After just one year in office, Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, Mr. Inuwa Abdullahi, has shown that he truly understands what it takes to be at the helm of affairs at an agency that regulates a critical sector of the Nigerian economy. Oghenevwede Ohwovoriole writes
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is an agency of the federal government established in April 2001 to implement the Nigerian Information Technology Policy as well as coordinate general IT development and regulation in the country. Specifically, Section 6(a, b & m) of the Act mandates it to create a framework for the planning, research, development, standardisation, application, coordination, monitoring, evaluation and regulation of Information Technology practices, activities and systems in Nigeria.
Under the Act, NITDA is also empowered to provide guidelines to facilitate the establishment and maintenance of appropriate infrastructure for information technology and systems application and development in Nigeria for public and private sectors, urban-rural development, the economy and the government as well as accelerating internet and intranet penetration in Nigeria and promoting sound internet governance among other functions.
Last year in Dubia, United Arab Emirates, NITDA launched an educational device called, ”Unity Board” at the 39th Gulf Information Technology Exhibition GITEX Technology Week, the biggest technology show in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, which holds annually. The hardware was jointly designed by the Minister of Communications, Dr Isa Pantami and Dr Agu Collins Abu, the director of Corporate Planning and Strategy at NITDA.
The Unity Board is a made in Nigeria Educational Technology platform, which helps students in primary schools with the art of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IOT).
In an Interview with Voice of Nigeria Dr. Agu explained that the hardware will embed problem solving capability through creative thinking and problem-based learning methods, especially at the early age. He said it will also accelerate local content development and indigenisation of technology through human capital development in emerging technologies.
He added that it also a creative medium for advancing teaching and learning, designed specifically as hands-on learning tools to help today’s students build skills for the creative and digital economy through critical thinking.”
The agency sponsored 10 Nigerian ICT startups to the annual event.
Under Inuwa’s watch, NITDA has been fulfilling its mandate in ways that have been beneficial to Nigerians. Part of these strides of NITDA under his leadership is the provision of equipment and skill centres to various segments of the Nigerian society in a bid to develop digital skills, improve learning and grow the economy some of the projects across the six geo political zones which have been completed and commissioned: includes the E-library at the Federal College of Education Technical Bichi, Kano State; ICT Innovation Hub, Oyo State Trade Fair Complex, Ibadan, Oyo State; E-Accessibility Centre, Government School for the Deaf, Malumfashi, Katsina State; Virtual Examination Centre; Digital Capacity Training Centre; School Knowledge Center (SKC); Emergency Communication Center (ECC); Enugu State College of Education (Technical),Enugu State; Elkanemi College of Islamic Theology, Yola, Adamawa State; AUD High School Ikole Ekiti, Ekiti State; Emergency Communication Center, Kano, Kano State.
Also, the Digital Capacity Development Programme for Artisans was flagged off in Suleja, Niger State; Lautech, Oyo State; FCE, Okene, Kogi State; NIIT, Owerri, Imo State; Benchils School, Warri Delta State.
According to Inuwa, what the agency is doing today is as a result of an expansion of the agency’s mandate by his predecessor, Dr. Isa Pantami, the current Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
“There were several unsuccessful attempts to review the IT policy before. But coming to the office within three months, the HM had come up with a new policy, the National Digital Economy policy for Digital Nigeria. The policy expanded NITDA’s mandate and made it compulsory to rebrand in line with the new policy. The new brand is a paradigm shift from IT-centric to digital-centric NITDA, which includes a new logo, new vision, new mission, and new core values.
“The brand intent is to be a game-changer in our culture, mindset, and public perception of the Agency. For us to implement National Digital Economy Policy, we need to be a digital and smart Agency. We are committed to setting the pace for digital Nigeria,” Inuwa said.
He disclosed that NITDA’s presence in GITEX was to showcase its innovations and also seek investors to develop their products.
As an agency determined to ensure that the awareness and application of information technology spreads nationwide, NITDA has engaged the Nigerian media in a mutually rewarding partnership. A key part of this partnership is the training this year of 47 journalists in Abuja on digital reportage where they handed a laptop to each reporter.
At the opening ceremony of the training, Inuwa and Dr. Pantami stressed the need to train the media as a key partner in the digitalization of the economy.
Dr. Pantamiat, the event, noted Digital Nigeria cannot be achieved without “training the people who will play a key role in ensuring that we achieve that digital Nigeria”. He said it was for that reason NITDA decided to train journalists first.
Inuwa for his part, noted that the only way out of the harsh economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is digital technology.
“As we are set to embrace this new normal, we need to reskill ourselves as we have seen that the only thing that worked well in this pandemic is digital economy”, he said.
NITDA’s impact on the Nigerian society in the last one year Inuwa has held the reins at the agency has been multidimensional.
In its quest to secure the Nigerian cyberspace and protect Nigerians from cyber criminals the agency this year launched a Computer Emergency Response and Readiness Centre (CERRC) to monitor the nation’s cyberspace. The CERRC is domiciled at the agency’s headquarters from where it will monitor and reduce the risk involved in online transactions to the barest minimum.
In Agriculture, the agency has trained and graduated 130 farmers on rice farming and livestock production through digital technology. Participants were drawn from the 27 local government areas of Jigawa state. Each participant was supported with a new water pump generator, improved rice seedlings, a pair of android phones, as well as cheques of one hundred thousand Naira. The National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA), is a pilot programme of a project, piloted in Jigawa State, North West, Nigeria which will systematically adopt farmers across the 774 local government areas in the country.
The project is aimed at providing Nigerian farmers with means to showcase their produce in the digital world market and to support and equip them with necessary skills that will make Nigeria one of the leading nations in digital farming.