‘Tech Innovation Will Spur Digital Transformation’

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Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi

By Emma Okonji

The Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Abdullahi Kashifu Inuwa has challenged technology innovators to do the unexpected in the midst of challenges in order to achieve Nigeria’s dream of digital transformation.

He said the new normal occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the call for action.

Inuwa gave the challenge, while representing the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, at the 2020 virtual edition of the Nigeria Innovation Summit (NIS), organised recently by InnovationHub Africa.

“Today, it is obvious we are in a critical time. We are confronted with a crisis like no other, a triple crisis that you and I have not seen in living memory. It is the worst health and economic situation of our generation. It is also a learning crisis because of two reasons. Firstly, by the end of March this year, over 180 countries closed schools, forcing over 1.5 billion students to stay home. Secondly, we are forced to unlearn and relearn how we live and work to navigate our way out of the pandemic,” Inuwa said.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, who presented a paper at the innovation summit, said the tech forum was another avenue for NCC to intimate the general public and tech ecosystem about the Commission’s plans for rebooting the economy following disruptions occasioned by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Danbatta who was represented at the summit by the Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, said: “I consider the theme of the 2020 Nigeria Innovation Week: “Innovating in Critical Times”, very relevant in view of the numerous challenges that the pandemic has thrown at national governments, the ICT community and the health sector in particular.

“The COVID-19 global pandemic ripped through world economies like a wild bush fire, incapacitating local businesses, upsetting the workforce and rendering governments numb in the face of the outbreak. It is a well-known fact that nations that plan to succeed must have well-articulated policies in place to ensure the safety and security of its citizens, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the frailties of even the most advanced nations.

“At the Nigerian Communications Commission, we are driven by the vision to build a telecommunications market defined by universal access to affordable and equitable service.”

Danbatta said the 8-Point Agenda of NCC, which he introduced, was meant to prepare the industry for the uncertainties and challenges that lay ahead, considering the disruptions caused by evolving technologies.

“This is to ensure that the sector continues to play its veritable role as the enabler of the nation’s economic growth. The Commission, in continuing with its long-standing tradition of being a proactive regulatory approach, introduced policies and initiatives aimed at promoting the provision of efficient, available, affordable and easily accessible communications services throughout Nigeria,” Danbatta said.

According to Inuwa, the minister had directed NITDA to set a 10-man committee from the innovation ecosystem to achieve three objectives: Firstly, to identify innovative solutions to address the pandemic; secondly, to propose enabling policies and incentives to cushion the impact of the pandemic; thirdly to build massive digital skills to re-skill and prepare Nigerian citizens for the future work in post COVID-19.

In his opening remarks, the CEO InnovationHub Africa, Mr. Kenneth Omeruo, said the summit was designed to support and promote the need for Nigeria to use innovation to drive her economic growth.

As an organisation, we have decided to contribute our quota in creating this forum that helps to increase awareness around technology and innovation across Nigeria during the Nigeria Innovation Week.

“The challenges of the time are such that nations, organisations, businesses and individuals must use digital technologies in one way or the other. It is no longer an option but a necessity,” Omeruo said.