Focusing on bridging the digital connectivity gap in Nigeria, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) recently convened a virtual U.S. – Nigeria Digital Connectivity and Security Standards Workshop targeting key telecommunications operators, policy officials, and regulators in Nigeria. ANSI organized the workshop under the USTDA-funded U.S. – Africa Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards Program.
The January 26-27, 2021 virtual event brought together more than 100 public- and private-sector leaders from the United States and Nigeria's rapidly expanding Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. Topics included 5G and rural telephony, as well as technology solutions to enhance Nigeria's digital transformation efforts. In a series of panel sessions, speakers explored the latest trends on digital trade standards, connectivity, spectrum management, TV white space, and data privacy, as well as international best practices for ICT sector development in Nigeria.
Sarah Fandell, then Head of Agency and General Counsel of USTDA, kicked off the event, followed by an opening address from Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the Honourable Minister of communications and digital economy of Nigeria.
Minister Pantami’s remarks emphasized the tremendous progress Nigeria has made towards increasing broadband penetration in Nigeria, automating service infrastructure, and building soft infrastructure capacity in public institutions and digital services like e-commerce, among other topics. Dr. Pantami also outlined the country’s efforts to implement cybersecurity standards to promote the digital society and to ensure that Nigerians benefit from emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. He noted that the Federal Government of Nigeria has established a National Center for AI and Robotics in Abuja as part of the emerging technologies that are key to driving digital transformation in Nigeria. He also explained that the center will identify Nigerian innovators, provide mentorship, and give necessary support to develop ICT sector products for deployment in Nigeria. He added that while Nigeria will continue to buy and support other ICT products, products developed locally would be given priority. In closing, he detailed how over the years Nigeria has benefited greatly from U.S. industry in many areas, and noted that, looking forward, ICT is an area in which the country's interested in learning more from U.S. experience, development, and mentorship.
U.S. participants included USTDA representatives and U.S. industry experts on connectivity infrastructure and cybersecurity standards from such companies as Cisco, Intel Corporation, Vanu, Microsoft Airband, Palo Alto Networks, Citigroup, and IBM. High-level representatives from the Nigerian government including the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) also spoke at the event.
In a post-workshop survey, 55 percent of respondents said that the workshop is likely to "greatly improve" institutional reform in Nigeria's market related to ICT standards and technical regulations. Additionally, multiple participants have already disclosed the development of new business relationships created through the workshop.
ANSI encourages ANSI members and other company representatives with interest in Nigeria's ICT sector to firstname.lastname@example.org and provide suggestions on possible areas for collaboration with Nigeria's public- and private-sector players.
About the U.S. – Africa Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards Program:
The U.S. – Africa Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Standards Program is designed to share ICT standards information and international best practices with government officials and industry in Sub-Saharan Africa, and facilitate engagement with the U.S. public and private sectors.
Sponsored by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), the program will facilitate the development and implementation of ICT sector standards, testing protocols, regulatory procedures and adherence to internationally accepted industry-led standards.
ANSI will host four additional technical workshops in Sub-Saharan Africa during the program's 18-month duration, including a range of ICT related subjects: connectivity, cybersecurity, data protection, market liberalization, e-government, digitization, mobile banking regulations, and standards harmonization. ANSI will coordinate with USTDA, U.S. industry, and host country entities to prioritize and develop workshop topics.
The U.S. Trade and Development Agency connects America's private sector to infrastructure projects in developing and middle-income countries. USTDA approaches its mission by funding feasibility studies, technical assistance, and pilot projects that integrate the expertise of American companies. The Agency also connects overseas buyers with U.S. sellers through its reverse trade missions, industry conferences and workshops. USTDA is unique among federal agencies, as it is mandated to promote U.S. industry's participation in infrastructure projects at the critical early stages when design choices and technology options are being defined. U.S. companies and international partners can learn more about how to work with the Agency by visiting USTDA’s website.
This workshop series is a part of USTDA’s Access Africa initiative. Access Africa supports the development of quality information and communication technology infrastructure across Africa. Working with the public and private sectors across the continent, Access Africa brings together critical stakeholders and designs targeted programming to advance inclusive, secure, and sustainable connectivity.