The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami has emphasised the need to brainstorm on the provision of reliable access to and use of print/electronic information, as well as artificial intelligence within government at the international, national, state, municipal and local level governments, citizens, and businesses for sustainable national development.
Pantami said this at the commemoration of the 2022 Universal Access to Information Day organised by the National Committee on Information for all Programmes in Nigeria (IFAP) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
“On September 28, 2022 – not more than a week today – the event took place in Pakistan. The United Nations, through UNESCO, on November 15, 2015, designated every September to create more awareness and advocate for free access for information and work towards educating global citizens,” he said.
While emphasising the importance of taking a position on international policies and guidelines for action on access to information and knowledge in knowledge-based societies, Pantami described this year’s theme “e-Governance and Access to Information” as relatable, as it is in alignment with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria (NDEPS).
He observed that the thematic keywords can be found in some of the eight pillars of the policy which reflect ongoing efforts by the Federal Government to achieve a digital Nigeria.
“To be very proactive in artificial intelligence (AI) and as the minister in charge of our communications and digital economy, I developed a policy which I directed the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to implement by establishing the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR).
“Initially, while I was at NITDA, I started building the centre but the name was NITDA Academy. When I became minister, I discovered that the interest and priority were not just about the academy; rather, trying to provide some key elements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, particularly under emerging technologies and to focus more on the eight pillars,” Pantami noted.
“Software is dominating the world in the last few decades and there is a high probability that AI would consume software and dominate the world in the same manner and this is what the training is showing today.”
The minister affirmed that Nigeria has many initiatives relating to access to information for all.
He highlighted the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011 which allows free sharing of information, except for personal information.
Pantami assured the committee that the Federal Government is working through the ministry to achieve its ambitious target of going paperless at the Federal level by 2030, at least.
“We have been training different categories of Nigerians, particularly in the public space. We will ensure that we train and retrain civil and public servants on government digital services until e-government is Implemented 100 per cent in Nigeria,” he stated.
The minister, who acknowledged a lack of funding as one of the challenges plaguing the implementation process of the e-government initiative, expressed confidence in the country’s digital drive to succeed.
“You need to be funded to upskill your civil servants. On the other hand, some of the civil servants are still struggling to be digital natives but we are trying to get them onboard,” Pantami assured.
“Our entire mandate focuses on making information available to global citizens. So, occupying that position is sufficient to say that the theme is very dear to me at a personal and official level,” he avowed.
He further encouraged participants to criss-cross ideas and, at the end of the roundtable, come up with key recommendations for the Federal Government to implement and, hopefully, others too, for the World Summit on Information Society to implement globally.