By Nkechi Isaac, Abuja
In today’s digital world, IT is integral to economic revival, diversification and growth. In addition to economic development, IT is also of major importance in addressing the growing global challenges of poverty, environmental degradation and social inclusion.
However, while recent decades have witnessed remarkable technological growth and significant societal change, the issue of poverty eradication, inclusion, environmental protection and empowerment of women demand greater commitment. Strategic IT interventions open up more opportunities and provide novel, smart options to resolve pressing challenges and foster the realisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
During the opening ceremony of the 13th international conference of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) with the theme ‘Information technology and sustainable development’ in Abuja, the Minister of Communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu said IT had become imperative for recovery from recession and accelerating social and economic development.
He noted that innovative uses of ICT have the potential to provide smarter, cost effective and secure solutions with far reaching impact.
“It is our generation that must make poverty, disease, hunger and other inequalities history. It is our generation that must take the right decisions about global issues of environmental changes, most especially climate change. The desired change and improvement call for the use of the right tools; and that is why ICT innovation is so important. This is why ICT innovation must be prioritised in sustainable development activities both locally and on the global level,” he stated.
Saying the ministry seeks greater collaboration between the government and other stakeholders to address the varied issues hindering the use and growth of ICT innovation for sustainable development in Nigeria, Shittu described the conference as a good start in examining issues bordering on adapting information technology innovation for sustainable development.
He added that the main role of government in the development and management of ICT was to provide the enabling environment for digital growth in Nigeria through appropriate legislation, policies and strategies.
“In its efforts to diversify the Nigerian economy from oil-based to knowledge-based and sustainable economy in line with the mandate of the present administration, the ministry of communications has embarked on some landmark activities in the areas of policies, initiatives, infrastructural development and social programmes designed to promote significant achievements. These initiatives are targeted at creating an environment that is conducive for the required growth and rapid development in the ICT sector in order to rapidly attain a knowledge- based economy in Nigeria,” he added.
The minister urged stakeholders in the industry and profession to work with the ministry in making useful contributions and implementing its various growth oriented policies and initiatives.
Earlier in his remarks, the president of the NCS, Prof. Adesola Aderounmu, said tech advances had obviously transformed the world, noting, however, that very significant divides, societal and digital remain and are expanding. He said innovative IT oriented models, responses and culture were needed to bridge the divide.
He said; “Sustainability issues have both local and global dimensions. A world in which poverty, inequalities, environmental threats and human insecurity thrive threatens the present and the future. Tech advances have obviously transformed the world but very significant divides, societal and digital, remain and are expanding. The challenges are not new but innovative IT oriented models, responses and cultures are needed.”
According to him, “Our present economic challenges show clearly that oil is not our future. A strategic IT focus on sustainability through local content and other critical elements is the way forward. The conference will bring issues of inclusion and sustainability to the front burner. The global 2030 Agenda for sustainable development including the 17 SDGs is a huge agenda. Tackling these huge challenges using IT innovation is what this year’s conference entails. It is an agenda for current and future generations. The goals are ambitious but achievable. The IT community is equal to the task.”
In his welcome address, the conference committee chairman, Jide Awe described the annual conference as the important means the NCS uses to promote information sharing, foster best practices and nurture innovative approaches for advancing the use of IT to propel development.
“The conference intends to highlight ways in which academics, professionals and businesses in the sector can key into addressing the challenges. In this regard our speakers intend to provide direction, support and leadership. These presenters come with the knowledge and experience in enabling social, economic and environmental change through appropriate IT solutions. Some of our resource persons in fact develop and run outstanding initiatives that are changing society in fundamental ways. Not only will participants gain from uncommon insights, there will be opportunities to learn from practical examples and be informed about upcoming innovations,” he pointed out.
He urged participants to utilise opportunities to network, forge partnerships, share ideas and most importantly set the agenda.
In his goodwill message, the director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, noted that the radical change and advancement both in Nigeria and global economy is the result of IT implementation.
He said; ‘IT as we know is pervasive in every sector you can think of, whether it is health, banking, education, manufacturing, security, agriculture and many more.’
Pantami who was represented by the director of infrastructure and technical support services, Dr Agu Collins Agu, said it was high time Nigeria followed the trend of time of de-emphasising wealth acquisition but promoting knowledge acquisition.
“We should understand that wealth acquisition is shifting at an exponential rate from natural resources to knowledge resources, which is made possible with the mastery and implementation of IT. It is high time we pay less attention to our natural resources and enthrone strategic implementation of IT for economic development,” he added.
Delivering her keynote address, Prof. Remi Sonaiya, stressed that promotion of science and technology for sustainable development would not get the nation very far, pointing out that technology alone does not develop a country.
“Far more important for the sustainable development of any nation is the pervading moral environment which will have been created and in the context of which all other aspects of the citizens’ lives can then function optimally,” she added.