Despite recession, online communications generated over N50 billion to the country’s coffers in 2016 alone, giving clear signals where the new economy should take root.
Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Dr Isa Ibrahim pantami disclosed this at the opening ceremony of the ongoing eNigeria in Abuja.
eNigeria is an annual Information Technology (IT) summit organised by NITDA, which brings together relevant stakeholders from the private, public, non-governmental sectors and the international IT community.
It is a Platform for ICT awareness creation, developing the appropriate framework and setting goals for best practices, particularly to position Nigeria in the global information society.
Pantami said that ‘‘this is an indication that we have a lot to benefit from digital economy. It is good for us to lay more emphasis on local software and hardware and improve their qualities and give more priority to what we produce before we think of importation.
‘‘What we need to do is to mentor young Nigerians, give them necessary support and see how they can support the country move into digital economy.
‘‘We don’t have problem of talent, what we have to do is to get our priority right and ensure we give preference to what we produce at home.’’
Pantami also noted that NITDA had taken painstaking efforts to draw the theme of eNigeria: Fostering a Digital Economy Through Local Content and Effective Regulations.
He said it was chosen deliberately to address three critical areas of unemployment, security and local content with a view to addressing them.
Pantami, who lamented the increasing unemployment rate, said Nigeria has no option than to embrace ICT to create jobs and opportunities for the teaming Nigerian youths.
‘‘Our unemployment rate is alarming and the only way to reduce that burden on federal government is to ensure that we create many entrepreneurs through ICT and make them self reliant so that they can add value to our economy’’
No option to digital economy
Underscoring the importance of digital economy, the NITDA boss said many economies of the world are now running away from resource based to digital based economy, which had transformed their GDPs to positive direction.
This for him, is a clear indication that there is no option to embracing digital economy.
‘‘In Nigeria we have many advantages, with over 180 million population and ICT addicted youth population, there is clear indication that Nigeria is ready to embark on this journey in order to improve economy significantly.’’
He said NITDA is in the forefront of creating cyber security, saying that the best way to fight corruption is to ensure IT is well regulated in all MDAs.
He pointed out that NITDA saved about N2.5 billion in 2016 from government regulation.
To sustain the gains, he said the agency had set up a standing committee with the EFCC and office of the Auditor General of the Federation to ensure that whenever there is any ongoing project, there is technical support and value for money.
In his remarks, Minister of Communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu said the sector has increased its contribution to 12.5 percent to GDP from 5 percent few years back.
He however, decried low patronage of indigenous ICT products and services, which he said leads to capital flight and attendant impacts on our economy.
In an attempt to save the economy, he said that government had issued series of circulars and directives to specifically address some of the challenges in the sector.
He assured that the ministry will ensure the enforcement of the seculars and guidelines on the Executive Orders 3.
‘‘ The recently issues Executive Order 003 is an impetus to patronage of local products and encouraging local brands. As a nation, we have had a lot of money from petroleum and yet Nigeria has continued to be underdeveloped country. But using ICT, we can join first class nations.’’
Nigeria will no longer be a dumping ground
To inventors and innovators, the minister said government would take steps to prevent further using of Nigeria as a dumping ground.
‘‘We will do everything possible to protect local products and services instead of allowing Nigeria to continue to remain a dumping ground for foreign goods and services.
‘‘Apart from strict monitoring, enforcement of compliance, enforcement of quality shall remain a veritable guideline for NITDA to operate within.’’
He called for cooperation of privates sector to complement the government efforts.
In his keynote address, the Attorney General of the Federation, Anubakar Malami, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Dayo Akpata, said ICT is one of the focal areas Federal government identified as mandatory in the local content promotion efforts as contained in the Executive Order 003.
‘‘ICT is playing a crucial role in the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria government strives to achieve a virile justice system.
‘‘The increase in the development in the use of ICT constitutes a significant component of their strategy to build a more efficient human and legal system.
Digital environment needs regulation
The Attorney General who underscored the importance of technology in dispensation of justice said digital environment should be properly regulated in order to reap the full benefits.
‘‘Law and technology are not oil and water, they meet and offer a balanced diet for every participant in the system. The challenge is to make sure we maintain balance between government control and preservation, creativity of private sector both of which are required for growth of the sector.’’
Creation of National ICT Innovation Fund
Malami said there is a need to create a special national ICT Innovation Fund to support the aspiration and ingenuity of young Nigerian Innovators with budding ideas who have demonstrated uncommon ingenuity.
In addition, he said NITDA must partner with relevant organizations like CBN, tertiary institution and development institutions to create access and affordable capital for ICT manufacturers and innovative developers to ensure innovative technology takes deep root in our bourgeoning economy.
eNigeria is an annual flagship of ICT events in Nigeria organized by NITDA on behalf of federal government that focuses on trends and developments in the global ICT industry and explores options for leveraging them for sustainable national development in Nigeria.
It is also a platform for setting the national ICT agenda, as well as proposing effective policies and planning initiatives.
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