FG Reverses 10% Tariff Increases On Data, Voice Services

A file photo used to illustrate the photo.

 

The Nigerian Communications (NCC) has ordered the reversal of the implementation of the newly approved 10% hike in tariff for voice and data services.

While noting that the tariff increase was due “was in line with the mandates of the Commission as provided by the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, and other extant Regulations and Guidelines,” the implementation has been halted.

READ ALSO: Buhari Signs Nigeria Startup Bill Into Law

“Furthermore, even though the tariff adjustment was proposed and provisionally approved by the Management, pending the final approval of the Board of the Commission, in the end, it did not have the approval of the Board of the Commission. As a result, it is reversed,” the NCC’s Director, Public Affairs Reuben Muoka said in a statement Wednesday.

“The Honourable Minister, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has maintained that his priority is to protect the citizens and ensure justice to all stakeholders involved.  As such, anything that will bring more hardship at this critical time will not be accepted. This was also why he obtained the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari for the suspension of the proposed 5% excise duty, in order to maintain a conducive enabling environment for the telecom operators.  Much as there is an increase in the cost of production, the provision of telecom services is still very profitable and it is necessary that the subscribers are not subjected to a hike in charges.

“In view of the above, the Commission, through a letter sent on the 12th of October 2022, has already directed the affected Mobile Network Operators to reverse the upward tariff adjustment. The Commission will carry out further consultations with all industry stakeholders on the best approaches that will protect and uphold the interest of both the consumers and the service providers.”

Read the full statement below: 

PRESS STATEMENT

FG Directs Network Service Providers to Reverse Unilateral Upward Tariff Adjustment

The attention of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has been drawn to media reports of unilateral implementation of the recently approved 10% upward tariff adjustments for some voice and data services by the service providers, on their networks.

The consideration for 10% approval for tariff adjustments for different voice and data packages was in line with the mandates of the Commission as provided by the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, and other extant Regulations and Guidelines, as this was within the provisions of existing price floor and price cap as determined for the industry. The decision was also taken after a critical and realistic review and analysis of the operational environment and the current business climate in Nigeria, as it affects all sectors of the economy.

Furthermore, even though the tariff adjustment was proposed and provisionally approved by the Management, pending the final approval of the Board of the Commission, in the end it did not have the approval of the Board of the Commission. As a result, it is reversed.

The Honourable Minister, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has maintained that his priority is to protect the citizens and ensure justice to all stakeholders involved. As such, anything that will bring more hardship at this critical time will not be accepted. This was also why he obtained the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari for the suspension of the proposed 5% excise duty, in order to maintain a conducive enabling environment for the telecom operators. Much as there is an increase in the cost of production, the provision of telecom services is still very profitable and it is necessary that the subscribers are not subjected to a hike in charges.

In view of the above, the Commission, through a letter sent on the 12th of October 2022, has already directed the affected Mobile Network Operators to reverse the upward tariff adjustment. The Commission will carry our further consultations with all industry stakeholders on the best approaches that will protect and uphold the interest of both the consumers and the service providers.

The Commission will continue to entrench very transparent processes and procedures for rates determination in the industry. The process is usually carried out with wide industry consultation. It is through these processes that price floors and price caps for data and voice services are benchmarked, regularly reviewed, and determined from time to time.

The Commission will continue to abide by this time-tested process and international best practice to ensure efficient pricing mechanism for the telecommunications industry in Nigeria.

Signed:

Reuben Muoka
Director, Public Affairs

19th October 2022

WHO To Set Up COVID-19 Pandemic Data Hub In Germany

File photo of the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attending a press briefing on COVID-19 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.  AFP

 

The World Health Organization on Wednesday announced it would set up a global data hub in Berlin to analyse information on emerging pandemic threats, filling the gaps exposed by COVID-19.

The WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, which will start operating later this year, is set to analyse data quickly and in detail, in order to predict, prevent, detect, prepare for and respond to risks worldwide.

The hub will try to get ahead of the game, looking for pre-signals that go far beyond current systems that monitor publicly available information for signs of emerging outbreaks.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed gaps in the global systems for pandemic and epidemic intelligence,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists.

“There will be more viruses that will emerge with the potential for sparking epidemics or pandemics.

“Viruses move fast. But data can move even faster. With the right information, countries and communities can stay one step ahead of an emerging risk and save lives.”

 Merging digital, health expertise

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin was a good location for the hub as it already had leading players in the digital and health fields, such as the Robert Koch Institute.

“If that expertise is now supplemented by the WHO Hub, we will create a unique environment for pandemic and health research here in Berlin — an environment from which important action-oriented insights will emerge for governments and leaders around the world,” she said in a video message.

