In the latest development on the 5G controversy, the UK’s Office of Communication (Ofcom) has handed a sanction to LoveWorld Limited, a broadcasting channel belonging to Christ Embassy Church, for airing unfounded claims about 5G.
The regulator and the broadcasting and telecommunication authority also penalized the TV channel owned by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome for promoting the view that coronavirus is a global cover-up.
Ofcom said the decision to penalize the church’s TV came after investigation over Pastor Oyakhilome’s “unsubstantiated claims” linking the (coronavirus) pandemic to 5G technology.”
“Our investigation found that a report on LoveWorld News included unsubstantiated claims that 5G was the cause of the pandemic, and that this was the subject of a ‘global cover up.’
“Another report during the programme suggested hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19, without acknowledging that its effectiveness and safety as a treatment was clinically unproven, or making clear that it has potentially serious side effects.
“There is no ban on broadcasting controversial views which are different from, or which challenge, official authorities on public health information. However, given the unsubstantiated claims in both these programmes were not sufficiently put into context, they risked undermining viewers’ trust in official health advice, with potentially serious consequences for public health.
“Given this serious failings, we conclude that LoveWorld Limited did not adequately protect viewers from the potentially harmful content in the news programme and the sermon, and the news reports were not duly accurate. LoveWorld Limited must broadcast our findings and we are considering whether to impose any further sanction,” the Ofcom statement partly said on Monday.
The 5G conspiracy theories brought a toll of violence on telecommunication installations in the UK, due to the widespread belief that it’s responsible for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Some prominent figures like pastor Chris Oyakhilome were at the helm of the preachment, which consequently resulted in the above sanctions.
But this is coming at a time when the Nigerian Senate suspended the deployment, or any activity relating to the 5G, owing to the unverified claims that it beams with injuries.
The contrast between the two governments’ handling of the conspiracy theory has questioned Nigeria’s chances to develop a tech-based economy, when its leaders appear to be dragging their feet while the rest of the world moves on.
It has also challenged the bases for the campaign promises of President Buhari’s administration to diversify the economy through technology. In 2019, the Minister of Science and Technology Ogbonnaya Onu was notably preaching the government’s determination to invest in technology as a means to derive a cutting-edge over dependence on oil-based revenue.
But the government has not lived up to expectation, and the tech community is left to do the kicking and catching all at once. There has been a little progress though; private tech companies have shown resilience even in the harsh environment, but the missing roles of the government have undeniably immobilized aims and projections in the Nigerian tech sector.
The outbreak of COVID-19 exposed the economic strength and weaknesses of every sector. Though bullied to a pulp, the tech sector is standing taller than many others.
As Nigeria watches its oil revenue plunge to nothing, affecting its financial position in the face of global health crisis, the Nigerian tech industry has stepped in, doing their best to curtail the plague with the little they have.
Lifebank partnered the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), to establish a mobile testing facility and increase the testing capacity of the country by conducting 200 tests daily. 54gene raised $500,000 to enhance the testing capacity of the country by conducting up to 1,000 tests daily.
Startup support organizations also launched COVID-19 innovation challenge, in partnership with the African CDC and GIZ. Their aim is to create innovative measures to be employed in the fight against COVID-19.
These efforts don’t mean that the Nigerian tech ecosystem is immune to the harsh realities of the pandemic; it only means that they could do more if they have the right support. Not only in tackling problems, but also in providing jobs for the people.
In 2019, Nigeria accounted for $663.24 million out of the $1.34 billion funding raised by African startups. There has also been positive news of interest to fund Nigerian startups in 2020, despite the pitfalls of COVID-19 pandemic.
The progress of the Nigerian tech ecosystem has so far been dependent mainly on external funding as the government has not shown readiness to fully support existing and emerging technologies in Nigeria.
Therefore, the Nigerian senate’s decision to halt deployment of 5G technology based on rumors, when the rest of the world is pushing for a faster and more reliable internet service is seen as a deterrent to potential investors in Nigerian startups. The Senate has been encouraged to shun the display of backwardness that will hurt the development chances of the Nigerian tech industry if they really want the country to make progress.