One can argue that leveraging technology is important for any advanced economy. Nations regarded as first world countries caught on early enough as to the importance of technology and its inherent benefits. The results they are showing today can be traced to tireless efforts, time, and resources invested in research and development over time. Little wonder countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Germany and USA are light-years ahead when it comes to technology advancement. Without a doubt, people, old or young, living in those countries are leveraging technology as much as possible, which translates to social and economic growth to name a few.
There is no doubt that Nigeria has made some progress with regards to leveraging and infusing technology into our daily existence across many sectors of our economy. Although, I will be the first to state that there is indeed a lot of room for improvement. That said, one agency that is playing an important role when it comes to technology development in Nigeria is the National Information Technology Development Agency, which has a mandate of creating frameworks for the planning, research, development, standardisation, application, coordination, monitoring, evaluation and regulation of Information Technology practices in the country.
The agency is led by Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, who I believe is passionate about the task ahead and means well for the industry. On a few occasions, we have discussed privately about how technology can truly transform our country for good and most recently, I had a chance to interview him on my TV show and one of the questions, I asked is ‘NITDA’s role in harnessing the increased IT awareness in Nigeria’. Yes, the awareness is on the increase with more and more people trying to get a ‘piece of the cake’ particularly after Paystack’s acquisition.
However, beyond the Paystack good news that gladdens the heart of anyone who means well for the ecosystem, is the fact that there is certainly more opportunities that ought to be harnessed. DG Kashifu mentioned to me, how NITDA’s policy like the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) has today evolved as a multi-billion Naira industry with over 2,600 jobs created.
Now let me be clear, when I think of digitisation and technological advancement, I think about eGovernment, improved efficiency in the public service, elimination of corruption, providing (skilled) jobs, poverty reduction, support for local content and solutions, massive training and capacity development across the country. Did you notice that I focused on the results and outcome? Yes, because at the end of the day that is what counts. People want to see the results of whatever technology we claim to be deploying otherwise we’ll continue to alienate those who do not really understand what the industry is all about.
Indeed, the outbreak of the pandemic accelerated Nigeria’s technology adoption in a significant way. To illustrate; there was a tremendous increase in the number of online worshippers even though religious houses were on lockdown. Also, live streaming has replaced conventional gatherings, reducing the stress of transportation while, simultaneously, achieving the same aim.
Manufacturers and marketers have also benefited from this technological evolution. They can use short videos to tell their stories of products, benefits, and usage. These videos are simply posted on different platforms and they reach the intended targets on a larger scale effectively. Many do it yourself (DIY) videos have also made things easier.
More so, the government, immigration service, and other government agencies gained immensely as they can now engage in data capturing for the populace on various occasions using biometrics and other applications to store data for references. Additionally, the banking sector has witnessed a tremendous improvement in the new business order as they are enabled to reduce the numbers of the unbanked population- the sector’s long-standing challenge.
Perhaps the most affected by this wind of change are Nigerian youths. Many of them are currently business owners and employers of labour. Their figurative eyes have been opened to online sales and freelance services such that socio-economic challenges like the absence of financial aid no longer hold water as they now operate virtual offices, get jobs done and delivered to clients even without start-up capital.
The Director General of NITDA during our chat stated “the agency’s resolve to drive Nigeria towards greater digitisation and harness the inherent benefits for sustainable National Development.
“We have already started looking into the supports of ICT hubs through our Technological Innovation and entrepreneur support scheme. In this scheme, we identify startups and send them to ICT hubs for training, after which the startup undergoes a period of internship with the hubs”, Kashifu noted. “This is in an attempt to help the hubs’ operational capacity, while empowering the startups,” Kashifu opined.
Speaking further on the inherent advantages of digital transformation, ‘’During the lockdown, we had some youths tested and some of them came up with great innovative ideas. One of the startups developed a local ventilator, while another developed a contaminator chamber, which we are modeling to fit into the global standard at the moment. A mobile application was also developed, by one of the youths. The application can help users do online medical consultation”, Kashifu stressed.
Let me conclude this piece by stating clearly that this is an ecosystem we are building, which means that all parties (players, government and its agencies, private sector, academia and international partners) have to all work hand-in-hand to make sure that Nigeria really evolves as a technology powerhouse. I remain optimistic about the possibilities as long as we continue to build.
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