It is hoped that the site will be operational from September. Its budget is still under discussion, while Germany will meet the start-up costs.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the world needed the capacity to detect outbreaks with the potential to become health crises “before the threat becomes a sad reality”.

A picture of the billboard of the World Health Organization (WHO)

 

Global systems were currently “insufficiently prepared” to handle the risks posed by outbreaks, mutations of existing pathogens, extensions of diseases to previously unaffected populations, and diseases jumping species from animals to humans, he added.

“There’s a clear need for a stronger global early warning alert and emergency response system with improved public health intelligence,” he said.

“Better data and better analytics are key for better decisions.”

 Looking for pre-signals

“There are signals that may occur before epidemics happen… data that can give us pre-signals,” said WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan. That information could drive early decision-making, he added.

“The Hub will allow us to develop tools for that sort of predictive analytics,” he said.

A joint mission by international and Chinese scientists concluded in March that the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19 disease most likely passed to humans from a bat via an intermediary animal.

The experts’ report suggested the outbreak could have started as far back as September 2019, long before it was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan.

The WHO only became aware of the new coronavirus on December 31 that year, when its epidemic intelligence service and its China office spotted a media report and a mention by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission of a mysterious cluster of pneumonia cases.

The Covid-19 pandemic has killed at least 3.2 million people and more than 154 million cases have been registered worldwide since then, according to tallies from official sources compiled by AFP.

AFP

Singapore Limits Contact-Tracing Data Access After Outcry

FILES: (Photo byRoslan RAHMAN / AFP)

 

Singapore’s parliament passed a law Tuesday limiting the use of data collected for coronavirus contact-tracing after the government admitted it could be accessed by police, sparking privacy concerns.

The city-state last year rolled out a programme called “TraceTogether” for tracking close contacts of Covid-19 patients that works via both a phone app and dongle, but uptake was initially slow.

It rose to more than 80 percent of residents after government assurances the data would only be used to fight the virus and a decision to make it mandatory for accessing some public places.

But there was an outcry last month when officials admitted police could access information gathered in the scheme as part of investigations, and had already done so during a murder probe.

READ ALSO: Japan Says EU Export Curbs Delaying Its COVID-19 Vaccination Plan

On Tuesday, lawmakers approved legislation limiting the cases in which police can get hold of the data.

It did not cut them off entirely but will give them access only during investigations into seven categories of serious offence, including possession of firearms, terrorism and rape.

Before the legislation was passed, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan acknowledged in parliament it was a mistake for the government not to have made it clear early on that police would have access.

“I take full responsibility for this mistake and I deeply regret the consternation, the anxiety that was caused by my mistake,” said Balakrishnan, who has overseen the scheme.

The government’s admission that police could access the data sparked a furious backlash, with many in the tightly regulated city saying they felt betrayed and activists accusing authorities of undermining the right to privacy.

Singapore has only suffered a mild outbreak, with nearly 60,000 cases and 29 deaths.

Many countries have rolled out contact-tracing programmes that work via smartphone apps, but uptake has been low in some due largely to privacy concerns.

Cost Of Data Reduced By 50% Since January – NCC

A photo combination created on December 10, 2020 showing visual identities of internet giants Facebook, Netflix, Twitter and Google.
A photo combination created on December 10, 2020 showing the visual identities of internet giants Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, and Google.

 

A report by the Nigerian Communications Commission has indicated that the cost of internet data in Nigeria reduced by 50 percent between January and November.

The Ministry of Communications and Digital Communications revealed this in a statement on Thursday.

The NCC report said the average cost of 1GB of data has been reduced from N1,000 to N487.18.

According to the statement, the reduction is in line with Minister Isa Pantami’s Nigerian National Broadband Plan which was launched in December 2019.

One of the goals of the Plan is to reduce the average cost of 1GB of data to a maximum of N390 by 2025.

READ ALSO: Telcos Must Roll Over Subscriber’s Unused Data – NCC

With the January 2020 baseline of N1,000 per GB, the maximum projected steady decrease for the end of each year was as follows: 2020 (N925), 2021 (N850), 2022 (N775), 2023 (N700), 2024 (N545) and 2025 (N390).

“In line with Dr Pantami’s commitment to under promise and over deliver, the measures have caused the current cost of data to reduce significantly beyond the December 2020 projection of N925,” the Ministry’s statement added.

“Based the Report by NCC, the average cost of data as at November 2020 was N487.18, which amounts to 47.33% lower than the projected value. The Report also indicates that the cost of data in November 2020 was less than 50% of the cost of data in January 2020.

