Dr. Benjamin Aggrey-Ntim, Minister of Communications on Monday stressed the need for Telecommunication Regulators to consider not only new approaches to regulate the sector, but also consider the convergence of Telecommunications, Broadcasting and Information Technology into a Multimedia Industry.
"Even though this workshop would concentrate on Telecommunications Policy and Regulation, you should have at the back of your minds that technological convergence is diminishing such regulatory distinctions between Telecommunications, Broadcasting and the Information Technology industries," he said.
Dr. Aggrey-Ntim, was opening a five-day National Workshop for Telecommunications Experts from the West African sub-region to address and share ideas on regulatory issues and challenges affecting the industry.
Participants from Nigeria, Uganda, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda and Ghana are attending the workshop organised by the West Africa Telecommunication Regulators Assembly (WATRA) and the National Communication Authority (NCA), Ghana.
The workshop on the theme: "Changing Landscape of Regulation in Africa: Challenges and Capacity Demands" is being sponsored by [email protected], a Network for capacity building and knowledge exchange in ICT policy, regulation application.
The Minister said in the increasingly complex environment, the policy makers and the regulatory authorities were expected to be futurists in thinking, with the 'roadmap' and directions needed to stay ahead and navigate affairs of the sector.
Dr. Aggrey-Ntim said, the high-level representation at the workshop should encourage the participants to deliberate on issues that would help provide long lasting solutions to the challenges confronting the communications industry while building strong networking bonds between themselves.
He, therefore, urged the regulators to promote universal access to communication technologies in the sub-region, show interest in protection of the rights of consumers and citizens and assurance of safeguard and redress.
"As regulators within the sub-region, I advise you to familiarize yourselves with the regional and sub-regional initiatives being promoted to harmonize ICT policies, regulations and laws so as to facilitate regional integration and enhance the attraction of our countries for greater investments.
"It is in this regard that we should pursue our infrastructure development in a harmonious manner that would grant our citizens the ease of communication and mobility," he said.
Dr Aggrey-Ntim said that would be facilitated if the countries were able to develop the enabling regulations and common legislation across the networks and jurisdictions.
Mr. Nnamdi Nwokike of the WATRA Secretariat, said WATRA was established in 2004 to address the present realities of the telecommunications industry in the sub-region while focusing on the need for West Africa to evolve a harmonized regulatory identity to boost investment and investor-confidence.
WATRA has 14 ECOWAS member countries as signatories and headquartered in Abuja, Nigeria.
Member countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivore, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
Mr Bernard Forson Jnr., Director General, NCA and Chairman of WATRA said the role of regulators was very important in the development of strong, competitive and socially responsive communications industries.
He, therefore, called for the full support of member governments to build capacities in investment areas and harmonize the negative areas of the sector to achieve results.