The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on all social and economic sectors. In just three months, the pandemic has left tears, sweats and blood on the people and the economy.
For Nigeria, the pandemic is an eye-opener and a rude welcome to a new normal- knowledge economy. Lagos state relies heavily on knowledge economy and that accounts for the success it is recoding in the fight against COVID-19. Apart from the ingenuities by Lagos and a few other states, Nigeria’s overall response to COVID-19 has been less than satisfactory.
The new phases of recovery; and thriving- will be defining for the country; and as seen in this crisis, telecommunications are playing role in retaining any semblance of normalcy. In the recovery stage, telcos will also help manage the transition out of COVID-19 related stagnation as well as provide a resilient national infrastructure to stimulate GDP growth.
ABI Research, global tech market advisory firm, in its new whitepaper, “Telcos As a National Growth Accelerator”, identified several strategies that governments can utilize to invest in stimulating growth by strengthening the Telco position. Locally, experts said Nigeria must leverage on the disruption to create a knowledge-based economy.
To do this Stuart Carlaw, chief research officer at ABI Research, said that, “it could be argued that telcos could play a pivotal role in countries being able to rebound from the financial and productivity shock coming from COVID-19.”
ABI Research found that telcos have been invaluable in enabling some semblance of societal continuation during lockdowns due to COVID-19. “In a very tactical way, they have enabled governments to track, trace, and manage the spread of the virus, communicate effectively and directly with people, and keep supporting society in a virtual, but valuable way. Without the investment and operational diligence of many telcos, the impact of COVID-19 would have been far deeper and more profoundly felt in all economies.” Carlaw stated.
For Olusola Teniola, president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), the biggest recovery for Nigeria will be by the careful and full implementation of all recommendations in the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-25.
“Secondly, for there to be an immediate impact, government needs to kickstart the e-Gov digital migration, which means the immediate development of e-systems in all the MDAs and web-portals in different languages (Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa as a minimum) with voice assistance for the physically challenged. This will refocus and redeploy government spending on creating jobs on the supply side for the youth and demand from the citizens interacting with the systems to fulfil different needs.” He added.
According to him, underpinning all this is the massive employment and retraining of our citizens to become more productive whether from home, office or in business centers in malls.
Also, Mohammed Rudman, managing director, Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) said telcos could aid the recovery efforts through cost-effective innovative data bundle for young entrepreneurs as well as lower bandwidth cost that will offer more data at lower cost.
“Telcos should ensure that their traffic is localised, that will help to reduce cost for them,” he added. Nodding in agreement, Muyiwa Ogungboye, managing director/chief executive officer, eStream Networks, said that Nigerians now appreciate telecommunications service as important in the economy with the lockdown.
He urged telcos to improve on the quality of service and ensure robust network that will accommodate new discovery of the new normal to be driven by ICT. Looking to the future, Carlaw concluded by saying that “They (telcos) will be key in enabling a new digital society. Beyond the obvious conclusions that we are likely to see, including more remote working, more virtual meetings, and more virtual teams (all of which will be enabled thanks to the connectivity supplied by telcos), a raft of new solutions could accelerate GDP growth and all will require a robust level of support from the telco community,”