The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC),hosted a commemorative forum and road show to celebrate the 2024 World Consumer Rights Day, which is marked globally every March 15 yearly.

In that regard,  the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services Designate at NCC, Engr. Abraham Oshadami,who represented the  Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of NCC, Dr. Aminu Maida, delivered a Speech.

According to the statement, it states “Permit me to tender the apology of the EVC/CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission Dr. Aminu Maida who wished to be here but had to attend to very crucial national issue at the moment.

Ladies and Gentlemen, It is with great pleasure that I stand before you also as a Consumer on this very important occasion.

“Consumers are the most important part of any business, and their protection is of utmost importance. Every year, on March 15th, World Consumer Rights Day is celebrated to raise awareness about the rights of consumers worldwide and protect them from unfair trade practices.
The history of World Consumer Rights Day dates back to 1962 with the introduction of four basic consumer rights by President John F. Kennedy in his speech to the US Congress. These rights included the right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose, the right to be heard.

“Consistent with the above, the Commission has over the years kept faith with this date to highlight the important position the telecom consumers occupy in the telecommunications ecosystem in Nigeria, in order to uphold the rights of consumer which have evolved over the years with additional new consumer rights like the right to privacy, the right to quality of service, the right to timely redress, right to action on disputed charges, right to fair complaint process and right to accurate billing.

“The Commission in alignment with the global trend adopted the theme for this years’ edition of World Consumer Rights Day as “Fair and Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Consumer”
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a phenomenon that has captured the imagination of scientists, engineers, and thinkers for decades. It represents the culmination of human innovation and the quest to create machines that can mimic human intelligence and problem-solving capabilities.

“AI has already made significant inroads into our lives. From voice assistants that respond to our commands to recommendation algorithms that suggest what we should watch, read, or buy, AI is all around us. It’s driving innovation in healthcare, finance, transportation, and countless other fields.

Conversely, with inordinate power comes great obligation. As we celebrate the advancements in AI, we must also grapple with ethical questions. How do we ensure that AI systems are fair and unbiased? How do we protect privacy in an age of data-driven AI? These are complex issues that require careful consideration.

“Fair and Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Consumer”
Using AI responsibly is crucial in order to guarantee consumer trust and circumvent possible problems.

Responsible AI means using it in an ethical way throughout its development, deployment, and usage. This includes considering issues like bias, privacy, transparency, and accountability. According to reports, responsible AI aims to empower consumers, build trust, and minimize negative effects.

“To this effect AI Developers need to be transparent about the data, algorithms, and models used in AI systems. This ensures that decisions made by AI can be explained and mistakes can be fixed to ensure everyone is treated fairly, regardless of their background. This helps prevent biased decisions or discrimination thereby promoting inclusivity and equality.

Protecting citizens’ privacy is extremely important when using AI. Organizations should handle personal data responsibly, following strict privacy regulations. Respecting privacy builds trust in AI systems.

Responsible AI requires mechanisms for holding systems accountable and explaining their decisions. Consumers should understand how AI systems work and have a way to address issues or biases.

The Commission in pursuit to join the global community to advance digital services and enhance quality communications infrastructure for the benefit of the citizenry conducted a globally acclaimed most transparent auction for 5G services in Nigeria firstly on December 13th 2021 and secondly on December 5th 2022. The first auction saw the emergence of MTN and MAFAB as the successful bidders while Airtel Networks Nigeria emerged as the sole bidder at the second auction.

Since the emergence of these operators as providers of 5G services in Nigeria, there has been a steady growth in the development and deployment AI systems and services and the Commission has been constantly ensuring that the growth is the right direction that guarantees value addition to Consumer satisfaction and experience as well as ensuring economic growth.

Regulatory Challenges

Developing regulations and policies to govern AI deployment can be complex and as well as playing catch up due to technological advancements.

Although most Legislative and governing Bodies are looking to regulate this technology, there has been continuous struggle to strike the right balance between risk mitigation and stifling innovation, while promoting innovation and ensuring security and trust. In this era that has seen the rise of AI and IoT cybersecurity, it is important to break silos and foster collaboration of the Quadruple Helix Innovation model comprising of the Academia, the Industry, Government and Society to share ideas. AI developers and Regulators have to ensure AI system algorithms consider, ethics and inclusivity.

