Wednesday, October 26, 2011

When ATCON Returned Journalists to The Classroom

Leading industry association, the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) with support from the Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) recently organised a three-day appreciation training programme for journalists reporting the ICT sector in the country. ROMMY IMAH was there and filed in the following reports....

*Participants at the training programme
It is not often that the contributions of a professional body in the society are appreciated. In fact, if there is any profession that has suffered some degrees of neglect and derision in the society, it is the journalism profession. Little wonder journalists themselves have often described this fourth estate of the realm as an ungrateful profession. This is more so when it is evidently remarkable that the journalism profession is one of the least paid professions in this part of the world. 
So many journalists have lost their lives or became victims of power hungry businessmen and politicians in the course of trying to maintain maximum possible transparency in their news reports by way of impartially analysing the reality of an issue and ultimately relay the news to the apprehensive public. To some people, the journalist is a compliment while to some others, he is mere intruder. Is it then a surprise why in Nigeria, the Freedom of Information Bill took time to earn the nod of the National Assembly?  
However, even in the midst of such high level of ignorance of the role of the media in national economic development, there is still one group that strongly believes that the media is a partner in progress. This group believes that for its members to thrive in their respective business offerings, the media must be carried along and be made to understand the nitty-gritty of such businesses as a better understanding of the industry will impact positively on the overall business growth of the members.
And so, between August 31, 2011 and September 3, 2011, the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) with support from the Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN) and industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) hosted journalists on the ICT beat to 3-day intensive appreciation training aimed at “equipping those who report the Nigerian ICT industry with such technology grounding that will assist them to investigate and report accurately.”
Held at the very serene and standard Whispering Palms Hotel, Iworo, Badagry, Lagos state, an excellent environment for training, retreat and conference, the training took journalists on such areas as technology, management, business, regulation and global trends during the three days of 21 hours of intensive class work, one evening of syndicate session and another social evening.
The first day of the training saw the president of ATCON, Engineer Titi Omo-Ettu do a programme preview as well as deliver his first lecture. He said the programme
was organised because experience has shown that reporting an industry such as theirs plays a remarkable role in investment and therefore, the training was to enable journalists who report the industry know the subject they are reporting better. In addition, it was aimed at helping journalists focus attention on real technical issues of the industry. Above all, the training was organised to assist journalists improve their career development having served the ICT industry well.
He noted that ATCON was not in any way trying to tele-guide journalists’ content of reporting or editorial judgment as the hosts, ATCON and ITAN were not ego-centric. He said the training was rather ATCON’s way of saying thank you to those reporting the telecoms industry and informed that the training programme started formerly in 1996 and has been sustained till now.
Engineer Omo-Ettu stated that ATCON has not regretted embarking on this programme as the association has observed that over time, there has been obvious growth of the telecom industry because the industry has not only done well but the media that reports it. For this reason, he promised that the training will be a regular one as long as new reporters emerge and the cost of the training remains affordable.  
The ATCON President said while his association is focussed on ensuring  telephone access for every Nigerian, building a better business environment as well as regular interventions to support members’ desires, the journalists are expected to focus on the overall development of the industry, the players and industry interests and not persons and company CEOs.
He said after several years of chequered history of regulation, the country eventually got it right through the vibrant regulatory regime of the NCC. He said government’s interest in all of these has been to ensure development of the ICT sector while the regulator is there to ensure conformity. He also spoke extensively on the determinants of quality of service which rest on both the business component and the Interconnect Technical component.
Akin Akinbo, an ATCON member and a resource person took the floor and for three hours, took journalists on technology in telecommunications with emphasis on elements and features of ICT. His lecture dwelt immensely on virtually all the subject matters that journalists come across on daily basis on the course of reporting the industry.
Chief Segun Sorunke, President and Chief Executive Officer of Boss Technologies Limited, a veteran in this kind of training though unavoidably absent from the programme, sent two prepared lectures on Introduction to Telecommunication Technologies and E-Commerce. The presentation ably handled by Engineer Titi Omo-Ettu made an expose of the technologies involved in running a successful telecommunications business.
Engineer Omo-Ettu’s other lecture made a complete dissection of the vexatious issue of regulation and how it has worked in Nigeria. He noted that liberalisation does not happen without a regulator as it is the regulator that drives liberalisation. And contrary to wide held belief, it was liberalisation that created development in the telecoms sector and not the mobile systems.
Member of ITAN and chief executive officer of Programos Software Group, Mr. Amos Emmanuel who took on journalists on global trends in ICT said the training was designed to expose participants to several data security systems and methods for data assurance, integrity and resilience. He stated that in the 21st Century knowledge economy, security of data is of essence describing it as the greatest asset of any organisation after the human capital, and added that as journalists, it is imperative they are acquainted with the topics under global trends.
Emmanuel therefore, took on journalists on local and global trends in engineering a robust IT, Cybersecurity and Internet governing policies. Participating journalists were exposed to data security challenges confronting Nigeria as she marches fully to embrace the knowledge economy through e-Payment, e-Government, e-Learning etc.
If the lectures by the resource persons were revealing then, the thematic night was rather exciting and more revealing as journalists participated in a more interactive manner to discuss topical IT issues confronting the nation. From Number portability to SIM Card registration to quality of service, journalists and the resource persons as well as a representative of the NCC in attendance discussed in a no-hold barred fashion those terminologies that are common in the country’s ICT dictionary. The journalists were in agreement that they were better enriched by what they learnt at the 3-day event.
In all, the 3-day training organised by ATCON for ICT journalists was a step in the right direction. And if the appreciation expressed by journalists at the programme is anything to go by then, other industry associations and indeed operators in the ICT industry should borrow a leaf from ATCON and give back to journalists for contributing to growing their businesses through incisive reportage.

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