Nigeria Must Adopt Knowledge-based Economy to Survive, Says Communications Minister


Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

The Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, has said Nigeria must go digital in line with the trend across the world if the economy must survive.

He said the whole world is shifting from natural resources to knowledge-based economy, adding that Nigeria’s continuous reliance on oil would amount to putting the nation’s eggs in one basket.

Pantami spoke Tuesday at the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) in Rivers State while inaugurating the Centre for Information and Telecommunication Engineering donated by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

He stated that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is poised to ensure that the country keeps pace with developments in the international community as far as information technology is concerned and is on track to have digital Nigeria in place.

He said: “Establishing IT innovation and incubation centres all over the country is highly strategic. The Federal Government of Nigeria is trying to diversify the economy away from oil and gas, in order not to put all our eggs in one basket.

“The whole world is running away from natural-resources economy to knowledge-based economy. Digital economy occupies a central position in the knowledge-based economy. We are on track to have digital Nigeria in place.”

Pantami also stated that the whole economy of the world is being digitalised, while the attention of the world today is not about degrees, but rather about skills.

On the project, the minister said: “The project started while I was the Director-General of NITDA and the current Director-General, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, was supporting me as my Technical Assistant. We came up with the idea of establishing IT skills centres all over Nigeria. I discovered that there was no application for intervention from UNIPORT to the NITDA, but UNIPORT is very strategic in the South-south. This is our first intervention project without request.

“President Buhari is mentoring us to be fair to all and sundry, and that in our intervention. We must ensure that no part of Nigeria is left out. We always give priority to places that had previously been marginalised. UNIPORT has not benefitted from our intervention.”

In his address, the Vice-Chancellor of UNIPORT, Prof. Ndowa Lale, noted that the inaugurated park had firmly established the federal university as the first-choice destination for the study of telecommunications engineering in Nigeria and the West Africa sub-region.

Lale said: “There is no doubt that the minister’s outstanding performance as the Director-General of NITDA contributed in no small measure to his current elevation to cabinet rank. The new Director-General of NITDA also ensured that the laudable project was completed in record time, as envisaged by the stakeholders.

“The breath-taking revolution and innovations in communication technology have transformed the way we live, learn and engage in interpersonal relationships. The computer will not replace the teacher, but teachers with computer literacy will certainly replace those without such 21st century skills.”

He noted that Telecommunication Engineering, which basically centres on electrical and computer engineering, is a relatively new field of studies in this part of the world.

He however said the centre has so far graduated and awarded 36 M.Sc degrees in Information and Telecommunication Engineering since its inception.

He however pleaded with the management of NITDA to complete the third phase of the project, which includes equipping of the laboratories in time for commissioning at the next convocation in March 2020, “before I finally exit office in July next year”.

The vice-chancellor also assured the audience that the befitting building would be put to good use.

The Director-General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, earlier in his welcome address, disclosed that the World Bank had categorised Nigeria as one of the countries with the least ease of doing business and said the centre would help to address the challenges.

Abdullahi also stressed that the Buhari administration has identified ICT as an enabler for development, while adding that digital economy is reshaping how things are being done.