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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says robust telecommunications/broadband infrastructure is fundamental baseline to engender innovations that will drive economic growth in Nigeria.

The Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, made the assertion on Tuesday in Lagos during the Nigeria Innovation Summit 2019.

The summit had the theme: ”Accelerating Nigeria’s Economic Growth through Innovation”.

Danbatta, who was represented by the NCC Director, Research and Development, Mr Ephraim Nwokenneya, said that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) was advancing daily.

He said that the advancement was throwing up innovative technologies that organisations and businesses must leverage on to remain relevant and be competitive in their spheres of operations.

He, however, noted that there was a deficit in broadband infrastructure needed to drive the required innovations.

”NCC is a regulator with passion for innovation and has been driving digital transformation with regard to investment drive in telecommunications/broadband infrastructure, which is key to encouraging any technology innovation.

”No doubt, we have infrastructure gap, and to bridge this gap, the commission has licensed six Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos), one each in the six geo-political zones of the country.

”The seventh one – for the North-Central region – is being processed by the commission.

”This will later be backed up with disbursement of subsidies to each of the InfraCo licensees upon attainment of deployment milestone in their respective regions,” he said.

Danbatta said that the race for infrastructure deployment was a global concern.

He said that recent happenings across the world showed that infrastructure was receiving attention at the highest level of government in developed economies.

The executive vice chairman said that Nigeria would not to become irrelevant; hence, the need to address digital infrastructure deficit.

He said that the NCC had put in place the InfraCo framework in order to enhance accessibility, availability and affordability as well as engender innovations through research grants to the academia.

According to him, the commission has created a research and development department in that regard.

”This is with the purpose of synchronising the various research activities and other development projects carried out by the commission.

”Suffice it to say that from 2013 to date, the commission has disbursed millions of naira in grants to sponsor innovation-oriented research projects in tertiary institutions and research institutes.

”For instance, in May this year, the NCC announced N40 million endowment fund for the Bayero University, Kano, and the Federal University of Technology, Owerri.

”The fund will be utilised by the institutions for innovation, research and development in the digital space,” he said.

Danbatta said that in June, the commission presented N65 million to 11 Nigerian universities to deliver research results and prototypes that would be implementable, commercially-viable and capable of engendering innovation in different sectors of the economy.

He added that NCC was exposing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) owners in the ICT industry to global investment opportunities, als in an effort to promote investment opportunities and innovation within the digital ecosystem for economic growth.

He said that NCC would sponsor some young technology innovators to the the 2019 edition of the ITU forum to take place in Budapest in September.

”The commission is, therefore, gratified that the foregoing regulatory interventions from infrastructure, investment and innovation standpoints, are already creating new businesses that are becoming a major source of foreign investments into Nigeria.

”What is needed going forward is for all to collaborate with the commission in deepening the frontiers of its regulatory activities for a digital transformation that we all desire for accelerating Nigeria’s economic growth,” he said.

The British Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos, Harriet Thompson, said at the event that the UK was focusing heavily on technology in Nigeria.

Thompson said that focusing on technology was good for both countries toward driving economic growth and creating jobs.

She said that through its Digital Access Programme, the UK was supporting internet connectivity expansion to unserved and under-served communities in Nigeria in order to promote inclusive economic development.

According to her, where internet access is good, entrepreneurship thrives, employment grows and investment grows.

”Another of our programmes is Go-Global, where we take the best Nigerian tech start-ups to the UK, giving them opportunities to secure UK investment, mentorship and business-related training.

”The programme encourages them to come back to Nigeria and share what they have learned so the benefits are spread.

”Nigerian start-ups that have benefitted from this in the past include Innovation Corner, Social Lender, ThriveAgric.

”The good news is that the 2020 edition of the programme has been approved and the process to select qualified start-ups will commence soon.

”The appetite from UK-based companies to do business in Africa is greater than ever,” she said.

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