NITDA: Seeking stakeholders’ collaboration to sustain intervention projects

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Ime Akpan

The National Information Technology and Development Agency (NiTDA) established in 2001 is Nigeria’s primary agency in charge of e-government implementation, internet governance, and general IT development.

The National Information Technology Development Act of 2007 requires NiTDA to build a framework for the planning, research, development, standardisation, implementation, coordination, monitoring, evaluation, and regulation of information technology practices, activities, and systems in Nigeria.

As Nigeria’s primary agency in charge of e-government implementation, internet governance, and general IT development, it therefore serves as a clearing house for all IT initiatives and infrastructure development.

NITDA’s intervention projects are designed with the perspective of enhancing digital footprint, digital inclusion, innovation and entrepreneurial development towards creating mass digital native youths and citizenry.

Implementation of NiTDA mandate for mass digital skills is supported by the deployment of IT hubs,  IT Innovation and incubation centres, community IT training centres, digital economy training centres, eLearning solutions, IT capacity training programmes, etc.

Recently, the agency held a stakeholders’ buy-in programme in Lagos to seek their collaboration for the sustainability of its intervention projects and to effectively create an enabling environment where Nigerians can develop, adopt and drive value from digital technology. 

Speaking at the event held under the theme ‘Creating opportunities, breaking boundaries towards digitalisation and entrepreneurial evolution’ the director general of NiTDA, Mr. Kashifu Inuwa said the agency had responded to the increasing need for digital economy system through the implementation of critical areas of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS).

He said NDEPS focuses on eight critical areas which include development regulation, digital literacy skills, solid infrastructure, service infrastructure, digital services development and promotion, digital society and emerging technologies, soft infrastructure, indigenous content development and adoption.

He said the agency, during its 20-year journey
“moved from being a highly centralised organisation to a functionally decentralised institution adding that “our aspiration is to be an organisation closer to the stakeholders… and also increasingly becoming a process-driven, data-dependent and result-oriented organisation.”

He said in the most turbulent times “we are ensuring that we meet the objectives of national IT governance, chief of which is delivering value to our stakeholders.”

He listed some of the agency’s “people-oriented programmes”  so far implemented in consultation with stakeholders and under the federal ministry of communications and digital economy to include the national adopted village for smart agriculture, the national adopted village for smart education, digital literacy capacity training for persons living with disabilities, issuance of the Nigerian data protection regulation, support for ICT innovation hubs, building community IT centres, development of state IT policies.

He also said the agency had collaborated with Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), developed guidelines on digital asset management for MDAs, framework for block chain development, e-commerce, service level agreement in IT contracts, establishment of OEM assembly plants, among others.

Nevertheless, Inuwa said there is always a need to “re-strategise in the face of new challenges and opportunities that the digital economy ecosystem provides.”

He announced that the NiTDA strategic roadmap and action plan 2022-2024 “has been conceived to provide direction for the organisation and a sound platform for mitigating the foreseen and unforeseen threats to the digital economy digital ecosystem.”

He recommended that *more emphasis and resources should be placed on the development of government policies

*governments are encouraged to establish enough policies to guide IT businesses

*ensure appropriate regulations are developed to drive policy implementation in Nigeria

*ensure that policies are reviewed by stakeholders when necessary for overall success of the policy objectives.

In his address, the commissioner for science and technology in Lagos State, Mr. Hakeem Fahm,   said fast proliferation of digital technologies has resulted in the transformation of many commercial and social activities.

He also said digital advancements have created huge wealth in record time, yet that wealth has been concentrated in the hands of a small number of entities, organisations, and governments.

“This pattern is likely to continue under existing rules and restrictions, contributing to increased inequality,” he added.

To realise technology’s full social and economic potential while avoiding unexpected consequences, Fahm called for immediate strengthening of local cooperation.

“Given the high stakes, we should form a high-level panel on digital cooperation to understand better the important digital opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

“We must make an effort to bridge the digital divide where the majority of people have limited or no Internet access. Inclusivity is critical to creating a digital economy that works for everyone.

“New technologies, such as blockchain, machine learning, and, in particular, artificial intelligence will surely result in a significant shift in the labor market, including the elimination of jobs in some sectors and the development of changes in others on a vast scale,” he added.

Fahm also said digital technology may enhance peace, human rights, and sustainable development for all, stressing that stakeholders’ involvement will provide vital insights and aid in breaking down barriers to digitisation and evolution. 

The commissioner also stated that digital economy will require a new generation of social protection laws and a new interaction between labor and leisure.

“As a result, we need a significant investment in education, focusing on learning how to learn and ensuring lifelong access to learning opportunities for all,” he said.

However, he said “growing digital gaps threaten to push developing countries, particularly the least developed, even further behind.”

To reinvent digital development plans and the future outlines of globalisation, the commissioner called for a savvy embrace of new technology, strengthened alliances, and increased intellectual leadership are required.

On the flip-side, Fahm said the digital economy has also introduced new concerns, ranging from cybersecurity breaches to the facilitation of unlawful economic operations and the challenge of privacy notions.

“As a result, governments, public society, academia, science, and technology must collaborate to create innovative answers,” he advised. 

In the end stakeholders agreed that there is disconnect between government and citizens and the only way to bridge that is continuous engagement.

They also agreed that NiTDA should engage stakeholders on a continuous basis, empower them, as well as have strong collaboration with the states and the local governments.

More so, they urged the agency to take its training to business hubs in Alaba International Market and Computer Village in Lagos and many other business clusters in various parts of the country to make them technologically literate so that they do not fizzle out prematurely.

Besides, the stakeholders said there is a need for NiTDA to find solution to the bricks and mortar education adding that tax payers’ money should not be used to buy hardware that can be produced locally.

NiTDA, they also said, should work out the framework to ensure government agencies buy Nigerian-made hardware.

On certification, the participants prayed the agency to make its certificate more valuable by working out incentives in terms of duty payment on importation of machinery and equipment by local manufacturers.

Besides, they said there should be standardisation of ICT products in Nigeria and it should start with software.

Stakeholders also agreed that despite its advantages, digital economy comes with new concerns, ranging from cybersecurity breaches to the facilitation of unlawful economic operations and the challenge of privacy notions.

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