2023 Polls: FG Intent On Safeguarding Digital Space, NITDA Tells EU EOM

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R-L: The director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi presenting a copy of NITDA’s Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan to the head of delegation European Union Election Observation Mission, Marek Mbracka when he paid him a courtesy call in his office in Abuja.

The Federal Government has told a delegation of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) that it is sparing no effort in securing the safety of the nation’s digital space to ensure the success of the forthcoming general election.

The director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi made this known while receiving the delegation headed by a social media analyst, Marek Mbracka,at his office in Abuja.

With all attention on the upcoming 2023 polls, the Federal Government said it is working through the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to ensure the development and total adoption of a digital economy through the implementation of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)’s Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2021-2024) anchored on seven strategic pillars, with cyber security as a prominent pillar.

“Ensuring a safe digital space would, among other functions, promote a seamless electoral process,” Abdullahi assured.  

Speaking further, Abdullah elaborated that it is within the mandate of NITDA to establish standards, guidelines and frameworks for the development, standardization, and regulation of information technology practices in Nigeria.

“At NITDA, we started looking at how we can optimally use technology because technology is a double-edged sword that has its potential and pitfalls. How can we harness the potential while avoiding the perils?” he queried.

The Code of Practice (COP) for Internet Service Providers’ (ISPs) Bill was a fallout of the attempt to ensure that anything that is illegal offline is illegal online. Other attempts are already in motion towards the development of some regulations like the Digital Market Act, Digital Services Act, GDPR and many more similar acts that are usable and applicable in ensuring the safe use of social media, he said. 

Speaking further, he disclosed some details on the contents of the COP bill, noting that information has been categorized into four; lawful, lawful but harmful, unlawful, and unlawful and harmful. To this end, law enforcement agencies have been updated on how to report any crime committed, and how to get help from the big tech to address that issue. 

He explained that the code of practice bill has five major objectives: To increase competition, improve accountability, safeguard privacy, protect democracy and transform governance itself.

The DG narrated how he had a conversation with a group of attendees at the Digital Life Designing Conference (DLDC) in Germany, where some argued for and against Europe being a superpower. Some based their arguments on Europe’s economic and military superpower, but he opined that Europe is a superpower when it comes to regulation. “Everybody looks towards the Brussel effect when it comes to regulation,” affirming that standards are set through “regulation”.

He stated further that the information technology revolution has overridden yesteryear’s superpower.

While elaborating on his ideas, he said in today’s world, some high-net-worth CEOs in the technology industries are more powerful than some nation’s presidents because they are “armed with powerful information that can be used to manipulate or control” sovereign nations.

Abdullah advised that the Nigerian’s perception must be refocused from being a consumer of products and services offered by technology to harnessing the attributing qualities of today’s technological advancements and innovations, especially towards the promotion of a free and fair election process. 

“As of today, NITDA is currently in collaboration with certified fact-checkers in the country, but we need more because in Nigeria we have over 300 languages, therefore a real need for more major fact-checkers.”

The EU is a globally recognised and credible actor in international election observation. Since 2003, the EU has been deploying election observation missions (EOMs) to observe all the general election processes in Nigeria. 

Marek Mracka, the head of the team that visited NITDA was excited about NITDA’s active website and presence on social media and encouraged same tempo across all other government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).  

In his response, head of NITDA’s legal unit, Barr. Emmanuel noted that while most government agencies already have active websites, NITDA has been collaborating and engaging in different capacity-building programmes to ensure a seamless transition to a digital economy.

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