Nigeria to assist Niger with Digital Switch Over project

Solomon Chung, Abuja

The Nigerian Government has promised to assist neighbouring Republic of Niger to successfully transit from analogue to digital broadcasting under the Digital Switch Over (DSO) project.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the promise on Monday when he hosted the Minister of Communication of Niger, Madam Sani Koubra in his office in Abuja.

He said Nigeria would make available to Niger the legal framework for its DSO project, as well as its expertise in the area of signal distribution, Set-Top-Box (STB) manufacturing and content production.

The Minister said the Nigerian government has the political will to make the DSO a success story for the benefit of all Nigerians and to the ECOWAS Community in the areas of the application of the Digital Dividends, despite the challenges.

He listed the challenges facing the DSO to include the availability and cost of STBs and the Content of Broadcast.

”Because of digitization, we now have opportunity for many more channels of programming. When all the technology is in place what are you going to feed your public through all these available channels? The easiest way to colonize the minds of our people is via the Mass Media. If we do not seriously address the issue of Compelling Indigenous Content, we will be exposing our population to further colonization,” Alhaji Mohammed said.

Giving an overview of the DSO in Nigeria, he said two Signal Distributors have been licensed – Integrated Television Services Limited from the Transmission Infrastructure of the government-owned NTA and the privately-owned Pinnacle Communications Ltd; that 13 companies have been licensed to manufacture STBs; that a company, INVIEW Ltd, has been contracted to make available a Conditional Access System software for the boxes or decoders while another, CCNL, is the Signal Aggregator.

The Minister told his Nigerien counterpart that Nigeria launched the pilot scheme of the DSO in Jos, Plateau State, 30th April 2016, rolled out in the nation’s capital, Abuja, 22nd December 2016 and will also roll-out in six states in the six geopolitical zones of the country by the end of June 2017.

Speaking earlier, the Nigerien Minister said she was in Nigeria to learn how the country has achieved a huge success in its DSO project, noting that Nigeria is way ahead of other countries in Africa in the analogue-to-digital transition in broadcasting.

Madam Sani said Niger Republic holds Nigeria in high esteem and commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his leadership role in ECOWAS.

The host Minister later took his Nigerien counterpart and her entourage on a tour of some of the critical infrastructure of the DSO, including the Control Room and Transmission Station of Pinnacle Communications, facilities of the ITS in the NTA and the Call Centre.

Nigeria and other ECOWAS Member Countries have agreed to adopt a Common Minimum Standard for Set-Top-Boxes in the Sub-Region, meaning that STBs manufactured in Nigeria can also be available for use in all the ECOWAS Countries.

Nnenna.O