Umar Danbatta: Enigmatic regulator of digital transformation – Chris Uwaje

Umar Danbatta: Enigmatic regulator of digital transformation – Chris Uwaje

Today is a good day to discuss Prof. Umar Danbatta.


As the history of the nation transits into the digital knowledge Olympiad, the narratives of our digital transformation process would be incomplete without constructive diagnosis and recognition of the extraordinary role/s played by distinguished technology professionals. One of such audacious accomplishments under focus is that of a telecommunications regulator/administrator. The task accomplished in the national telecoms sector by the Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO), is worth exploring.


This, amongst others, is based on the critical dimension of the sector; as well as the laudable performance footprints registered in the sand of time.


The telecoms development sector is fundamental to advance digital citizenship. Further, it qualifies for a case study in Nigeria’s digital evolution and revolution. The mandate of the national digital regulator/administrator at Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is to translate the national vision and bring the development mission to speed with concrete values for global competitiveness and national security at all levels of existence.


But more than ever before, this makes it perhaps, the forerunner in the omnipotent assignment for national development; in addition to the creation of wealth.


Indeed, once in a lifetime, nations are blessed to birth some of their extraordinary human resources. These phenomena occur and magically emerge like a comet out of the inner universe; with rare potential that illuminate and accelerate national development. Cerebral human resources are treasures to their nations. They are found in Education, Industry, National defence, Entertainment, Communication, Technology, Art and Culture; Science and Engineering, Armed Forces and Security, etc. Meanwhile, the inability of the State to discover and govern through innovative merit-cantered human resources often leads to underdevelopment of nations.


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Executive Vice Chairman/CEO: Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta


In the telecommunications domain, the task of a digital regulator/administrator at the national level is to state lest, enormously challenging and complex. The regulator/administrator at this level must possess the mindset and practical ability to deploy creativity and deliver innovative results. It is a multi-tasking mission to undertake. Also, it requires inadept scientific research with a balancing-act to search for, identify and govern mega digital skills and adapt them to master and overcome the challenges of digital transformation at the global level. Above all, the core deliverable is to transform a nation from the analogue state-of-mind into a digital citizenship culture.


To achieve that, the administrator must ensure that progressive technology research attracts concrete investment; transfer of digital knowledge and progression of high-tech skills. He must play the role of the ambitious and passionate digital teacher; regulator, and administrative entrepreneur at the same time; encouraging the state, public and its large population on how to create, innovate, adapt, apply; extensively use  and consciously secure the national digital infrastructure and content.


By all measures, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta and his research-centric driven performance on the job as a quintessential digital regulator has exponentially transformed our society, economy, and lives in no small measure. Digital technologies have become an intricate part of our existence, dramatically navigating our actions at the speed of thought; providing unimaginable goods and services and security of life at almost all levels of existence.


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Umar Danbatta


According to the World Bank; “In the Telecommunications and Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sectors; having a stable regulatory framework and governance is key for effective regulation. Spectrum management is one of the many functions regulators perform; which may be challenging as new digital technologies and services emerge. To properly face these challenges, it is important for administrations to consider how spectrum issues are addressed in the national government structure. Considering the technical nature of the spectrum management functions, pressure often exists to design regulatory structures and internal procedures to optimize the use of resources available and increase efficiency.


”It is important to establish a management or administrative body providing leadership and supervision for implementation of spectrum planning. Long-term planning is almost always a primary task at management level; one that cannot be delegated, because of the consequences and significance of the decisions to be taken (ITU 2019a:4).


”This is even more evident when supporting the development of new technologies.”


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Umar Danbatta


Based on the above, Nigeria is extravagantly lucky to have a man like Prof. Umar Danbatta at the helm of affairs of the national digital-spectrum centric challenge at a time like this. Indeed, many will be right to proclaim that Prof. Umar Danbatta is God-sent to redeem the digital promise of the Nigerian nation; as well as by extension, Africa’s requirement for sustainable development. Globally acknowledged and recognised, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta is the Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). He is currently serving a second term of five years in office, following the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2020.


Umar Danbatta earned his B.Eng and M.Sc. degrees from the Technical University of Wroclaw in Poland; while he received his Ph.D. from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST).


Prof. Umar Danbatta is a multiple award-winning professor who successfully spearheaded the attainment and surpassing of Nigeria’s national broadband target in 2018. He is currently among those leading the charge for the realization of the new national broadband target of 70% by 2025; after the country achieved and surpassed its earlier national target of 30% penetration in 2018. Critically, through effective regulatory regime and various cutting-edge initiatives; Danbatta has strengthened the role of telecommunications sector as a major contributor to the country’s GDP; boosted telecoms investment inflows from $36 billion to over $70 billion since 2015, among others.


Before his appointment to lead the NCC in 2015, Umar Danbatta, who is a professor of telecommunications engineering, had worked in academia as lecturer where he supervised more than 60 Ph.D., M.Eng and B.Eng projects in diverse areas of telecommunications, rising to the position of Acting Vice-Chancellor in a Nigerian university.


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Umar Danbatta


He was the Vice-President of the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI); an international centre for advanced communications studies established in 2004 by the Commission (NCC) for capacity in diverse areas of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).


While at DBI, Danbatta developed expertise in the following major areas of ICT implementation; policy and regulation, including Regulation of the Telecommunications Sector of the Nigerian Economy; Competition, Interconnection and Price Regulations in a Developing Economy; Issues Concerning Authorization of Telecommunications Services in a Developing Economy. The other areas of his expertise are Strategies for ensuring Universal Access and Service to Telecommunications Services; Strategies towards Effective Spectrum Management in a Developing Economy; Issues on Institutional and Legal Framework for Effective Regulation of Telecommunications Services; as well as New and Emerging Technologies and Impact on Regulation of the Telecommunications Sector of a Developing Economy, among others.


In addition, he is a recipient of scores of distinguished awards and certificates of honour both nationally and internationally; including the prestigious Zik Prize in Professional Leadership. His strides in reviving the Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) and the introduction of harmonized national emergency communication number, 112, helped the NCC to win the International Public Relations Association Golden Award in the year 2000. Crucially, the centers played a pivotal role in containing the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.


Correspondingly, Prof. Umar Danbatta has served two terms of five years as a Member of Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN). He is a Fellow of many professional bodies; including the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE); Nigerian Academy of Engineering (NAEng); Renewable and Alternative Energy Society (RAES) and Nigerian Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (NIEEE).


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Now, with the advent and launch of 5G network in Nigeria; there are assurances to leverage on ‘Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB); Massive machine-type Communications (mMTC) and Ultra-reliable and low-latency Communications (URLLC) for accelerated development under his watch. Recently, Prof. Danbatta emphasized that the goal of the commission was for Nigeria to be one of the leading nations; with 5G technology deployment to benefit all stakeholders and contribute maximally to the digital economy policy of the Federal Government. Also, going forward, he disclosed that based on estimated population of 214 million Nigerians; with an average growth rate of 2.6 per cent annually; approximately 76.46 per cent of the population should be under the age of 35.


Furthermore, he emphasized that in line with the demographic changes; internet penetration in Nigeria grew from three per cent in 2004 to 73.82 per cent as of September 2022; with broadband penetration increased from less than 10 per cent in 2015 to 40.01 per cent in September 2021. Finally, as we look forward for more digital innovation from his regulatory brainchild; it is inevitable to state that history will acknowledge, remember the works; resilience commitment and cerebral dedication of Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta to national development responsibilities – beyond the call of duty.

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