to cover digital economy, which the honourable minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami has a larger focus vision of digitalizing the country.

“In 2019, the Ministry formulated a National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a digital Nigeria, serves as laid down foundation to create and capture value from innovation in the digital Economy.”

He averred that part of the NDEPS is to develop and innovate solutions using emerging technologies like: Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Blockchain and IoT among others to provide quality life, education, poverty eradication, health and wellbeing.

Meanwhile, in the year under review, the telecommunication industry was not fortunate due to the decision to ban SIM card sales until the completion of the National Identification Number (NIN) registration exercise.

According to statistics released by the NCC, Telecommunication companies lost 20.83 million subscribers in the first half of 2021.

“For instance, MTN lost 5,464,322 subscribers. Globacom lost 4,463,962 while Airtel lost 2,759,506 subscribers in the first half of the year. Collectively, the telecoms lost 11.08 million data subscribers so far this year as the number of data subscribers fell from 150,898,122 in January 2021 to 139,814,913 in June 2021,” the report by NCC revealed.

 

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