The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) said it has entered into a partnership with the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to develop standard digital journalism in the country.
This decision was reached when the union, led by its national president, Mr. Chris Isiguzo, paid a courtesy call on the agency at its headquarters in Abuja.
In his remarks, the director-general, NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, underscored the relevance of emerging technologies in journalism, decried the adverse effect of fake news which he described as “unimaginable” and a huge threat to the profession.
“Today, anybody can be a journalist without knowing the journalistic ethics. So, how can we address that? We can only do that through this kind of engagement; by training and retraining journalists to understand that it is now about digital journalism and for you to engage, one needs to understand the technology, be able to verify information and its source before publishing or broadcasting.”
Although the agency is saddled with the mandate of regulating the use of information technology (IT) in the country, the DG noted that in recent times, the responsibility has gone beyond establishing the dos and don’ts due to the dynamic nature of technology which he said has further necessitated the need to up the ante in getting journalists to acclimatise with requisite skills and technological know-how.
“Always, we need to reskill, update our knowledge and understand how technology works to harness potentials and use it for better things because technology can be used as a tool or a weapon. It is left for the user to decide what should drive the purpose. Everyone has a part to play in ensuring that unscrupulous elements don’t misuse the tech to mislead people.”
While describing journalism as “the best medium to sensitise” the public on what the Federal Government is doing towards achieving a digital Nigeria, Abdullahi said the partnership would greatly be beneficial to both parties.
“As a government, we have an ambitious target of achieving 95 per cent digital literacy by 2030. We can’t train 95 per cent of the population one-on-one, so we need to be innovative. We need to find a way of leveraging on organisations like yours to achieve that. If we can have people writing about digital literacy, the reach would be far wider than what we can do as a government. This is why we have already started engaging your members in some states; training and letting them know they have a responsibility of helping the government sanitise the system so that we can address the challenge of fake news, misinformation and disinformation.”
On the forthcoming National Executive Council/ workshop on digital journalism organised by the union, the NITDA boss expressed interest in the planned programme and assured the body of the agency’s support.
He also encouraged the team to work out the modalities for the interventions/ training sessions as requested for NITDA to know the number of members and make adequate provisions toward kick-starting the process.
Speaking earlier, Isiguzo applauded NITDA for the different training sessions held for journalists in Jigawa, Kano, Gombe, Katsina states e.t.c. which he observed are usually accompanied by working tools, said the visit was to formally meet for the first time with the DG and express the union’s profound gratitude for the ongoing training packages so far and to seek for partnership at the national level.
“A journalist that is not exposed to constant training and retraining programmes is a danger to the society. That is why what you’re doing must be applauded. Also, we are asking that you accommodate more of our people to help them benefit. That way, issues like fake news which, of course, is about misinformation, disinformation and the rest of them, would be effectively tackled.”
Isiguzo also appealed for digital facilities to be provided for the union’s national secretariat and the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ), to aid optimal operations.
“There’s the need that we get those facilities because most of our colleagues – especially those operating online – always come back because they don’t have offices. That’s why the umbrella body there is more like a shade and was provided for everyone who comes. When you have these people operate within one enclave, control is easier. Also, we want to demonstrate some level of control, that’s why we are asking for your assistance with some of these facilities. I believe that it will go a long way in helping the government and its message against fake news,” he added.