The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) is reshaping industries and transforming the way we live and work. However, as AI technologies become increasingly integrated into various aspects of society, so they bring forth a complex web of legal and regulatory challenges.

Navigating this uncharted territory requires a careful examination of existing laws, the development of new regulations, and ethical considerations to ensure that AI benefits society without compromising fundamental rights and values.

Consumer-centric Initiatives

While the theme of this years’ World Consumer Right Day is on Fair and Responsible AI for the Consumer, I cannot but speak to important thematic issues in the Nigerian Telecom Space.

With the Commission’s special interest and commitment to Consumer Protection, we have proactively put in place consumer-centric initiatives to deal with first level complaints by the telecom consumer.

These initiatives include the Consumer Complaints Management (CCM), through which various channels of lodging complaints were created, the NCC Toll-free line 622 available between 8:00am to 8:00pm daily except on Sundays and Public Holidays, the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) Code 2442, for stopping unsolicited messages, the Consumer Portal-, and the Commission Consumer X account @Consumersncc.

Other initiatives include the Telecom Consumer Assistance, Resolution and Enquiries (TELCARE), at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, an additional platform to enhance awareness of the Commission’s activities, make enquiries on consumer complaints and also for advocacy on any thematic telecom issues or concern. Also not to overlook the most recent, the Harmonized Short Codes initiative which enables consumers to use the same codes to access services across all networks.

Recall that one major focus area of the strategic roadmap of the Nigerian Communications Commission’s current Management is the Consumer.

“In Conclusion,Distinguished Executives Commissioners, Directors and Staff of the Commission, respected stakeholders in the telecommunications industry in Nigeria, as the global community celebrates the World Consumer Right Day (WCRD) 2024, the Commission is affirming that the theme of this year will be an integral part of its’ activities considering that AI is a force that is shaping our future in profound ways.

It holds incredible potential to improve our lives, but it also challenges us to think critically about how we harness this power responsibly. Our continuous resolve to Protect, Inform and Educate (PIE Mandate) the telecom consumer is unwavering, particularly as AI technologies continue to advance there is need foster innovation while safeguarding fundamental rights, values, and dignity of consumers.

Furthermore, the  Deputy director,Consumer Affairs Bureau,Mr Clem Omife,also delivered his speech,

He said “The World Consumer Rights Day is observed and celebrated on every 15th of March. This day is set aside to highlight the rights of consumers and protect them from exploitation, discrimination, and other forms of unfair practices.

Certainly, we cannot over-emphasis the importance the consumers.

“According to Adams Smith, the author of the book wealth of Nations, he stated that “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production (and Services) and the interest of the producer/service provider ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the Consumer.

John Wanamaker, the one-time American Postmaster General and Advertising Expert further amplified the importance of the Consumer in his famous phrase “Customer is King”. At the NCC, Telecom consumers are Kings because they provide the major drive and essence of our activities.

“The Commission recognizes the important position the consumers occupy in the telecommunications ecosystem, and therefore will continue develop and promote consumer centric initiatives aimed at ensuring that the rights of consumers are protected.

“Consumer Education also form a major tool for promoting consumer rights and therefore the Commission continues to engage with consumers and consumer issues using it various outreach programmes such the Telecom Consumer Parliament, Telecom Consumer Conversations: Market Conversation, Village Square Dialogue, Campus Conversation, NYSC Camp Sensitization Town Hall on Radio. We have also published the Telecom Consumer Handbook and transcribed into Braille for the Visually impaired.

“Also, the Commission- is in the final process of deploying the Automated Consumer Complaints Management system, which will further expand the complaints channels and improve complaints resolutions even at First level with Service Providers.
The Consumers will continue to occupy a special position in the Commission’s activities because we recognize that without the Consumers, there will be no telecommunication industry”he added.

By News Connect Online

News Connect Online is a grassroot advocacy news platform established to promote development and peace through efficient and effective reportage across all beats. Beat: Education, Entertainment Environment Energy Business Health, Sport, Foreign News, Advocacy, Tourism, Transportation

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