The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, has said the implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, (NDEPS) have had a significant impact on Nigeria’s economy.
Speaking during his keynote speech titled ‘Driving the Implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy for a Digital Nigeria: The Journey So Far” in Athens, Greece, at the just concluded 14th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (ICEGOV 2021), Pantami said this development led the digital sector to contribute an unprecedented 17.90 per cent to the GDP in the second quarter of 2021, from 13.83 per cent in 2018.
He bemoaned Nigeria’s loss at previous industrial revolutions but emphasised that the nation has to make strategic decisions to join the digital bandwagon as she cannot be left behind in this digital age.
“We lost totally in the past industrial age but we must not lose in today’s digitalization and digital economy, driven by the Fourth Industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 is the next phase of digitalization. The digital economy is developing at a remarkable rate and it has been widely accepted that it is the single most important driver of innovation, competitiveness and growth,” he said.
Pantami conceded that the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) would largely rely on the increased proliferation of new technologies and innovations currently revolutionizing all sectors of the global economy.
While ascribing the recent success Nigeria is recording to the re-designation of the Ministry of Communications to Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the launch of the NDEPS, the minister said: “These timely and strategic actions have positioned Nigeria as an early adopter of the digital economy paradigm, to take advantage of the many opportunities it provides”.
Represented by the director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, Pantami said the alignment of the NDEPS with the Federal Government’s three focus areas of economic diversification, fight against corruption and security, has contributed to the growth of the nation’s economy.
While listing 16 policies the ministry has initiated under his supervision, the minister noted that the strategic implementation of these policies and foundational initiatives of the NDEPS would catalyse Nigeria’s exit from the recession brought on by the negative effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Quoting from the report of the National Bureau of Statistics, (NBS), Pantami maintained that the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector recorded the highest growth rate of all sectors of the Nigerian economy, in both the fourth quarter of 2020 (Q4 2020) and the entire year.
On the nation’s security, the minister explained that various initiatives adopted are providing necessary solutions to the insecurity challenge the country is facing. He noted that the recent presidential directive for the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to be moved to the ministry remained a part of the government’s efforts towards accelerating the implementation of the Digital Identity Programme and enhancing security in the country.
He stated further that the country had recorded a surge in the implementation of SIM-NIN linkage, with 64 million Nigerians having completed the NIN registration. He added that the government remained committed to ensuring that the nation’s cyber-space is safer with various initiatives.
On the issue of fighting corruption in the public sector, the minister stated that the government established an automated IT projects’ clearance process aimed at eliminating duplication and ensure the nation derives value for her money in the implementation of ICT projects in the country.
“From 2017 to date, the IT Projects Clearance program has registered 1,048 users, cleared 485 projects and saved N22,859,306,220.96 billion (about $58,764,283.34) for the Federal Government,” Pantami said.
He mentioned the Nigerian Smart Initiative has seen the launch of the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture, designed to use ICTs and emerging technologies to support the Federal Government’s drive to create more jobs for the youthful population and attract them into agriculture, improve food production, increase wealth and income of farmers and agricultural value chain players, improve food security, promote access to international food markets and, ultimately, a means of economic diversification.
Similarly, he stated that National Adopted School for Smart Education (NASSE) is a model introduced to young ones to introduce them to technology in a more engaging, innovative way.
On the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) Pantami explained that, within two years of launch, it has created over 2000 jobs with the industry worth over $32million.
He, however, appealed to the participants at the conference to contribute to the development of Nigeria’s digital economy and that of Africa and the world at large.