[email protected]: Driving the Strategic Expansion of Nigeria’s Digital Space, by Inyene Ibanga
The transformative impact of digital technologies is steadily flowing into other sectors of Nigeria’s economy. Information Technology (IT) has, unarguably, become the lead driver of sustainable economic diversification.
Stakeholders in the IT sector are focused on expanding the digital space for the economic wellbeing of citizens. But, of course, the journey into a stable digital economy has only just begun to gather steam.
This reality came into sharp focus after President Muhammadu Buhari approved the re-designation of the Ministry of Communications as Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy in October 2019.
Following its rebranding, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, became the arrowhead of the Digital Nigeria project, under the leadership of Dr. Isa Pantami.
Together with its parastatals/agencies, the Ministry commenced the development of strategies, programmes, and initiatives to actualise a seamless transition to a digital economy.
As such, the IT sector dazzled with a brilliant line-up of events and activities during the outgoing month of April. Corporate and individual players came out in large numbers to identify with and recognise the apex IT agency in Nigeria.
It was double celebration for National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
First, the agency marked the 20 years of its inception on April 18, 2001.
Secondly, it joined the rest of the international community to commemorate the 2021 World Creativity and Innovation Day on April 21.
The 20 years anniversary celebrations suffused the entire physical and digital environments. Different events were staged to assess its overall performance in the development and regulation of the IT sector.
NITDA used the milestone celebration to unveil its Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2021-2024) to provide direction to the agency’s ever-evolving vision for transforming Nigeria into a flourishing digital economy.
The SRAP 2021-2024 document is in alignment with the vision of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), earlier developed to enable the Nigerian economy to exploit the abundant growth opportunities that digital technologies offer.
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami noted that he had directed all parastatals in the Ministry to develop strategies, programmes and initiatives to ensure the attainment of the expected gains of expanding the digital space in Nigeria.
Pantami expressed confidence that the implementation of the SRAP 2021-2024 would expand Nigeria’s digital economy and create opportunities locally and across the globe.
“I am happy that NITDA has taken the bold step of mapping 2021 to 2024 strategy to the presidential mandate and ministerial directive. The implementation of the NITDA strategy will deepen Nigeria’s economy digitally, diversify the economy, promote innovation and lift millions out of poverty”, the minister said.
Other critical government policies consulted to ensure the SRAP document had a solid basis of strategy are the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy, Cybersecurity Policy, the National Broadband Action Plan, and the NITDA Act.
The Director-General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa said the roadmap was meant to articulate a new strategy for the agency in accordance with the current aspirations of the government, the realities of today and the demands of the future, in order to implement programmes that would facilitate the digital transformation of Nigeria.
Imbued with SMART objectives and a robust implementation structure to ensure the successful execution of the new strategy, the SRAP 2021-2024 document is also based on the seven pillars providing goals and initiatives to drive the attainment of the desired goals and impact.
These are developmental regulation, digital literacy, and skills, digital transformation, innovation and entrepreneurship, cybersecurity, emerging technologies, and the promotion of indigenous content.
The seven pillars are geared to foster dynamic regulatory instruments to unlock opportunities across different sectors of the economy, facilitate the development of digital skills of Nigerians across different works of life, as well as support the goal of achieving a 95 per cent digital literacy level in the next ten years.
Additionally, the pillars would engender a robust digital platform to drive digitalisation processes in the digital economy, enable innovation-driven enterprises and micro, and small and medium enterprises to thrive thereby creating opportunities for job creation.
The new strategy document demands that the agency adjusts and realigns its internal structures to support the new vision and help to drive its attainment. And it is focused on facilitating a rapid transformation of the digital economy through consistent and extensive stakeholder collaborations.
Having notched up two decades of modest achievement in the digital space, NITDA has to sustain the tempo by ensuring vigorous implementation of its core mandate, while also keeping the focus on successful attainment of the Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan within the next couple of years.
To this end, all stakeholders, particularly the supervising ministry, must seek creative approaches to providing the necessary support for NITDA and the other parastatals to drive the Digital Nigeria project and build a strong digital economy where every citizen can thrive.
Inyene Ibanga is Managing Director of Techdigest.ng and writes from Wuye District, Abuja.