Concerns grow over FG’s proposed ‘eavesdropping’ satellites

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Stories by Olabisi Olaleye  08094000013, 08111813040

The latest trend in developed countries is the deployment of eavesdropping satellites, otherwise known by critics as “Big Brother,” to help arrest terrorism and other vices in such countries.

The United States, Britain, Russia, China and others have leveraged on this technology, while Nigeria is on the brink of building two eavesdropping satellites, which, however, has caused a lot of concern among telecoms stakeholders in the country.

Some of the stakeholders are of the position that the intercepting devices may not be used the way it they were meant to be used.

Owing to this fear, Paradigm Initiative, an ICT concern, recently submitted a letter to the Minister of Communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu, on the alleged eavesdropping capabilities of one of the two proposed satellites that the country is bent on building and launching.

Speaking recently, Paradigm Initiative’s programme assistant, Tomiwa Ilori, said, “As an organisation at the forefront of ensuring digital rights and that human rights are respected, when new technologies are being used in Nigeria and, by extension, in Africa, we are keen on conversations that involve freedom of expression, Internet interference, data privacy and security and, most importantly, surveillance and transparency.”

According to the organisation’s director of programmes, Tope Ogundipe, “It is in achieving these objectives that we call on the Federal Ministry of Communications to provide all the details involved in the building and launch of the two new satellites for the Nigerian government. As we have stated in the freedom of information request sent to the Ministry on February 2, 2017, the scaling up of the number of satellites in space may be noble but in order to ensure that this is done with utmost regard to digital rights of every Nigerian, every stakeholder, including the ministry, must act as watchdogs for our digital rights.

“Though there have been insinuations that these satellites are capable of eavesdropping on the communications of most citizens when finally launched, we believe that the ministry understands this to be an erosion on the fundamental human rights guaranteed by Section 37 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). With this belief, we are sure that these published allegations are just what they are and contain no truth.”

On his part, Paradigm Initiative’s programme manager, Boye Adegoke, said, “In light of the report and possible implications on digital rights in Nigeria, we ask the ministry to honour our FoI request within the time stipulated by law and provide us with every information as regards the launch of the satellites and their intended use so the general public can be aware that not only are the eavesdropping allegations untrue but also that the ministry and every other agency of government will continue to respect human rights and, in particular, digital rights.”

Paradigm Initiative has said it would continue to monitor this development for new updates and ensure that a logical conclusion is reached on the matter. In the past four years, the organisation has used litigation to follow up on FoI requests that were not responded to.

ATCON partners DWTC to boost members’ participation

In light of the annual Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) has disclosed that the partnership between DWTC and the association was meant to maximise members’ participation in the annual Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX), which holds in Dubai.

According to ATCON, the 107 telecoms member-companies in Nigeria can better explore business partnerships that would offer them increased scale, more foreign direct investment (FDI) and more ICT capabilities.

Speaking recently during a media briefing, ATCON president, Mr. Olusola Teniola, disclosed that over 107 ATCON members have not been taking optimum advantage of the forum.

He disclosed that it was with a view to ensuring that ATCON members attending the Dubai conference effectively tap into the huge networking opportunities that abound in the conference that the strategic dialogue between ATCON and DWTC has become imperative.

“We want to ensure that, this time around, there is full advantage that can be taken by our members and the only way to do this is to seek this strategic partnership with the organisers of the event, build a platform where Nigerian telecoms companies can get better scale, foreign direct investment and leverage other ICT capabilities such as Interne of Things and big data, among others,” Teniola saidm noting that there is still a gap that needs to be filled in the area of FDI inflow, latest technology innovations and opportunity to showcase Nigeria’s “technological innovations to the global market.”

The ATCON head stressed that GITEX was a strategic event for Dubai and Gulf region that provides Nigerian firms a veritable platform to demonstrate ICT capabilities, with sponsorship from the Nigerian Communications Commission and the National Information Technology Development Agency “to showcase technology innovations from Nigeria to the world and for Nigerian firms to also learn about new technology trends shaping the world.”

He explained, for instance, that the industry has transited from “voice to data and from data now,” so that Nigeria should be talking more about services where artificial intelligence and robotic technologies continue to revolutionise the tech space.

On what DWTC would bring to the table before the October 2017 event, Commercial Director of DWTC, Mr. Bilal Al-Rais, disclosed that his delegation came to discuss increased FDI and how Nigerian firms can leverage global ICT capabilities.

Moting that Africa has continued to be a focus for GITEX in the past seven years, Al-Rais said, “We have been getting solutions from young minds in Africa and we would be interested on what Nigeria is contributing to the global ICT ecosystem.”

Why ‘.ng’ is critical national resource -Folayan

…Opens nomination for .ng awards 2017

President of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), Sunday Folayan, has given reasons why the “.ng” domain name as a critical national resource as it revolves around every sector of the economy, as long as they have an online presence. He noted that the .ng string is also a unique identity on the world wide web (www).

While explaining the importance, he disclosed that NIRA seeks to recognise and acknowledge people and institutions that have contributed to the growth of the .ng domain name registration and the promotion of the DNS industry.

NIRA is the registry for Nigerian Internet Domain names (.ng), and maintains the database of names registered in the .ng country code top level domain (ccTLD) name space in the interest of Nigerians and the global Internet community. He further stated that using the .ng awards, NIRA celebrates the achievements and innovation of Nigerian Internet initiatives.

“The awards aim to showcase Nigerian businesses, individuals, charity, public and private sector organisations, which help to make the Internet a more secure, open, accessible and rewarding experience for all.

“NIRA acknowledges the great work being done out there and desires people to know, talk about it, engage with it and put it into the spotlight,” he said.

Chairman Technology Times, Mr. Shina Badaru, who is also chairman of the award committee, said the 2017 .ng awards criteria must be met by all nominees.

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