Regulating ICT in Emerging Economies: Nigeria As a Case Study

AnOx 2013 alumnus Temitope Lawal highlights some of the issues arising from regulation of ICT in Nigeria. This post is based on a larger paper that can be accessed here.

Nigeria, with an estimated population of 177 million people, is the most populous country in Africa and the eighth most populous country in the world.[1] With its latest rebasing, Nigeria’s GDP increased from $269.5 billion to $509.9 billion, thereby positioning it as Africa’s largest economy and the twenty-sixth largest economy in the world. It should be noted that of all of Nigeria’s industry sectors, information communication technology (ICT) contributed a significant 8.68% ($44.3 billion) to the rebased economy, making it the most vibrant and dynamic sector. As more people get connected, there continues to be an ever-expanding variety of services and applications to serve users’ information, communication, and entertainment needs. This makes it necessary to have an effective regulatory machinery in place in order to sustain Nigeria’s current economic growth.

In Nigeria, communication services are regulated by an independent agency, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), with the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology (FMCT) playing an oversight role as the principal government organ in charge of initiating and implementing ICT policies. Over the years, the NCC has developed regulations and guidelines surrounding issues such as internet service provision, consumer protection, and competition practices. Though much progress has been made since liberalization [2] of the communications sector commenced in early 2000, [3] there still exists bottlenecks that impact the effective regulation of the sector.

One of the challenges facing regulation of ICT is the incessant cyber-attacks and physical attacks on ICT infrastructure. At the moment, there are no specific laws dealing with cybersecurity and cybercrime. Due to the ever-changing and transnational nature of the internet, conventional national laws are increasingly proving inadequate to address the legal challenges emanating from cyberspace. Closely related to this is the issue of security of stored personal data. Though sector-specific regulations exist regarding personal data security, there is still a need to have overarching legislation that provides for the general protection of personal data.

It is pertinent to note that the full benefits of ICT revolution cannot be enjoyed when there is no confidence in the validity, security, and integrity of the medium, and transactions carried out thereon. A major way of achieving this is through up-to-date laws, to provide for certainty in the outcome of transactions carried out utilising this medium. Not only is there a need to promulgate laws to deal with the different issues raised by ICTs, it is also important to put in place administrative and enforcement mechanisms to see to the effective regulation of ICT in order to ensure achievement of the desired results of protection, safety, and integrity in ICT-related transactions.

(A comprehensive article on challenges of regulating ICT in Nigeria can be accessed from SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2485081)        

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[1] CIA 2014 World Fact Book.

[2] Operational licenses were granted to other telecoms network providers in a market that was hitherto monopolised by the incumbent operator.

[3] As at March 2014, the total number of people with access to telecommunication services was approximately 127 million, indicating a 78% penetration rate.

 

//Temitope Lawal who completed his post-graduate studies in Computer and Communications Law from Queen Mary, University of London in 2013 is currently a Senior Officer in the Legal and Regulatory Services Department of the Nigerian Communications Commission, the country’s independent regulator of communication services. His areas of interest include telecommunications, internet regulation, new media technologies and online privacy.

 

 

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