By Emma Okonji
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr. Musa Istifanus has said the ministry will leverage information and communications technology (ICT) to help defeat the COVID-19.
He stated this during a Webinar on Pan-Nigeria Economy Intervention Forum (PANEIF), which was organised recently in collaboration with ICT stakeholders with the theme: ‘Post COVID-19 Technology Intervention Towards Economy Rediscovery.’
Istifanus said the ministry would continue to collaborate with the relevant public and private stakeholders on the acquisition of requisite sectoral skills and competences in the overall efforts to leverage ICT to solve Nigeria’s problems generated by the COVID-19 pandemic that is currently ravaging the world.
He said COVID -19 further showed how connected and inter-linked the world really is and the need to check coherence of policies and programmes across the ICT sectors, noting that the initiative is apt and couldn’t have come at a better time than now.
According to him, “We have to embrace a whole of society approach, where everyone’s voice and input in planning and implementation counts, whilst finding the best ways to cushion the challenges this pandemic has brought.”
Istifanus, pointed out that there was need to, “improve efficiency in the use of our scare resources and be much more innovative and come up with creative strategies and platforms for mobilising policy interventions in these trying times.”
“COVID-19 has made the world a more challenging place than ever for many of us. The Ministry will acquaint itself creditably and remain focus on the implementation of laudable programmes and projects that will turn around the fortunes of the country,” the Permanent Secretary added.
One of the speakers who participated in the webinar from South Africa, Mr. Andile Ngcaba, stated that Nigeria’s digital infrastructure was critical to the development of the digital economy in the continent and urged Nigeria to adopt Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud Computing, Robotic Technology, 5G in the public and private sector.
He said Nigeria has the capacity to lead the continent and supply other African countries ICT services and expressed the need for Africans to share ideas and build partnership to address global challenges through innovative solutions.
Ngcaba, urged African countries to surprise the world by digitalising the informal sector using digital tools such as open data system, digital plant recipes, plant coding, cloud computing and servers.
In his contribution, the coordinator Local Content for Development, Mr. Inye Kemabonta, argued that COVID-19 was the best thing to happen to Nigeria because it brings great opportunities in the disruption of normal situations and opportunity to look inwards.
According to him, “ICT is an answer to COVID-19 and full implementation of the Nigeria content program is the obvious key to economy recovery.”
He urged the taskforce to adopt a Nigeria first attitude in ICT as an initiative and passionately call and appeal to government to fully and rigorously implement its Nigeria Content Policy.
The Executive Director, Centre for Cyber Space Studies, Nasarawa State University, Dr. Uche Mbanaso, pointed out that there was a huge disconnect between the industry, academia and the government.
He recommended complete overhaul of Nigeria education system to make the system functional, noting that the ICT industry, academia and the government must work together and ensure that Research and Development (R&D) is demand driven.
Mbanaso, added that accreditation of courses in the tertiary institutions must involve ICT industry stakeholders, professional and non-government organisations (NGOs).