Disrupt Status-Quo, NITDA Boss Tells IT Stakeholders

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The director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi

The director-general of theNational Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, has charged Information Technology ecosystem stakeholders to disrupt the status quo in the industry.

He made the call during a meeting with the IT stakeholders in Lagos during his three-day working visit to the state.

“Come up with new business model, ways to change things, new organizational structure and disrupt the status quo which would accelerate digitalization.

“As NITDA we look at digital transformation from two lenses, digitization which is using digital technology to enhance existing services and digitalization which is delivering rapid business innovation but to achieve that we need you, the startups. Innovation starts from the startups. We look at innovation as a process, which is taking ideas from inception to impact which can be very difficult,” he said.

Abdullahi say President Muhammadu Buhari had expanded the ministry’s mandates to cover digital economy because communication is just a technology which is a means to an end, but digital economy is using the technology to improve the economic status.

The NITDA boss explained that stakeholders were engaged on the formulation of the National Digital Economy Policy and agencies under the ministry keyed into the implementation of the policy adding NITDA’s focus was on the startups and IT stakeholders.

He said, “We are here to share the Strategic Road Map and Action Plan (SRAP) which is anchored on these seven pillars: developmental regulation, digital literacy and skills, digital transformation, digital innovation & entrepreneurship, cyber security, emerging technologies, and promotion of indigenous content for feedback because the agency doesn’t exist in isolation which is the reason we have to carry the stakeholders along in our implementation processes.”

He identified six key strategic stakeholders, namely the entrepreneurs who innovate and start up businesses, higher institutions which enhance talent, government which is an enabler, corporate organizations which absorb the human capital, venture capital, angel investors funding and the media that will promote the products.

The director-general assured that with the inputs from stakeholders, the government, being an enabler would take immediate steps into all suggestions and concerns raised.

In his remarks, one of the representatives of the innovation stakeholders, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji from Future Africa contended that government must work with the ecosystem to create synergy. “If the government doesn’t work with us as a matter of urgency, everything will crash, variants need urgent intervention.

“We can’t build talents in Lagos alone, it has to be from all parts of the country. If universities are being provided with laptops and internet connections, we as stakeholders can do the rest, especially when it comes to infrastructure; the government has to partner with private companies as well as building research facilities. We have all the available resources but it would only go far when government partners with them,” he pointed out.

On regulation, he said he considered NITDA as their regulator but expressed concern about other institutions that operate without NITDA’s knowledge.

Aboyeji lamented that the biggest challenge and opportunity facing the startup ecosystem is that most of its capital comes from foreign countries, saying “unless NITDA empowers local capital, the returns will be going back to the foreign countries and Nigerians will not benefit from it and we have to work together to figure out the concerns that prevent our local companies from being able to incorporate locally.”

Another concern expressed by the stakeholders was the level of employability in IT hubs, how good the startup bill would be, public procurement and how to lower the barrier and the gaps between market and academic research.

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