By Lukman Oladokun And Wole Alao
The Honorable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy has urged the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to focus more on IT project clearance by improving on surveillance and reducing the prices of IT projects being executed by Federal Public institutions, which will consequently reduce corruption in the country.
The Minister made this known today in Abuja during an anniversary lecture organised to commemorate the NITDA at 20. The event which had in attendance the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Engr Festus Daudu, chief executive Officers of agencies under the ministry, Heads and representatives of relevant public and private organisations and relevant IT stakeholders.
The minister stated that NITDA has helped the government achieve a lot so far with the IT Project Clearance by saving costs, enhancing quality of projects and effective maintenance of projects. “Definitely, the government has achieved a lot through the Agency but more, can be achieved” the minister noted.
Dr Pantami also commended NITDA on their Nigerian Data Protection Regulations (NDPR) initiative but admonished them to improve on it. “This is an important subsidiary legislation and with all sense of humility, we can safely say that Nigeria is the first country in Africa to have this kind of regulation in place” the minister mentioned. He further reiterated that after the European Data Protection Regulation, Nigeria was the first country in the continent to come up with a subsidiary legislation in terms of data privacy and security which has put the country at the forefront to this regard.
The minister also urged the Agency to improve on their capacity building of citizens, particularly underserved and unserved areas. He however expressed delight at the Agency’s efforts thus far in reaching and training people living with disabilities, women, youths and many more especially in rural areas.
“I hope the federal government will provide more support for NITDA so we will be able to ensure significant number of citizens do have digital skills” the minister concluded.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the NITDA’s director general, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi CCIE, appreciated the presence of everyone to the auspicious two in one event which is the 20th anniversary of the agency and the launch of its Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan 2021-2024.
He also expressed his gratitude to the founding fathers of the agency, the chairmen and members of the governing board, past director generals of the Agency, Personnel who managed the agency in acting capacity and to the entire staff who have worked tirelessly and passionately over the years in bringing the Agency thus far.
“Twenty years is a significant milestone in the life of an institution and many of the world’s biggest companies were established 20 years ago or less. It is therefore critical for NITDA to introspect with its past, project into the future, set new targets and improve for better” the director general mentioned.
He further noted that NITDA was established to implement National IT Policy in which the Agency has delivered almost 100 per cent in its mandate. ”Today’s event is exciting because it captures the moment, growth and resilience. Having delivered on our mandate, we are looking at how we can use digital technology as a source of inspiration to create prosperity for our country,” he said.
Abdullahi stated that his Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, initiated the process when he renamed and expanded the mandate of the Ministry to cover Digital Economy. The director general averred that NITDA as one of the pivotal agencies under the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is implementing this policy and realigning its activities in line with these policies.
The director general stated that the new strategic plan which has seven pillars, will reposition the Agency to deliver the National Digital Economic Policy effectively.
“NITDA is willing, able and ready to help create and capture value from digital economy which will consequently, make our country more prosperous” the director general concluded.
Meanwhile, the NITDA at 20 Anniversary lecturer and chairman of Consultancy Support Service Limited, Mr. Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola has made an appeal for upward review of the National Information Technology Development Fund, (NITDEF) from its current one percent in order for the Agency to improve on many of its initiatives aimed at moving “Nigeria and by extension, Africa into digital realm.”
He made the appeal when he was delivering his lecture organised to commemorate the NITDA at 20 anniversary titled “NITDA @20: Growth and Resilience.”
Mr. Ajijola noted that the challenges before the Agency are daunting but are not insurmountable and there is need for an enhancement in the Information Technology Industry.
“He indicated : “Funding, despite the establishment of NITDEF, remains one of the challenges the Agency is facing. The magnitude, scale and scope of the task before NITDA is daunting and thus our society needs appreciate that enhance investment in cyber skill talents, related technologies and requisites research, development and innovation.”
Mr. Ajijola noted that it is imperative that Nigeria invest in developing a full spectrum of indigenous sovereign talent pool, technologies and collaboration with local, regional and international partners to establish standards, foster market conditions that ensures innovation and diversity of supply and build robust defenses.
Highlighting some of the “significant impact” of the Agency to the development of the IT sector, the guest speaker stated that NITDA has contributed immensely to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, (GDP), adding that through its IT clearance Process, it has saved the federal government over 22.5 billion Naira.
He noted further that through NITDA there had been increased IT awareness especially in the public sector which is responsible for the improved deployment of ICT in the sector and the creation of job and wealth “which can be seen from the rise of a generation of solution developers and ICT based start- up across the nation.
Mr Ajijola opined that the vision and mission of the Agency seems to be narrower than the IT policy it was created to implement then, “which raised the question about who will fill the gaps,” however he noted that the step the recent administrations have taken to align them with the Digital Economy is commendable but advised that the bar should be raised to “information society.”
He noted that for continued growth and resilience, NITDA must ensure it gains the public trust and keeps replicating itself by optimising and leveraging on the private sector through special purpose vehicles and public private partnership. He added that “the imperative of ‘using IT’ for education, creation of wealth, poverty eradication, job creation and global competitiveness can only be achieved if NITDA’s management earns the trust of colleagues, industry and society and it is important that colleagues, industry and society believe and have faith in NITFDA’s management.
While commending the Agency for what it has achieved in its two decades of existence, the guest lecturer enjoined the Agency to consider re-focusing on human capital development, building of self-sustaining ecosystem, inclusion of women and youths in the sector, engage in multi-stakeholders consultation and decision-making processes, establishment of firm and fair regulations that would not stifle development and produce an army of Small and Medium entrepreneurs that can produce more jobs.
He maintained that the profound single impact of 2001 IT policy and NITDA has been the rise and wellbeing of the digital Nigeria which was the reason NITDA was created. “No other Agency was created with such a profound looking mandate, he added.
Going down memory lane, the speaker eulogised the previous substantive and acting director generals of the Agency and the current director general for their contribution and roles they have played in ensuring the growth of the IT sector in Nigeria.
He, however, emphasised that ‘there is much to do because this journey has only just started in this rapidly evolving ecosystem so that a trusted, vibrant and self-sustaining digital Nigeria emerges as a powerful global player.