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Digital Space And Regulatory Reforms Challenges In Nigeria

The digital media ecosystem has experienced a great deal of disruptions, thanks to technological advances, and innovations. Though a welcome change due to the amount of positive impact it has had on users and overall development, it has still without a doubt brought about some challenges in major sectors and industries around the world – one of such issues being in the area of regulations and policies for businesses in the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications, industry.

In line with creating an awareness of these current issues plaguing the industry, a group of industry members and regulations experts, gathered together for a Two – day workshop to highlight challenges, understand the crux of the problem, and invariably come up with suggestions and possible solutions to tackle same. More specifically, issues addressed at this conference were centred around policy lacunas, the need to update obsolete policies that are inhibiting the accommodation of new trends for the growth of industry players, and the issues of taxes in the ICT sector.

The digital media industry from a regulators view-point needs a lot of work as most of the policies in place are driven by an analog mindset in a digital age and this raises the issue of a conflict of a scarcity mindset in the age of abundance. There is a need for proper definitions and measurement of impact of businesses before enforcing regulations. Policy-makers and regulators must ensure that they are open to learning and are conscious of the ever progressive, ever dynamic phenomenon that is the digital space, this they must do if they intend to reform polices that would be both relevant and beneficial. Regulators are also faced with a lack of an adequate toolbox to checkmate and understand new trends in the industry, hence the reason why they are usually at loss as to how to handle new developments that the old policies in place did not make provisions for. Dynamism and constantly being updated on digital developments, would be a suggestion for regulators to be relevant in their field and to create a sustainable system for the industry. impact analysis needs to be done before any action is taken in relation to regulations. In addition, there is an emphasis on the need to prioritize data in coming to conclusions and making decisions.

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What the issues with regulations and policies mean for consumers and the citizenry is that, based on the regulations in place, there are a lot of disadvantages and limitations indirectly stopping them from having access to better quality and value for money, from their digital media products. The consumers need realistic regulations whether they know it or not, and based on statistics, there is a large gap between people that are getting a good deal from connectivity and broadband, as opposed to those who merely have access to the most basic benefits of digital services such as voice and SMS (2G) – more than half of the population are not connected optimally (4G).

Issues facing businesses in the digital media industry are the fact that there are a lot of regulations that halts their growth and stunt their performance. Businesses in this sphere these days find that they are faced with a lot of regulations that are frankly unnecessary as a result of the lack of a proper definition or measurement of impact for their business. Players in the sector, should not only push for the development of policies and regulations, neither should they solely rely on the government to make policies and decisions in their favour, they should be actively involved in the process while ensuring that they interrogate whatever the government or sectoral regulatory bodies such as NBC and NCC, tells them, as there could be some lapses, errors or grey areas that otherwise prevent them from reaching their full potentials.

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For taxes, there is an understanding that it should not exist in the ICT sphere because it has been observed to bring with it negative impacts on revenue and on the consumers, based on statistics. If for any reason there need to be some regulations as regards taxes in this area, it needs to be strictly approached with an evidence- based mindset. Adequate research and findings needs to be invested in, unless there would be a risk of causing more harm than good for all the players – content producers, distributors, and consumers.

Factors that are necessary for the needed change to occur in the digital media world encompasses, Technological Changes, Consumer Behavior, Industry, Macroeconomy, and Regulation/policy. Currently, West African countries like Nigeria, Uganda amongst others are deficient in most, if not all these.

We are in the era of content as a concept, being of high value and importance to driving change and development when it comes to digital media. Gone are the days of streamlined content, airing on legacy ‘free-to-air’platforms – the narrative has changed in the manner of production and distribution and the earlier we start making innovations centred around this rhetoric the better for the industry and the regulations surrounding it.

The future of the industry in terms of regulations, looks something like one where the key drivers, players, and regulators all have an understanding of what the industry entails, flexibility in regulations, bespoke approaches to unique businesses, and an inclusivity of all necessary factors, for the good of everyone concerned. There would be a less asymmetrical, more balanced regulations, across board and with it we would experience the full impact of the benefits of digital advancements.

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