After 60 years as a sovereign nation, Nigeria is beginning to key into the multi-trillion dollar global Digital Economy. The pace of engagement gained in tempo with the appointment of Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami as minister of Communications and Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi as the director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
The need to fast track growth and development of the nation's economy in that sector received the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari following the recommendation of the minister to expand the ministry's mandate to cover Digital Economy. This was aimed at capturing the goals of digitalisation in line with the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (EGRP).
Towards facilitating a Digital Nigeria to ensure that the country benefits from the huge digital market, the ministry has implemented a number of Digital Economy Projects, which include resolving some lingering issues that were hitherto threatening the growth of the sector.
One of the key areas that progress has been made is the nagging issue of right-of-way, which particularly hindered broadband penetration for 13 years. Through engagement with key stakeholders, especially the Nigerian Governors' Forum (NGF), the right-of-way levy was reviewed downward to a maximum of N145/linear metre by some states, while others completely waived the charges.
Ekiti State, for example, was charging N4,500, but reduced it significantly to N145/metre. Owing to this intervention, the laying of fibre cable within a 200-kilometre distance translates to a massive savings of well over N800 million. For a particular state, an estimated cost of connecting two local government areas was a staggering N560 million before the implementation of the right-of-way resolution. It is now just N150,000.
Also before the minister came on board, vandalising of telecommunication equipment was the order of the day, but the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has now designated telecom equipment as component parts of Critical National Infrastructure which means that security agencies now keep a close watch on these assets.
In late November of 2019, President Buhari unveiled the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a digital Nigeria. This was aimed at providing the necessary infrastructure for broadband penetration, as well as providing digital skills for Nigerians. In the same year, 2.2 million unregistered or semi-registered SIM cards were deactivated from various networks, making it difficult for criminals to communicate as freely as they were used to, helping the security services to record more strides in their drive for a safer Nigeria.
One of the standout agencies in the ministry is the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). It has been implementing the eight pillars identified in accelerating the development of National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), which include developmental regulations, digital literacy and skills, provision of solid and service infrastructure, digital services development and promotion, digital society and emerging technologies, provision of soft infrastructure and indigenous content development and adoption.
NITDA under Mallam Kashifu has, with direction from the ministry, been steadily implementing the existing roadmap for the overall development of the ICT sector and implementation of all other of its mandate according to the seven pillars of NDEPS.
Under the data protection regulation, 59 compliance organisations have so far been licensed. There is also the inauguration of data breach investigation team, which NITDA is partnering the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in ensuring enforcement. Also, NITDA has so far issued 230 compliance and enforcement notices while eight data breach cases are under investigation. And for the first time, fine was imposed on an organisation for data breach. Nigerians are also constantly reminded as to the most effective way to manage personal data served by public institutions, such as free WiFi on offer in many places.
Under the Nigerian government enterprise architecture, the agency has established collaboration with Korea International Cooperation Agency to secure funding in special areas of Nigerian e-government interoperability, while stakeholder engagement aimed at driving the implementation of Nigeria ICT innovation and entrepreneurship vision has been in operation, under the Nigeria ICT entrepreneurship and ICT vision. Still under this, NITDA has launched a portal to support the vision for the ecosystem, consisting of database for hubs, start-ups and other stakeholders. NITDA has also set up a forum where issues to do with protection and maximising of gains for the consumer are discussed and thoroughly analysed. So far, 302 indigenous IT companies have been certified.
As a newspaper, we commend NITDA for its avowed determination to play its key part in ensuring Nigeria benefits maximally from the global digital economy which currently is worth $3 trillion. We also challenge it to do more so that Nigeria gets an even bigger share of the cake.