“The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, through the NCC, will continue to ensure that consumers enjoy a price regime that supports fairness and is friendly to consumers. Policies are in place to ensure that operators adopt competitive pricing that eschews unjustifiable margins. The general public may also wish to note that complaints about rapid data depletion are also being investigated.”

Facebook Faces Criminal Probe Of Data Deals – Report

Facebook Faces 'Oppenheimer Moment' Over Trump Scandal

 

US prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Facebook’s practice of sharing users’ data with companies without letting the social network’s members know, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed information from at least two major smartphone makers about such arrangements with Facebook, according to the Times.

Regulators, investigators and elected officials around the world have already been digging into the data sharing practices of Facebook which has more than two billion users.

READ ALSO: A Day Not To ‘Like’ For Facebook, Hit By Outage, Criminal Probe

The social network’s handling of user data has been a flashpoint for controversy since it admitted last year that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, used an app that may have hijacked the private details of 87 million users.

“It has already been reported that there are ongoing federal investigations, including by the Department of Justice,” a Facebook spokesman said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“As we’ve said before, we are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously. We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged that we will continue to do so.”

Facebook has shared limited amounts of user data with smartphone makers and other outside partners to enable its services to work well on devices or with applications. Regulators, and now prosecutors, appear intent on determining whether this was done in ways that let users know what was happening and protected privacy.

The California-based social network has announced a series of moves to tighten handling of data, including eliminating most of its data-sharing partnerships with outside companies.

The focus of the grand jury probe was not clear, nor was when it started, according to the Times, which cited unnamed sources.

AFP

Italy Fines Facebook For Selling Users’ Data

 

Italy’s competition authority has fined Facebook 10 million euros ($11.3 million) for selling users’ data without informing them and “aggressively” discouraging users from trying to limit how the company shares their data.

Facebook “misleadingly gets people to sign up… without informing them in an immediate and adequate way of how the data they will provide will be harvested for commercial purposes,” a statement from Italy’s AGCM consumer and market watchdog said on Friday.

The company also does not clearly tell people about “the remunerative purpose that underlies the provision of the social network’s services, simply stressing the fact that it’s free.”

Facebook “aggressively” discourages users from trying to limit how the company shares their data by telling them that by doing so they risk “significant limitations”.

Facebook has repeatedly said it does not sell users’ data.

The company has faced a barrage of criticism recently for the misuse of users’ data to influence elections amid increasing calls for the company run by Mark Zuckerberg to be regulated.

AFP

Facebook Closes 583 Million Fake Accounts

In this file photo taken on May 17, 2012, a Facebook logo is seen through the windows of the NASDAQ stock exchange as people walk by on Times Square in New York.  Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

Facebook axed 583 million fake accounts in the first three months of 2018, the social media giant said Tuesday, detailing how it enforces “community standards” against sexual or violent images, terrorist propaganda or hate speech.

Responding to calls for transparency after the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, Facebook said those closures came on top of blocking millions of attempts to create fake accounts every day.

Despite this, the group said fake profiles still make up 3-4 percent of all active accounts.

It claimed to detect almost 100 percent of spam and to have removed 837 million posts assimilated to spam over the same period.

Facebook pulled or slapped warnings on nearly 30 million posts containing sexual or violent images, terrorist propaganda or hate speech during the first quarter.

Improved technology using artificial intelligence had helped it act on 3.4 million posts containing graphic violence, nearly three times more than it had in the last quarter of 2017.

In 85.6 percent of the cases, Facebook detected the images before being alerted to them by users, said the report, issued the day after the company said about 200 apps had been suspended on its platform as part of an investigation into misuse of private user data.

The figure represents between 0.22 and 0.27 percent of the total content viewed by Facebook’s more than two billion users from January through March.

“In other words, of every 10,000 content views, an estimate of 22 to 27 contained graphic violence,” the report said.

Responses to rule violations include removing content, adding warnings to content that may be disturbing to some users while not violating Facebook standards; and notifying law enforcement in case of a “specific, imminent and credible threat to human life”.

Improved IT also helped Facebook take action against 1.9 million posts containing terrorist propaganda, a 73 percent increase. Nearly all were dealt with before any alert was raised, the company said.

It attributed the increase to the enhanced use of photo detection technology.

Hate speech is harder to police using automated methods, however, as racist or homophobic hate speech is often quoted on posts by their targets or activists.

– Sarcasm needs human touch –
“It may take a human to understand and accurately interpret nuances like… self-referential comments or sarcasm,” the report said, noting that Facebook aims to “protect and respect both expression and personal safety”.

