BY: Yinka Okeowo
Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-designation of Ministry of Communications into the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, said Nigeria has found a place on the global map of digitally competitive nations.
The DG said this during a webinar (panel) discussions where he delved on the topic; ‘The Social and Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Nigerian Youth.’
He stated that with the recent government initiative to making Nigeria a leading digital economy, NITDA has refocused its effort in the implementation of the National Digital Economy Strategy.
Abdullahi noted that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) policy has the purpose of restoring economic growth while leveraging on the talent and knowledge of the Nigerian people, especially the Youth, and the ERGP policy identifies ICT as a key enabler that encourages investment in digital economy.
According to the DG, NITDA has embarked on several initiatives to accelerate digital transformation in Nigeria, which includes the following among others: Development and implementation of the Nigeria e-Government Interoperability Framework (Ne-GIF), Nigeria Government Enterprise Architecture (NGEA), Nigeria Cloud Computing Policy (NCCP), Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) and Nigeria Smart Initiatives Policy Framework (NSIPF).
Speaking on the opportunities for young people during and post COVID-19, Abdullahi opined that in every crisis there is a hidden opportunity, a silver lining.
He said, “The most promising silver lining during COVID-19 crisis is the accelerating trends that is shaping the future of digital economy. At NITDA we have rolled out several initiatives in order to help Nigerian youth identify and grab the hidden opportunities within COVID-19 crisis.”
Abdullahi further elaborated the several initiatives and achievements recorded by the Agency under COVID-19 lockdown: Tech4covid19 Initiative to measure the impact of COVID-19 on the tech ecosystem and proffer sustainable solutions, especially for startups; Virtual Startup Clinic – Where young people are to meet with mentors, successful entrepreneurs, investors, Industry specialist, business consultants and hub operators with the goal of incubating their ideas, and accelerating product to market as well as learning how to pitch ideas to potential investors.
Furthermore, the Agency has launched NITDA Academy Virtual Learning Platform, which was initiated, conceptualized and executed during the lockdown to meaningfully engage youths to mindfully utilize their time while staying at home. It helps a lot of people develop mental resilience and to learn new skills.
“So far, we have over 13,400 active students learning 47 different courses; Nigeria COVID-19 Innovation Challenge – held online to tackle the challenges our society is facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Five startups with highly innovative ideas were selected for the final challenge after exciting pitch and contest, three of them emerged best and won prizes; NITDA Technology Innovation & Entrepreneurship Support Scheme – a scheme to support startups and hubs across the country. With over 120 hubs in Nigeria, we are finalizing plans to ensure rapid intervention is provided for hubs and startups based on competence and carefully selected criteria.
However, on Nigeria Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture, NAVSA – A smart Agric Project, NITDA engages farmers and focuses on using digital platform and precision/smart farming technology to ensure significant improvement in crop yield, quality of farm produce, efficiency and productivity; increased profit margin, harvest forecast, sales of farm produce and eco-friendly agriculture practice.
“So far about 150 farmers have been engaged to pilot the project while also working on Business Process Outsourcing Framework – where the Agency is targeting to provide hundreds of thousands of decent jobs for youth.
“We have carried out several initiatives to address capacity building and other challenges associated with young people pre and during the COVID-19 Pandemic. On-site trainings & engagements (pre-covid) for youths was held in all the Geopolitical zones, training 1000s of youth and about 800 youth last year across the country.
“We also provided ICT facilities (laptops and tablet PCs) to support various youth programmes all in an effort to prepare them for the future of work and create digital jobs across the country.
“We are building centers of excellence for emerging technologies to create awareness and showcase the technology trends to watch out for in a post COVID-19 era. So, through these centers, youths can learn and simulate the use of emerging technologies such as AI, Advance Robotics, Big Data Analytics, Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, etc.” he added.