On Wednesday, April 26, 2020, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) launched its virtual academy for information technology. Over 14,000 active students nationwide were enrolled for 47 different courses across emerging technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence and many more at the academy.

One of the interesting things about NITDA’s launch of the virtual academy is not about the virtual academy per se; it is not a new thing – the use of virtual teaching is rising worldwide. There are currently more than 4,700 colleges, institutions and universities that provide online courses to their students worldwide. NITDA’s launch of its virtual academy is a novelty – the agency has brought a new style in delivering its core mandates to foster the development and growth of Information Technology (IT) in Nigeria and ensure that the IT policy’s implementation proceeds with maximum effectiveness. The agency is also mandated to regulate, monitor, evaluate, and verify progress on an ongoing basis under the supervisor of the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy.

Other agencies of government can copy from NITDA’s style of bringing innovation, new ideas and going beyond organizational boundaries to create new things based on collective decision-making in delivering its core mandates. This has shown that MDAs can bring innovations in governance while achieving their mandate flawlessly.

NITD’s virtual academy will assist young Nigerians to spend their time meaningfully and get trained on new technologies that will help create and shape the post-COVID era, including helping Nigeria and Nigerians to effectively work with the ‘new normal’ by devising new ways on how to cope with the impact of Covid-19 using ICT. NITDA’s initiatives to identify youths with innovative ideas, take them to innovation hubs, incubate and accelerate their ideas into a product or services through NITDA Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support Scheme will also have a positive impact on the Nigerian youths.

The conceptualization and launch of NITDA’s virtual academy has brought to fore the significance of creativity in the running of the government-owned agency, the effectiveness of support from the supervising federal ministries. NITDA’s Director-General, Kashifu Abdullahi, has exhibited innovativeness and new thinking, while the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Isa Pantami has provided the needed leadership.

NITDA’s ability to seamlessly launched the virtual academy with over 14,000 active students nationwide was only possible because its leadership have developed synergy within and outside the agency, while its Director General, Kashifu Abdullahi has shown commitment and passion as well as inspires others. Mr. Abdullahi, 39-year-old ICT expert, as Director-General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is a square peg in a square hole. In less than one year as NITDA’s DG, he has brought innovation, new style, and new thinking while hitting the target in delivering the agency’s core mandate. Well, Abdullahi, with education from ATBU, management and leadership training from Harvard University, Cambridge in the UK, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, etc., he is not new in achieving excellence and doing what ought to be done when saddled with a responsibility. In 2014 he was engaged by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as Technology Architect to develop Technology Architecture Repository (TAR) that gives a 360 view of the CBN’s IT infrastructure. He also laid a solid foundation for himself at Galaxy Backbone where he started as a Network Engineer and Solutions Architect, as well as IP Network Field Engineer, IP Operations Team, Senior Network & Lead and Senior Solution Architect between 2004 to 2013.

NITDA and its leadership should be applauded while its DG, in particular, should be encouraged to bring more innovations and new thinking in governance in the development of information technology in Nigeria. In fact, NITDA virtual academy should continually be developed and expanded to compete with the world’s best. If well-funded and remodeled, it can be among the foreign-exchange-spinners for Nigeria as we move towards the digital economy.

Zayyad I. Muhammad, Jimteta, Adamawa State