In an inspiring call to action, the National Information Technology Agency (NITDA) has urged Nigerians to harness the immense potential of digital technology for job creation, economic inclusivity and the establishment of a thriving digital future that benefits all citizens. This call was articulated by the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, during the opening ceremony of the Digital Nigeria 2023 Conference in Abuja.
Bosun reaffirmed that the imperative for digital transformation aligns with President Bola Tinubu’s administration’s renewed hope agenda. He emphasised that embracing digital transformation is crucial for building a robust economy, as it fosters job creation, enhances information accessibility, boosts productivity, facilitates data-driven decision-making and broadens the client base for small and medium-scale enterprises.
“It is widely acknowledged that digitalisation plays a foundational role, akin to public infrastructures in earlier industrialisation periods, and investing in it is a prerequisite for participating in the global knowledge economy. Digital technology presents tremendous opportunities to expedite progress toward sustainable development goals, while also having the potential to widen socioeconomic disparities in a developing nation like Nigeria,” Bosun highlighted.
He stressed that achieving this requires a dual approach, encompassing physical technology such as broadband networks and digital platforms and capabilities, including identity systems and payment infrastructure.
Bosun cited the Smart Nation initiative in Singapore as a model. This initiative introduced a range of projects, spanning smart transportation, smart energy, and smart healthcare, leading to improved government efficiency, reduced corruption, amplified economic growth, as well as the creation of more efficient, livable and sustainable cities.
Emphasising that the future is unequivocally digital and will define how people live, work and interact, Bosun underscored the significance of instilling the value of digital economic inclusion as a foundational element in building a robust economy.
Speaking at the 2023 Digital Nigeria Conference’s opening session, the NITDA DG, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi emphasised the transformative power of innovation within Nigeria’s economy. He pointed out that innovation, in tandem with well-structured policies and regulations, forms the core elements propelling Nigeria’s digital economy forward, ultimately bolstering the nation’s global presence.
Abdullahi stated, “We are living in a world of technological advancements, where futuristic dreams of yesterday are becoming reality in today’s products and services. Digital innovations have empowered individuals and nations, transforming the way we think, communicate and socialise, reshaping societies and economies, and redefining the value of our identities”.
He went on to explain that the core of the renewed agenda is inclusive economic growth, encompassing productivity and prosperity for all. Citing statistics, he revealed that digitally transformed enterprises contributed $13.5 trillion to the global GDP in 2015, and this figure is projected to surpass $53.3 trillion in the current year, accounting for over 50 per cent of global GDP. Digital technology is thus integral to all facets of contemporary life and transcends across sectors.
Abdullahi outlined the vision of the 2023 Digital Nigeria Conference, which is to leverage the power of digital technology to stimulate job creation, ensure inclusive economic growth and establish the foundation for a robust digital economy. The conference aims to offer opportunities for youth networking and financial empowerment, activating conversations, innovations and aspirations.
Guest speaker and managing director of Main One, Funke Opeke delved into the role of emerging technologies in facilitating nations’ technological leaps. She emphasized the need for specific plans with milestones and objectives that position Nigeria as a global technology leader, much like Singapore, South Korea, or India, which transformed their economies through technology and knowledge acquisition.
Funke noted that while countries like Singapore and South Korea had relatively small populations and significant investments in technology, India’s example, with its vast population of 1.4 billion, can be more relatable to Nigeria. Despite similar GDPs, India has successfully lifted a substantial proportion of its people out of poverty, driven by its technology-based economic transformation.
However, Funke acknowledged the challenges, such as Nigeria’s current economic reliance on oil and gas exports, which have experienced significant declines. To address these challenges, she emphasized tapping into foreign direct investments, deploying infrastructure and leveraging the youthful population. The ICT sector’s contribution to Nigeria’s GDP has grown from 8 per cent in 2015 to over 60 per cent today, reflecting increased consumption and local production. To ensure inclusive growth and economic development, she underscored the need to create wealth and drive growth on a larger scale, rather than benefitting only a privileged few.
Funke highlighted the key role of government in defining and pursuing developmental agendas to provide affordable and quality digital technology access to more Nigerians, ultimately improving skills, fostering job creation, and promoting societal development and wealth generation. She advocated for a framework to support indigenous companies and stimulate their growth to a Pan-African scale.
CEO of CentBee, Lorien Gamaroff served as the guest speaker for the conference segment dedicated to exploring the potentials of blockchain technology in an emerging economy. He elucidated the economic benefits of blockchain technology and encouraged participants to immerse themselves in blockchain knowledge to reap financial benefits. Blockchain technology, by enabling transparent information sharing within business networks, offers considerable advantages to the nation’s economy.