Pantami Gives Insight into Nigeria’s Digital Economy Policy Drive

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Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami

Emma Okonji

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, has given fresh insight into the strides and strategy of his ministry in accomplishing the digital economy policy for national development.

Part of the policy was the change in nomenclature of the ministry, from Ministry of Communications to Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy by President Muhammadu Buhari in October last year.

Pantami, who gave the insight at the weekend during a media parley involving all agencies of the ministry in Abuja, said the re-designation was done to position Nigeria for the gains of digital economy as ‘communications’ captured just the channels.

He explained that the former name became inadequate in describing the essence of the new vision that embraces the content as well as the utilisation of both channel and content to achieve the central focus of the ministry to migrate the nation to a digital economy.

Pantami said the move was particularly significant to enable Information and Communication Technology (ICT), which is the most diverse and fastest growing sector, to mobilise other sectors and align with the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the federal government.

Following the re-designation, the minister stated that the federal government directed the ministry to develop and implement a national digital economy strategy. This, he said, was done by the ministry and unveiled by the President at the e-Nigeria Conference in November 2019.

Pantami said the policy captured the thematic focus while the strategy speaks to how the various themes would be achieved.

Speaking further, Pantami declared that all other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government were connected to the strategy in view of the centrality of ICT to development in other sectors of the economy.

“The role of the ministry is to coordinate the implementation of the policy and the strategy, which has already started. By the end of the next decade, the federal government expects every Nigerian to have connected with the goals of digital Nigeria by being computer literate, own a digital device, have access to the Internet, own a bank account that can be accessed and operated digitally and online. Beyond financial services, the federal government hopes to see majority of the citizens undertake many activities electronically,” Pantami said.

While emphasising the second mainstay of the digital economy policy, which is Digital Literacy and Skills, the minister noted their importance, insisting that digital economy was unrealisable without skills.

Pantami enumerated that different sections of the population were targeted for training and retraining, including women, youths, journalists, civil servants and those who are certificated but unemployed.

He was optimistic that at least 90 per cent of Nigerians would be digitally literate by the end of the decade as all agencies in the ministry would be involved in series of training and retraining as much as the financial circumstances of the nation permit. The minister emphasised that digital innovation and digital entrepreneurship were particularly important in ensuring increase in Nigeria’s GDP.

He made a comparison between Nigeria and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States of America, by stating that Nigeria’s GDP is $397 billion, while MIT’s GDP is about five times higher. He attributed the disparity largely to inputs of digital innovation and entrepreneurship.