Thursday, August 11, 2022

Blockchain: FG To Fast-track Healthy ICT Ecosystem Development For Emerging Technologies 

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami has assured key industry players and Nigerians of the Federal Government’s commitment to create and enforce regulations that will fast-track effective utilisation of blockchain technology for the development of the Nigerian digital economy.

He made this known during his keynote address on the applications of blockchain technology for intellectual property (IP) enforcement at the American Business Council event held in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Pantami, who was represented by Dr. Salihu Arsh of the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR), alluded to the fact that the theme of the event “Blockchain for IP Enforcement; More than Crypto and NFTs” is apt and timely, especially at a time when cryptocurrency is presently the headliner of financial losses. 

The minister noted that in today’s knowledge-based economy, an increasing share of business value is derived via intangible assets, which means success often depends upon the ability to manage and exploit IP. 

He stressed that for that reason, businesses require managers to effectively acquire, govern and commercialize copyright-and patent-protected content.

“You would all agree that traditional businesses that rely on IP-protected material are confronting internal and external factors that pose several key challenges. Internally, unsynchronised IT systems do not enable data to flow, creating friction to locate and comply with copyrights under control. Externally, firms are recently operating in more complex and diverse business networks with the need to validate multiple IPs within a single transactions model,” he said.

Pantami highlighted the benefits of blockchain technology which he said represents a paradigm shift in how various companies protect their information exchange, adding that emerging technology provides a secure and fault-tolerant distributed ledger platform for transactions. 

“No doubt, blockchain technology has evolved greatly since the introduction of Bitcoin in 2008, the first decentralised peer-to-peer electronic cash system. Today, innovators in various fields are realising the benefits of this great technology. From medicine to agriculture, finance to governance, education to transport and across the global supply chain, many sectors are looking for ways to integrate blockchain into their infrastructures,” he added. 

While observing that governments and businesses all over the world are realising the powerful usability of blockchain, Pantami affirmed that the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and its parastatals are not left behind, as they are inclined to employ the statutory responsibility towards innovative technologies, to develop corresponding strategies for a healthy ICT ecosystem that encapsulate emerging technology such as blockchain.

“It may interest you to know that one of the agencies under my supervision, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has developed a National Blockchain Adoption Strategy that seeks to facilitate the effective utilisation of blockchain technology for the development of the Nigerian digital economy. The strategy outlines the roadmap and schemes for the adoption of blockchain technology by government in its digital transformation agenda in a way that supports efficiency, transparency and productivity.”

Although it is a fact that technology drives new businesses and service models, the minister made it known that there is a need to create and enforce regulations to protect citizens and ensure fair markets while letting innovation and business flourish. 

He went on to register the Federal Government’s concern about deploying technology to foster healthy growth of the nation’s digital economy and safety through the right regulatory instruments and implementation strategy that drive the adoption of the technology by both public and private sectors.

“In this regard, we directed NITDA to develop a national infrastructure for the deployment of blockchain solutions that integrate identity and incentive platforms, promote research and development, in addition to focusing on the skilling of the workforce and creating a procurement process to enable government agencies to adopt blockchain solutions,” he noted. 

As a way of exploring ways to develop regulatory actions that would strike the right balance between facilitating innovation and mitigating new risks, the minister confirmed that the ministry has further directed NITDA to introduce regulatory sandboxes that enable participants to test products and services on a small scale in a controlled environment, reducing innovation costs and barriers to entry. These sandboxes, Pantami emphasized, will also allow regulators to collect important information about innovative products before deciding which regulatory action to take.

“Through sustained engagement with stakeholders like you and many others, implementation of these regulatory guidelines would be enhanced and in turn, would engender a conducive regulatory environment for all players in the digital economy to thrive and fulfil their potential for prosperity and national development,” he added.

Meanwhile, Pantami enumerated IT-related issues which have remained unresolved, such as “the interoperability of different blockchain platforms and legal issues such as data ownership, privacy, liability and jurisdiction”.

However, Pantami expressed his belief that with engagements such as the event, all business stakeholders and IP communities would reap the full benefits of blockchain technology to promote innovations, support anti-counterfeit and anti-piracy operations, grow businesses, create jobs, entrench security, reliability and transparency in all process models.

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