By Etuka Sunday
On September 11, 2014, Dr. Eugene Juwah of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, was elected chair of the famous Commonwealth Telecommunication Organization, CTO. This is bound to yield dividends to the growth of ICT in Nigeria in particular and the member nations of the organization in general.
The election of the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the NCC, took place at CTO’s Annual Council meeting held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dr. Juwah, who was until then the 1st Vice Chair of the international organization, would serve as a great inspiration to the running of CTO in the next one year.
With over 30 years experience in IT and telecommunications sector, including 20 years in top management level positions, he was appointed to his present position at the NCC in July 2010. His numerous achievements at NCC include championing the introduction of emergency communication services, mobile number portability, SIM card registration, and broadband access expansion in Nigeria. He takes over at CTO from Juma Kundie, Director for Human Capitals and Administration of the Communications Authority of Kenya, who completed his one year tenure this year.
The CTO is a London- based non-governmental organization. It is an international development partnership between Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth governments, business, and civil society organizations. It is independent of the Commonwealth Secretariat, but has diplomatic status in the UK, the host country. The CTO is currently governed by its council, with an executive committee overseeing the activities of the secretariat between council meetings.
The CTO’s vision is to be the preferred partner organization for governments, the private sector, and the civil society in delivering affective ICT for development (ICT4D) in the Commonwealth and beyond.
Its mission is anchored on promoting, facilitating, and guiding members in using ICTs to deliver effective development interventions.
The CTO seeks to work in collaboration with Commonwealth bodies to build mutually beneficial synergies in the interest of its members, more so because it has a key role to play in leading ICT4D initiatives all over the Commonwealth nations. It is also committed to working together with other Commonwealth entities to reduce overlap and replication of activities.
Although CTO acknowledges the current dominant understanding of development, which interprets it largely as economic growth, it also supports the use of ICT to deliver social, cultural and political dimensions to development. This is why its approach detailed in its current strategic plan is summarized as encapsulating the four ‘Es’ of emancipation, enriching, empowering and equalizing.
The CTO is committed to supporting its members in using Information and Communication Technology appropriately and effectively for development. In the strategic plan period 2012/13 – 2015/16, CTO’s activities will be focused around delivering five main interlinked outputs. These include vibrant CTO membership committed to its vision, enhanced ICT4D capacity development among members, more effective multi-stakeholder partnerships operating in Commonwealth countries, greater engagement by the private sector in ICT4D initiatives in commonwealth countries, ICT as thoughts-leader in six niche areas of expertise. The sixth crucial area of the plan is to have CTO secretariat capable of delivering transparently and professionally on the needs of its members.
The CTO’s six niche areas of focus are broadband, especially mobile broadband for rural development (including food security), cyber security and cyber crimes, ICT for people with disabilities, regulatory environments (including convergence and digital broadcasting switchover), youth and the use of ICT in education with particular reference to skills development and entrepreneurship. It is in partnership with all stakeholders to encourage the rapid and effective roll out of mobile broadband, because mobile infrastructure and devices are capable of providing broadband access to many people in the shortest time.
Broadband is an important focus of CTO’s work, because it has the potential to promote further development across the world. Of particular interest to the CTO are ways through which mobile broadband can be used to enhance food security at a range of scales, from the local to the national. Many exciting initiatives exists, for instance nomadic pastoralists can be enabled to gain information about the quality of pasture through mobile sensor networks, or through which sensors can also be used to provide information to farmers about the quality of grain being stored in their granaries.
With the high level of growth and connectivity, content and applications in ICT channels, ICT has become an important part of modern society. Member countries stand to gain tremendously from CTO’s cyber security agenda with the support of its partners, to design and implement robust cyber security frameworks. The CTO has contributed to a number of working groups and participated in various initiatives including its partnership with ITU’s cyber security executing arm, the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT), to pave the way for the two organizations to work towards the facilitation of information flow and resources, capacity building and the setting up of robust cyber security frameworks for protection against cyber crime.
Child Online Protection (COP) is an initiative of the ITU which came into being following the Global Cyber security Agenda. It is meant to ensure safety and security for children in online environment in order to afford them the opportunity to benefit fully from ICT revolution.
CTO is in partnership with ITU in the implementation of COP in its member countries, starting with Cameroun, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritius, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
Realizing that ICTs can transform the lives of those with greater disabilities far more than they can the lives of those with fewer disabilities, the CTO is championing the interests of people with disabilities seeking to ensure that they are not further disadvantaged by the increasing expression of it across the world.
The commonwealth has a population of 2.3 billion people, i.e. one third of the world’s population. Half of the population of the citizens of the 54 nations is under the age of 25, and one-quarter under the age of 5 years old. The CTO works to protect the youths from threats and challenges in their use of ICT, especially by empowering them to be able to better protect themselves.
There are other useful roles of the CTO as regard ICTs, all of which will be of benefit to Nigerian citizens and citizens of other countries. The elevation of Dr. Eugene Juwah to the CTO Chair means a lot to Nigeria. No doubt the experiences to be gained from the international body will help greatly to improve the quality of ICT service in Nigeria.