…. An ITPulse assessment
By August 2020, the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mal. Kashifu Inuwa will clock one year that he was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari to pilot the affairs of the Information Technology regulatory agency.
His appointment no doubt took many industry stakeholders by surprise as he was a relatively unknown person. In fact, he admitted his appointment wasn’t something that he expected or even envisaged, stating that it was indeed a pleasant surprise. But give kudos to Dr. Isa Pantami, now Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, whom he described as his boss and mentor for having confidence in his ability to the extent of recommending him to the President.
But on the assumption of office at the NITDA’s headquarter in Abua, Inuwa came with the promise to effectively confront many challenges bedeviling the industry with a visible contribution to actively facilitate the development of a knowledge-driven, inclusive, globally-competitive and prosperous Nigeria through effective IT regulations.
With this vision in mind, he hit the ground running by working diligently to ensure the continuous development of the IT sector in Nigeria over the last one year, consolidating upon the foundation laid by his predecessors by promoting IT innovation and capacity building, especially among the youths in Nigeria.
In tandem with the digital economy pursuit of the federal government, NITDA under Mal. Inuwa decided to implement a strategic roadmap for the development of Nigeria’s IT sector. The roadmap consists of seven pillars, which is also in alignment with the eight pillars of the National Digital Economy Policy & Strategy. They are IT Regulation, Capacity Building, Digital Inclusion, Digital Job Creation, Government Digital Service Promotion, Local Content Development, and Cybersecurity.
Implementing this roadmap, NITDA had from August 2019 to date rolled out several policies, regulations and programmes including the Nigerian e-Government Interoperability Framework (Ne-GIF); Nigeria Cloud Computing Policy (NCCP) and Nigeria ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Vision (NIIEV).
Others are the Framework and Guidelines for ICT adoption in Tertiary Institutions; Guidelines for Nigeria Content Development ICT as amended; and Data Protection Implementation Framework.
Local content policy
Even though there are some challenges with the implementation of the Presidential Executive Order 003 for promotion and patronage of local content, especially by MDAs, NITDA has demonstrated great support and has ensured improved patronage of indigenous OEMs in the last 3 years. Available information shows the purchase of local devices by MDAs in the last one is unprecedented compared to previous years before 2018. For instance, in 2015-2016 less than 250,000 devices were sold by indigenous OEMs. However, due to the intervention of NITDA, records show that in 2018/2019 alone OEMs sold three times the numbers sold prior to 2017 with about 778,886 of locally assembled devices sold in 2018 and 2019.
COVID-19 a blessing in disguise
While the management of the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic is tasking and challenging for global leaders, it has somewhat been a turning point for revolutionizing digital technologies to deliver products and services across the world. As a proactive agency, NITDA has leverage on the impact of the pandemic to provide adequate support in insulating Nigeria’s technology and innovation ecosystem. To measure the impact of the Covid-19 on the tech ecosystem, Mal. Inuwa established the Tech4COVID19 Initiative proffer solutions, especially for startups. The committee in charge of the initiative came up with a Strategic Plan to ensure Nigeria retains about 100,000 ICT Jobs and create an additional 30,000 in the Post COVID-19 Era.
Technology Startups and Hubs in Nigeria are said to be attracting the largest investments from Venture Capitalists. Specifically, figures available indicate that Nigeria occupied the first position with a total investment of US $747million, followed by Kenya with a total investment of US $564million and Egypt that attracted a total investment of US $211million.
This, NITDA as part of its mandates is not taking for granted and has decided to consolidate with a series of initiatives aimed at providing a conducive environment and support for the Start-up Ecosystem. These initiatives include the NITDA Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support Scheme, targeting startups hub owners and youth with talent and building their skills in high-demand skills.
Policies such as Tax Incentives for startups, incentives for investors and access to the market for innovation adoption; Establishment of Innovation and Research Fund to further catalyze the growth of startups and the development of an Innovation Portal to monitor the activities of the ecosystem.
NITDA also initiated the FinTech software, which is already exported and the innovation fund established by Government will reduce risks among the startup and attract Foreign Direct Investment.
On assumption to office, Mal. Inuwa has always insisted on the need to develop talents and skills among Nigerians by coming up with some initiatives susch as the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support Scheme that is geared towards talent development. NITDA is also in discussion with Microsoft Corporation so Nigerians can be part of the Global Skilling Initiative (GSI), aimed at helping 25 million people worldwide who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 Pandemic to re-skill in in-demand technical and tech-enabled jobs in the digital economy.
Following the federal government quest for the diversification of the economy and the need to pay attention to agriculture, NITDA under the leadership of the Mal. Kashifu Inuwa launched what it tagged the Smar Agric Project, where farmers are engaged and encourage on using precision/smart farming to ensure significant improvement in crop yield, quality of farm produce, efficiency and productivity; increased profit margin, harvest forecast, sales of farm produce and eco-friendly agriculture practice. In the first phase of the project, NITDA engaged 130 farmers.