Mubarak Umar Abubakar
“Digital economy — changing characteristics of information, computing, and communications — is now the preeminent driver of economic growth and social change. With a better understanding of these fundamental transformations, we can make wiser decisions — whether we are investing in research, products, or services, or are adapting laws and policies to the realities of a new age.”—Neal Lane.
IT Centres are where Technology, Business, Innovation and Entrepreneurship are nurtured by building native ideas, evolving talent and graduate crazy IT professionals. It is used in many countries worldwide as a tool to promote the development of both upstream and downstream IT components for economic development across all sectors.
Nigeria, a country of over 200m people has joined other developed nations towards changing its economic policy by and migrating from resource-based to knowledge-based economy.
Recently, the Federal Government of Nigeria, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR renamed Communications Ministry to Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, as recommended by the amiable and workaholic Minister, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), FNCS, FBCS, FIIM. This is aimed at reshaping the entire technological space of the country by making it more reliable especially in the Digital Economy revolutionary era.
The term “digital economy” has come to mean the broad and long-term trend en route to the expansion of information and knowledge-based economy and value relative to the tangible assets and products associated with agriculture, mining, manufacturing among others. It also refers to the recent transformation of all sectors of the economy by the computer-based digitisation of information. The Federal Government has since adopted new evaluation and direction of the economy in line with its agenda of diversification from oil resources revenue generation to digital revenue generation.
Emerging digital economy makes transactions less local, more interstate, more global, and as well less stressful in market liberalisation and reduced trade barriers. Economic monitoring, like policy development, is challenged by quickly evolving technologies and market practices.
ICT is increasingly recognised as the key enabler in promoting knowledge-based economic growth, creating million jobs and providing access to information and knowledge for both developed and developing countries. Access to information and knowledge can stimulate economic growth by creating new products, increase productivity and promote new commercial and administrative methods. IT Centres are one of such ventures that help nations to achieve economic growth through innovation, and entrepreneurship.
National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), which has the mandate to develop, regulate and advise on Information technology in Nigeria through regulatory standards, guidelines and policies, has been building such structures and providing fully equipped centres.
NITDA identified that there is lack of adequate skilled manpower in the country that will drive local content development and industrialization in Nigeria and it is trying to address and reduce these challenges. To achieve this and also support the primary responsibility of the agency, it established IT Hubs and Centres in strategic locations across the country. This is seen as another strategic effort to attract and support stakeholders who are industry players towards the promotion of IT for industrialisation. Through capacity development programmes at the Centres, Nigeria will overcome the shortage of skilled manpower and address the poor business and investment which increasingly hamper the growth of the IT sector.
Few weeks ago, NITDA commissioned a fully equipped IT Centre in Hadejia, Jigawa State and equally donated it to Hadejia Emirate Council for proper preservation and maintenance. The centre is intended to provide, among other things, the enabling environment by putting in place, a combination of high quality infrastructure, support services. It is expected that the host communities and environs will leverage on the facilities available at the Centres to create a full value chain across the IT sector ecosystem.
The Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, averred that providing such Centres is in line with President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR’s campaign promises to reform Nigeria’s economy and uplift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty. This statement will never be over-emphasized, looking at how vast and accommodating technology is in our societies.
IT Centres can be used in developing strategic thrusts where Technology, Finance, and Human Resources are going to be harnessed to create an enabling environment for the potential development of microelectronics, Software applications, and Entrepreneurship. It can also create stronger bond between Government, Academia and the private sector by focusing on the development of local talent through research and business ideation and promotion.
In NITDA’s established centres across geopolitical zones for instance, a talented young man from a particular village can be taught certain technology ideas and be encouraged/motivated to innovate one single object that can create hundreds jobs within his community. From there, another one will also take one new idea, make it his life moment and ensure it turned into reality.
NITDA believes that building IT Centres provides new opportunities to improve industrial age infrastructure, to draw on the vast knowledge the internet possesses, to take advantage of new markets offered by digital platforms and to exploit production possibilities enabled by digital technologies.
The Agency supports initiatives in developing programmes that promotes e-government, cyber-security, digital skills, gender barrier, enhance regulation and market environment to increase access to information and communication technologies (ICTs), and promote ICT-Centred innovation and entrepreneurship.
NITDA has established over 900 IT Centres across the country where thousands of Nigerians have gained basic computer skills and later setup their own businesses in various zones in Nigeria. However, those with mere knowledge were provided with additional skills, empowered and motivated by NITDA. A young Nigerian man who designed Chiniki Guard, an application that detects suspicious movement inside shopping malls can attest to that. He emerged as Best Startup at Gulf Information Technology Exhibitions which took place in October 2019 at the United Arab Emirate, after beating up contestants from 160 countries.
Through these centres, hundreds and thousands of Nigerian youths, men and women are getting prerequisite IT knowledge and skills; hence they drive their own local businesses.
NITDA has made all available resources for Startups to thrive, but that alone cannot turn our dreams to reality – Corporate Entities, Entrepreneurs, Risk Capital, Venture Capitals and Universities also need to play their roles. Government provides the environment while others invest. This will create the right direction towards achieving Digital Nigeria.
Mubarak Umar Abubakar