AnOx 2013 alumnus Temitope Lawal discusses the issues surrounding Nigerian ICT regulation and the future of the Nigerian ICT sector.
What drew you to the study of telecommunication and media regulation?
The liberalization of the telecommunications industry in Nigeria, which started in 2001, aroused my interest in regulation of the ICT sector. This, coupled with the rapid development of new technologies including next generation network access in developed countries, informed my decision to pursue the requisite academic and professional knowledge towards contributing to the development of the ICT sector in Nigeria.
What effect has learning about telecommunications globally and interacting with people from cultures and backgrounds had on your research?
Learning about global telecommunications has exposed me to various issues, including the importance of reducing the digital divide in developing countries. As a developing country, Nigeria continues to struggle with the provision of telephony, broadcasting, and internet access to people residing in under-served areas of the country. I intend to further my research in this area so as to understand how best to address and overcome the challenge of providing people with equal access to communication services, taking into consideration my experience and interaction with telecommunication practitioners around the world.
How did An-Ox help you with your research and career path?
Participating at the An-Ox program allowed me to meet young scholars and regulators from around the world with whom I was able to discuss important trends in technology. This gave me the much needed encouragement to pursue a career in telecommunications regulation back in Nigeria. Interacting with regulators, academics, and policymakers from Africa, Europe, the United States, and the Middle East helped broaden my research interest and contributed immensely to the successful completion of my post-graduate dissertation where I had a high distinction grade.
What sort of legal issues do you handle in your role as a Senior Legal Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission?
As a Senior Legal Officer in the Telecoms Laws and Regulations Unit, one of my main responsibilities is to review, develop, and draft ICT Regulations and Guidelines. At the moment, I am involved in the development of a legal framework for the lawful interception of communications in the light of frequent cyber-attacks and terrorist threats in the country.
What do you feel are some of the biggest issues facing Nigerian internet regulation?
One of the biggest issues currently facing the Nigerian cyberspace is software piracy. The Nigerian Copyright Act, which was enacted in 1988, is the primary legislation for copyright protection. Its provisions, however, are quite outdated, and so cannot protect the interest of intellectual property rights owners in the information age. Although the Act’s definition of literary work includes software, it needs to provide more adequately against new forms of piracy borne of more advanced technologies.
Additionally, there is the issue of cyber-attacks. The mechanisms required to prevent, detect, and punish perpetrators of these acts are still lacking in Nigeria. Though the senate house of the National Assembly recently passed the long awaited Cybercrime Bill into law, the Bill does not become effective until the President assents to it. Even after the Bill becomes effective, appropriate apparatuses have to be put in place to allow for proper enforcement of its provisions.
How do you see Nigeria’s telecommunication and media space developing over the next ten years?
Over the next ten years, I foresee an environment where high-speed broadband internet access will be available to the majority of the population. At the moment, several high capacity submarine cables have been landed in Nigeria; however, ineffective distribution and transmission of the available bandwidth at more available end-user prices pose a major barrier to faster realization of the desired broadband boom. Closely connected to broadband access is the switch from analogue broadcasting transmission to digital. In the next ten years, Nigeria will make the switch, which will allow for the provision of more television channels and content, while freeing up spectrum space for more efficient use. The most notable impact of digital transmission will be ultra-fast wireless broadband, which operates well on the frequency range that would be freed in the switch from analogue to digital.
//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.