By Favour Unukaso
THE Fifth-Generation (5G) network licensees in Nigeria have been mandated to ensure protection of citizens’ data in this critical period of cyber criminals.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which gave this directive in Lagos, Thursday, at the 2023 Nigeria DigitalSENSE Forum with the theme: “5G: Data Governance, Safety and Security in Nigeria,” said Nigeria is a highly technology-driven country, and the advent of 5G technology has opened up immense opportunities and challenges, especially regarding data governance, safety, and security.
NCC said every successive generation has introduced notable advances in mobile data-carrying capacity and decreases in latency. The Commission, which reiterated that it has issued MTN Communications, Mafab Communications and Airtel Networks with 3.5GHz Spectrum Licences for the provision of 5G services in Nigeria and support the delivery of ubiquitous broadband services, said licensees must be wary of both advantage and challenges that comes with the technology.
Indeed, recalled that while MTN has rolled services in about 13 cities in the country since it got the license in 2021, Mafab, which obtained the license same time with MTN, despite getting extension of rollout time has not started and Airtel since December 2022, after emerging the sole bidder has not revealed its 5G plan. In all, the President Muhammadu Buhari regime raked in over $820 million from the licensing of the technology.
At the DigitalSENSE Forum, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, disclosed that while 5G technology has enhanced capabilities that will be provide superior communications services for the socio-economic development of Nigeria and facilitate attainment of a National Digital Economy, “we must consider the challenges that come with it, particularly in protecting user data privacy and safety. This calls for exercise of authority and control over mining and usage of data; the purpose being to increase value of data and minimize data related costs and risks.”
Danbatta, represented by Head, New Media and Information Security at NCC, Dr. Chukwudi Diugu, said Data is critical to the digital economy, and the country must prioritize building robust legal frameworks for data governance.
The NCC EVC posited that as the nation embrace the transformative potential of 5G, “we must also prioritise safety concerns. The amount and speed of data generated using 5G Technology is unprecedented. As such, we need to always prioritize consumer privacy, transparency and ethical data use. By cultivating trust and handling data responsibly, we can unlock the full potential of 5G technology and promote innovation in Nigeria.”
He said to ensure the security and protection of networks and consumers, the Nigerian Communications Act mandates its licensees to prevent their network facilities or services from being used in, or in relation to, the commission of any offense under any law in operation in Nigeria.
“In this regard, licensees are required to assist the Commission and other Law Enforcement Agencies in preventing crime in Nigeria.
“There is also the concern about how personal data is collected, stored, shared and exploited. Though this is provided for in the Consumer Code of Practice Regulations 2007, the Commission is in the process of developing more elaborate Data Protection Regulations to ensure the protection and privacy of data in the Nigerian communications sector,” he stated.
The NCC EVC noted that the widespread connectivity and increased Internet of Things (IoT) devices would revolutionize all sectors of the economy, particularly healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, education and financial sectors, “thus, we must remain vigilant in addressing safety risks. The Nigerian Communications Commission put in place strict testing and compliance standards that ensure all networks and devices are safe.
“Further to this, the Commission type-approves telecommunications equipment, ensuring that they conform to global standards and ascertains that the equipment is interoperable with various relevant technologies. It is very important that stakeholders, including network operators, manufacturers, and government bodies, collaborate in applying frameworks that safeguards citizens’ wellbeing.
“The security of our communication networks and infrastructure is of utmost importance. As 5G networks become the backbone of our digital ecosystem, they will play a pivotal role in supporting critical services like banking, energy, and emergency response systems. Therefore, we must strengthen our defenses against cyber threats and ensure that our networks are protected from malicious actors.
To the Lead Consulting Strategist, DigitalSENSE Africa, Remmy Nweke, the theme is apt because there is need for safety and security as 5G becomes the next big thing in the country’s growing telecoms sector.
“As we may be aware, the 5G mobile network is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G networks. Thus, 5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects and devices,” Nweke stated.