The director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi has assured stakeholders that the agency’s regulations are not meant to stifle innovation but rather to promote growth and development in the digital space.
Abdullahi made this statement during a panel discussion at the Business Day CEO Forum 2023 on ‘Charting a Course to Growth and Development’ held in Lagos State.
The DG emphasised that NITDA’s regulations are designed to encourage innovation by establishing a level playing field for all participants in the digital ecosystem. He further expressed the agency’s commitment to collaborating with stakeholders to ensure that the regulations are implemented in a manner that does not hinder innovation.
Abdullahi acknowledged the importance of regulation while emphasising that it should not impede the progress of innovation or hinder the growth of startups and technology-driven businesses. He emphasised the need to strike a delicate balance between enabling innovation and safeguarding the interests of consumers, investors and the general public.
The DG highlighted that NITDA’s framework incorporates both rule-based and non-rule-based regulations, with a preference for the latter. This approach allows for collaboration with industry stakeholders to develop the sector and formulate recommendations for compliance. He also acknowledged the need for flexibility in regulations, stating that policies may need to be revised or replaced if they prove ineffective in supporting the ecosystem.
“At NITDA, any intervention is designed to influence business, social, and market behaviour and we have four objectives for any regulatory instrument we issue,” Abdullahi stated. He outlined these objectives as creating a market or facilitating access to products and services, protecting consumers, enabling innovation and improving service delivery.
The DG highlighted the various regulations in place, including policies on blockchain, artificial intelligence and the Nigeria Data Protection Commission (NDPC). He noted that the NDPC has now evolved into a full-fledged organisation responsible for data regulation, a role that NITDA’s regulatory function gave birth to.
In reference to the Korn Ferry report, Abdullahi mentioned that by 2030, there will be a global shortage of over 85 million skilled professionals, which could result in unrealised annual revenues of 8.5 trillion USD. He emphasised the importance of talent in a digitized and knowledge-based economy and encouraged Nigeria to position itself as a global talent factory, leveraging its young population as it has done successfully in sports, music and the film industry.
Regarding technology and data, particularly cybersecurity, Abdullahi emphasised the significance of building trust and confidence in users. He highlighted the alarming costs associated with cybercrime and stressed the importance of cybersecurity measures to protect digital infrastructure and foster confidence among users.
In line with its goals, NITDA is working on establishing a public key infrastructure (PKI) to enhance trust and confidence in digital services. The implementation of PKI is expected to drive growth, development and attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).
The Business Day CEO Forum 2023 was graced by esteemed guests, including the chairman of the African Development Bank (ADB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina; the governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki; the governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Umar Namadi; the CEO of MTN Group, Mr. Ralph Mupika; Chairman of Shell Companies Nigeria, Mr. Osagie Okunbor and other dignitaries.