Civic-Tech Hackathon: NITDA Boss Tasks Finalists On Good Governance, Nat Devt Solutions

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Civic-Tech Hackathon
A cross section of the Yvote Naija Civic Tech Hackathon 2022 finalists and organisers during the competition in Abuja.

The director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi has encouraged the finalists of the 2022 Yvote Naija Civic Tech Hackathon to channel their ingenuity into developing innovative solutions that will strengthen citizens’ participation in the electoral process and help deepen Nigeria’s democratic experience.

He made this call in his keynote address during the grand finale of the event in Abuja, even as he emphatically underscored the need to explore innovative civic-tech solutions to address persistent concerns of vote buying, voter apathy and electoral violence. 

“As the 2023 general elections approach, the importance of this Civic Tech Hackathon cannot be over-emphasised because citizens’ participation in the electoral process is an indispensable pillar of democracy and good governance.

“Participation mechanisms provide the government with regular feedback for developing policies and designing processes that promote democratic ethos. With our general elections around the corner, Nigeria needs programmes like this to help bolster inclusive and accountable decision-making, equitable civic participation and voice, as well as effective public service delivery and government responsibility,” Abdullahi avowed.

According to him, the outcome of the grand finale would further bring to the fore the value that technology brings to the electoral process.

“Technological innovations have revolutionized and transformed the way we live, work, and interact with people near and far. In the process, technology is helping us to constantly evolve and achieve more to make the world a better place for all across the social, economic and political realms,” he affirmed.

Represented by the national director, National Centre for Artificial intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR), Engr. Ya’u Garba, Abdullahi added that the introduction of technology into the electoral process is generating both interest and concern among voters, as well as practitioners across the globe.

He, however, stressed that most electoral management bodies around the world are adopting new technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, amongst others, to improve the different stages of their electoral process, before, during and after the elections.

“To guarantee efficiency and improve confidence in their electoral systems, many countries are increasingly looking in the direction of digital technology as essential to the conduct of credible elections and enhancement of political transparency.

“Digital technology has been deployed across the process from voter registration, voter accreditation, the casting of a ballot, collation/counting of votes, transmission, and publication of the results. This has resulted in increased participation among voters and made elections more inclusive for voters across every segment of the population, especially people living with disabilities. Other applications of digital technologies also include the compilation of voter lists, demarcation of electoral boundaries, and conducting voter education campaigns,” he said.

While saluting the courage and determination of the Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative (BBYDI), Yvote Naija and Christian Aid for the initiative to discover lasting solutions to prevailing challenges in the electoral system and ensure the active participation of Nigerians in the process, Abdullahi expressed optimism that at the end of the event, there shall be the emergence of innovative civic-tech solutions to eliminate the irregularities and fraudulent practices that have been the bane of Nigeria’s electoral processes.

He added that NITDA is committed to entrenching technology and innovation as critical tools for the successful implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) and the agency’s Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (2021 – 2024) toward growing the nation’s prosperity.

“Through the continued support of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, the agency has initiated and organised numerous hackathons and competitions to support more indigenous innovators and entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions for solving our local problems. Thus, it has been using these programmes as platforms to encourage talented young Nigerians to showcase their innovative ideas and solutions,” Abdullahi stressed.

He further notified the audience that NITDA has taken strides to roll out several programmes and initiatives in partnership with international and local agencies and development organizations to foster creative and innovative ideas within Nigeria’s teeming youth.

“Such programmes include the Bridge to MassChallenge Nigeria program, which is a sponsored collaboration between NITDA and MassChallenge (a global network of zero-equity start-up accelerators based in the US), and iHatch incubation programme which is a partnership with Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA).

“We have equally launched the FabLab, the first of its kind in Nigeria, within the National Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR), to provide the required support and facilities for our teeming innovators to be able to prototype and commercialise their ideas. The Nigerian government remains relentless in its commitment to sustaining the enabling environment to entrench innovation hence NITDA established two key subsidiaries – the Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI) and the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) through which the agency implements programmes and initiatives to inspire innovation among the youth while also strengthening the ecosystem.”

Abdullahi explained that the subsidiaries are adapting activities to focus on strengthening the innovation ecosystem through collaboration, supporting innovation by promoting the adoption of emerging technologies for sustainable development, digital job creation and promoting indigenous content development.

He congratulated the finalists for having come thus far in the hackathon and assured that the NITDA, alongside its subsidiaries and the overwhelming support Pantami, is ready, willing and able to work with like-minded organisations to expand the frontiers of result-oriented digital solutions for good governance and national development.

“Whatever the outcome at the end of the day, you are all winners in the race for entrenching efficiency, reliability and credible elections,” Abdullahi assured.

Earlier, the executive director, Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative, Olasupo Abideen, in his welcome address, noted that at the end of the pitch, the team with the most promising solution will be awarded N2million to execute their proposed solution.

The cash prizes, Abideen said, will be disbursed at every project milestone, to ensure the funds are utilised effectively.

“As for the first and second runners-up, we have support from NITDA to mentor, incubate and fund their respective solutions. To make the game a win-win for all, we are looking at merging the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th positions with the first three if that will bring a stellar result. We are doing this in the sole interest of the country; therefore, everyone is a winner as long as we achieve our common goal,” he added.

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