Haruna Mohammed Salisu

Amidst recession, Nigeria is making a huge bet on ICT to drive innovation in public service delivery

Ranked 5th with respect to mobile penetration and 5th in terms of industry perception of the effectiveness of domestic telecommunications regulation in Africa, Nigeria is taking a huge bet to make on ICT to make its public service delivery efficient. The country which is currently in a recession has signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding with Ericsson through its information and communications technology shared service provider Galaxy Backbone.

The MoU which aimed to ‘create over a million jobs in various sectors within the next few years’ will help diversify the country’s ailing economy.

Chief Executive Officer, Galaxy Backbone  Yusuf Kazaure says the transformative role of ICT for improved delivery of public services was ‘quite significant and in Nigeria Galaxy is at the forefront in terms of the provision of the infrastructure and services that empower MDAs to achieve their mandates through better service delivery to the citizens they serve’. The three- year partnership will also allow Ericsson serve as advisor, systems integrator and implementation partner for ICT based solutions and services covering the transport, utility, safety and security sectors. Ericsson and Galaxy Backbone are expected to manage all deployed solutions and services while building capacity within Galaxy Backbone for the deployments and handing over to the government along with selected private sector players.

ICTs are now helping Africa to overcome its traditional market failures – but Nigeria, lags behind many countries in the continent with respect to a number of market indicators. Internet penetration is still low, high cost of voice calls and data are factors that cannot be ignored. Low digital literacy, Limited access to virtual payments, Lack of exposure to external markets and domestic forums, limited access to virtual payments as well as rampant fraud and mistrust among Nigerians have also been identified as some of the stumbling blocks in the sector.

Recent study says Nigeria’s Prepaid Mobile ranks 17th out of 46 countries in terms of the affordability of the cheapest prepaid mobile product from a dominant operator, and 13th out of 46 for affordability of the cheapest mobile prepaid product from any operator.

Other indicators such as providing regulatory framework and public goods such as the backbone for broadband services are considered serious factors hindering the private sector, which has every interest to capture the profits from the sector.

Observers in the industry believe commitment by governments at all levels as well as balanced interventions with the private sector could help correct market failures and spur entrepreneurship and innovations especially among the teaming unemployed youths in Nigeria.