WASPAN seeks holistic approach to sub-sector’s regulation

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Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association of Nigeria (WASPAN), the industry body for Value Added Services (VAS) licensees in the country has urged Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) to prioritise the need for foreign investors to adhere by the rules guiding VAS regulations.

According to WASPAN, ICT local content (including software and hardware) is grossly underdeveloped in Nigeria, because of the over-dependence on the foreign importation of software and hardware, which diminished opportunity for capacity building in ICT local content creation.

Consequently, to remedy this challenge, WASPAN said efforts must be put in place to ensure that local content, which includes production of local software and hardware is properly developed through appropriate laws; content development in indigenous languages; and encouragement of the industry to focus on solutions and services that meet the needs of the society.

Speaking in Lagos, National Coordinator, WASPAN, Chijioke Ezeh, said, creating local content will make the various ICT platforms; including those that reside in cyberspace, more relevant and applicable to national development.

“There are several similar documents and commitments by the current and past governments to achieve the full implementation of such policies. We believe the time is ripe for this and we stand firmly with the commission on this”, he said. He however, raised concerns on how the new VAS policy draft by the NCC could hinder competition, lead to loss of jobs and be against local content growth, breed collapse of Nigeria VAS companies, unnecessary decimation of the digital industry, dearth of innovation, work against market evolution, constitute potential risk to national security.

According to him, while the NCC’s intention was well conceived to regulate the industry, more time was needed to accommodate more views, especially from WASPAN, in order to have an industry friendly policy that addresses all the various aspects of the nation’s telecoms VAS market.

He noted that current VAS model has been in place since 2001 with periodic changes as various stages of the market expansion occurred. He also said they were in agreement with positive change such as the intentions of the NCC proposed changed to the status quo of the industry.

Speaking on challenges bedeviling the VAS sector, he said preparations by NCC to regulate the VAS industry is generating anxiety, suspicion and fears of foreign invasion of the sector.

“This is coming particularly from people whose professions are in that genre of telecommunications business, if the NCC did not tilt its regulation towards the protection of local businesses in the sector, foreigners would swoop in and hijack the industry”, he stated.

The association rather tasked the NCC to ensure that the strict adherence to contractual terms between and among parties is maintained as much as strict adherence to anti-competition and anti-trust rules and regulations. For them, “NCC must ensure the protection of the Nigerian VAS ecosystem from foreign invasion”, he stated.

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