Innovation, best practices tools for driving sustainable ICT

Victor Uzoho

Experts have said to drive sustainability practices in Nigeria’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, there was a need to continuously churn out innovative products that are designed to meet environmental standards and offer new opportunities to the public. 

They noted that although there is a growing interest by investors in sustainability around the world, there is a need for businesses in the sector to adapt to best practices, which revolve around the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles, to attract investments.

Speaking at a virtual event, organized by the Telecommunications and Technology Sustainability Working Group (TTSWG), themed: Collaboration for a Resilient ICT Sector, the Chief Executive of CSR in Action, Bekeme Olowola, said it is a common belief that the cost of sustainability in businesses outweighs the benefits, however, adapting to best practices benefit businesses in the long term.

She maintained that the gains attached to sustainability affect private profit-making organizations in regards to sourcing for equipment, products, and services, which are reliant on government policies, financial incentives, and supportive regulations, in which every stakeholder has a role to play.

She added that ESG principles look at how organizations engage their staff, customers, communities, government, environment, board, and even their finance, which are indices investors are interested in.

“You need to learn to adapt best practices such as more inclusive stakeholder engagement across your supply chain to the use of responsible infrastructure, equipment and investment in the necessary research to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Similarly, the Chairman, Legal and Regulatory Committee of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Eno Udoma-Eniang, argued that given the changes brought about by COVID-19, ICT service providers need to engage in what she called the “3Rs” – re-evolving, reinventing and repositioning.

She urged telecom operators to shift focus from being centrally traditional voice communications and network backbone providers to being innovative solutions providers.

She said it is a no-brainer that many companies are now re-engineering to a hybrid work structure, noting that apart from safety concerns over COVID-19, organizations now realize that it is much cheaper and convenient for their employees to work from home.

“Of course, this has bumped up the requirement for digital services to support virtual work. So, without strengthening the ICT sector, the economy obviously will be doomed.”

She used the opportunity to draw attention to some industry challenges including government policy, infrastructure deficits, funding, security and taxes.   

“There are about 41 taxes that the telecoms sector operators need to bear, not to talk of illegal demands and regulatory fees. There are also multiple regulators.

“There is a National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Act Amendment Bill currently undergoing review, which proposes a 1% annual operation levy to be paid to NITDA by operators with a turnover of a certain amount.

You need to learn to adapt best practices such as more inclusive stakeholder engagement across your supply chain to the use of responsible infrastructure, equipment and investment in the necessary research to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“If this bill is passed that means that operators will start paying AOL to both NITDA and the NCC, so you can see where we are. The government needs to ensure that those supporting business continuity for others have sustainable businesses themselves,” Udoma-Eniang added.

Commenting, Director at System Specs, DeRemi Atanda, described ICT as the superstructure that holds the fabric of the society, noting that COVID-19 tested the fabric, which has shifted from physical engagement to become technology-driven.

He said COVID-19 also challenged governance as almost 60 to 70 per cent of the Federal Government and state governments’ workforce stayed home for over six months.

On his part, the Chairman, Mobile Software Solutions Ltd., Chris Uwaje, said the superstructure for creating a sustainable ICT sector in Nigeria is missing, noting that there was a need to first redefine the core competence of ICT for Nigerians in the absence of a national policy on software.

He called for a Soludo Convergence and Collaborative Strategy, where the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria collapsed 83 banks into 25 banks, to build the too-big-to-fail resilient structure.

“The small-scale industries you find in the USA are upward of $250 million and we do not have that. For resilience and collaboration to happen, there has to be a deliberate incentivized national policy to collapse the over 600 or 6,000 innovation hubs in good faith into a critical mass of about too-big-to-fail 20 ICT companies,” Uwaje added.

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