Nigeria Highlights Digital Social Investments at APRA 2024 Conference

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At the 35th annual conference of the African Public Relations Association (APRA) held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) showcased various digital social investments in Nigeria. The conference, which took place from May 13th to 17th, 2024, featured a presentation by Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan, the Head of Media Management Relations at the NCC, who was later elected as the Secretary-General of APRA.

In his presentation titled “Digital Inclusion as Arbiter of Accessible PR: A Case of the Nigerian Communications Commission,” Dr. Ibietan highlighted 36 initiatives by the NCC aimed at expanding digital infrastructure, supporting SMEs, empowering educational institutions, fostering innovation, and promoting digital skills among Nigerian youths.

These initiatives, implemented through the Commission’s regulatory efficiency, include; Advanced Digital Awareness Programme for Tertiary Institutions (ADAPTI); Campus Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIEP) programme; e-PAD project for 232 institutions; Digital Appreciation Project (DAP) for 247 secondary schools; Digital Literacy Training for Teachers (DLT); Digital Integration Programme (DIP) for MSMEs; E-Accessibility programme for persons with disabilities; Nigerian Girls Can Code Competition; Build A-Thon for skill enhancement and new learning experiences; Tertiary Institutions Digital Centre (TIDC) for 250 institutions; 2,291 Digital Nigeria Centers (DNC) providing online/offline educational resources; Local Application and Content Deployment programme; 72 Rural Broadband Initiative projects

Dr. Ibietan also emphasized that the NCC, through its special purpose vehicle, the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), has executed numerous digital infrastructure projects, programs, and collaborative efforts with various stakeholders. These efforts are geared towards enhancing digital inclusion and ensuring that the benefits of digital advancements are accessible to all segments of Nigerian society.

“These interventions have caused a shift in digital literacy, fundamentally shrank the digital divide and opened the floodgates of participation in political, economic and social processes, and enabled accessible digital public relations in Nigeria,” he said.

At the APRA Conference, where over 20 papers were presented under the theme “One Africa, One Voice: Bridging Africa’s Communication Divide,” Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan’s presentation stood out as the sole showcase of digital infrastructure investments by an African country. Despite many papers highlighting the importance of adequate broadband infrastructure for enhancing digital culture across the continent, Ibietan’s paper uniquely detailed Nigeria’s efforts in this area.

Ibietan emphasized that digital inclusion involves enabling individuals and groups to access and fully participate in the digital society through information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as the internet, computers, and mobile devices. He clarified that digital inclusion is not just about access to these technologies but also encompasses the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to utilize them effectively.

He argued that digital inclusion is vital for economies aiming for significant and measurable growth and development. According to Ibietan, digital inclusion promotes social and economic opportunities, enhances civic engagement and participation, supports education and lifelong learning, fosters digital literacy and skills development, encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, and helps bridge the digital divide and reduce inequalities.

Ibietan referenced the COVID-19 pandemic to illustrate the critical role of digital infrastructure in economic resilience. He noted that Nigeria’s investment in broadband infrastructure enabled the nation to cope better with the pandemic’s impact, as digital infrastructure allowed individuals, businesses, and the government to transition their activities to digital platforms, mitigating the pandemic’s devastating effects.

He concluded by recommending constant and seamless communication among stakeholders to ensure the efficient management and optimal benefits of social investment and infrastructure projects.

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