Facebook took action against 2.5 million pieces of hate speech content during the period, a 56 increase over October-December. But only 38 percent had been detected through Facebook’s efforts — the rest flagged up by users.

The posts that keep the Facebook reviewers the busiest are those showing adult nudity or sexual activity — quite apart from child pornography, which is not covered by the report.

Some 21 million such posts were handled in the period, a similar number to October-December 2017.

That was less than 0.1 percent of viewed content — which includes text, images, videos, links, live videos or comments on posts — Facebook said, adding it had dealt with nearly 96 percent of the cases before being alerted to them.

Facebook has come under fire for showing too much zeal on this front, such as removing images of artwork tolerated under its own rules.

In March, Facebook apologised for temporarily removing an advert featuring French artist Eugene Delacroix’s famous work “Liberty Leading the People” because it depicts a bare-breasted woman.

Facebook’s head of global policy management Monika Bicket said the group had kept a commitment to recruit 3,000 more staff to lift the numbers dedicated to enforcing standards to 7,500 at the start of this year.

AFP

FG Decries Lack Of Proper Data On Agricultural Produce

 

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri, has said that foreign investors, who are interested in doing business in Nigeria, are having a cold feeet because of lack of data.

The minister gave the explanation during the 2017 Agricultural Performance Survey Public Presentation and Stakeholders’ forum in Abuja.

Sen. Lokpobiri, lamented that lack of database for agricultural sector has not only made the sector unattractive to both the foreign and local investors but also has continued to retard the growth of agribusiness in the country.

The Federal Government has been working on making agriculture the main stay of the nation’s economy in view of the abundance natural resources bestowed upon Nigeria.

However, the absence of data is stalling the growth of the sector, among other challenges.

For the first time in 30 years, the Ministry of Agriculture is making public the outcome of the 2017 National Agricultural Performance Survey, which was done in collaboration with the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

The study highlighted challenges that affected food production during the 2017 wet season farming to include: climate change, absence of government input support, insecurity, kidnapping, poor support for agricultural extension.

Despite these challenges, there is an increased land area for production, with 35 per cent higher than that of 2016 in all areas of agriculture.

The report identified maize as the most cultivated crop in the country, accounting for over 5 million hectares of land, which produced over 10 million metric tons.
However, the government wants these data collection to be regular to encourage investment in the nation’s agriculture sector.

The ministry hopes to make the presentation of the outcome of the survey a yearly exercise to enable Nigeria and global community plan their business, stressing the need for research institutes to publicise and commercialise their research findings.

Scientists Call For More Attention To Research

scientistsNeglect of medical laboratory science resulting from poor budgeting, infrastructural decay as well as shortage of manpower has been identified as some of the challenges confronting the health system especially in curtailing outbreaks of diseases.

The Medical Scientists of Nigeria held their annual general meeting in Jos, in a communique issued it was observed that no planning can ever be effective without proper research and competent statistical data generation, manipulation and interpretation.

Speaking at the event titled, “Data is the hallmark of empirical research”, a Chief Statistician and Information Analyst with the University of Jos,Pamson Dagyat      stressed the importance of data in managing information.

He also added that with adequate attention and proper funding of Medical Laboratory Science in the country, outbreaks of diseases both emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases can be researched with proper application of statistical tools and effective planning.

Air Asia: Report Won’t Include Black Box Data

asiaAn Indonesian investigator said on Tuesday that the prior report into last month’s crash of an Air Asia passenger jet that killed 162 people will exempt analysis of the black box flight recorders.

The National Transportation Safety Committee will submit its findings this week to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on Air Asia’s first crash.

The Airbus AIR.PA A320-200 vanished from radar screens on December 28, less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-biggest city, to Singapore. There were no survivors.

A multinational search and recovery operation have recovered 70 bodies and hopes to find more after locating the fuselage of the plane. But days of rough weather and poor underwater visibility have hampered navy divers’ efforts.

NTSC investigator Suryanto said that the report which the ICAO requires within 30 days after the accident, would include “information on the plane, the number of passengers and other necessary information.”

It would not include analysis from the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, found by divers beneath Java Sea.

Information from radar and the aircraft’s two “black box” flight recorders provides a clearer view of what occurred during the final minutes of Flight QZ8501.

Transport Minister, Ignasius Jonan, told a parliamentary hearing last week that, the plane had climbed faster than normal in its final minutes, and then stalled, based on radar data.

NTSC head Tatang Kurniadi said, the NTSC will hold an annual media conference this week to deliberate on the agency’s achievements over the past year. The agency is not expected to discuss details of  its investment into the Air Asia crash.