Hard work, loyalty and diligence make the best employees. Today, President Muhammadu Buhari, will be glad to have Mr. Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi at the helm of affairs of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) as his scorecard in the past one year shows quality leadership.
By August 20, Abdullahi would have clocked one year in office, first it took many as surprise when his appointment was announced. I am pretty sure that himself couldn’t have seen it coming.
Like he would later say:
“I must say, it was an amazing journey. This isn’t something that I expected or even envisaged. It was indeed a pleasant surprise. It however, shows the confidence my boss and mentor, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), FNCS, FBCS, FIIM, has in my ability to the extent of recommending me to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, to take a giant leap step into his shoes. It is a great honor, and I am putting in my best not to disappoint the expectation of my boss and mentor, Mr President, Nigerian Youths as well as the country as a whole”.
Actually, Abdullahi is not new in the Nigeria’s IT industry as many envisaged. Suffice to say that he is at home being at the helm of affairs in NITDA. As a person that is open to new approaches and strategies, with the experiences he had gained for the last 15 years in the IT sector spanning between the private and the public sector and through unceasing study, the team and himself have worked diligently to ensure the continuous development of the IT sector in Nigeria over the past 12 months.
TechEconomy.ng recalls that he picked it up from a good place to consolidate upon, considering the foundation laid by previous DGs, especially the current boss Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), FNCS, FBCS, FIIM, who is the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
Executing NITDA’s mandate
Yes, the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19 Pandemic) has had devastating effects on countries globally, Nigeria inclusive. While looking at the management of the pandemic as challenging, it has been a turning point for revolutionizing of Digital Technologies to deliver products and services across the world, which is what people currently refer to as the new normal.
Therefore, it is instructive to note that NITDA did not miss the opportunity to prepare for the impact of the pandemic and also provide adequate support to insulate the Technology and Innovation Ecosystem.
With diverse mandate, NITDA under Abdullahi has key focal points
Abudullahio is leading NITDA towards implementing a strategic roadmap for the development of Nigeria’s IT sector. It consists of 7 pillars that are in alignment with the 8 pillars of the National Digital Economy Policy & Strategy. The 7 key pillars of our Roadmap are
- IT Regulation,
- Capacity Building,
- Digital Inclusion,
- Digital Job Creation,
- Government Digital Service Promotion,
- Local Content Development, and
NITDA has rolled out several policies, regulations, and programmes, focusing on those areas. However, as the roadmap is set to expire this year as is the Nigeria Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) which it draws from, NITDA has already commenced reviewing it as well as developing the next plan, which will soon be launched.
It is in alignment with and takes cognizance of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) and other important plans and policies of this administration.
NITDA is helping local OEMs rise again
NITDA has demonstrated great support and has ensured improved patronage of indigenous Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in the last 3 years.
It is a fact that the purchase of local devices by MDAs is unprecedented within these years compared to previous years before 2018.
For instance, in 2015-2016 less than 250,000 devices were sold by indigenous OEMs. However, due to the intervention of NITDA, records shows that in 2018/2019 alone OEMs sold three times the numbers sold prior to 2017 with about 778,886 of locally assembled devices sold in 2018 and 2019. Impressive!
But as an honest man, Abdullahi admitted recently that there are some challenges with the implementation of the Presidential Executive Order 003 for promotion of local content in the procurement of MDAs and the NITDA issued Guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in ICT, which mandates MDAs also to purchase Nigerian hardware products.
NITDA is implementing the Executive Order and Guidelines vigorously through active surveillance and IT Projects assessment and clearance process of the Agency.
Nevertheless, procurement law requires OEMs to either bid directly or work with other contractors to bid to ensure transparency and value for money. If MDAs violate the process NITDA can then be notified for action.
There is also a challenge with the quality of some of the indigenous brands. In an effort to address this challenge, in 2018, NITDA mandated these OEMs to go through a rigorous certification process requiring them to have ISO 9001:2015 for quality management systems.
This, Abdullahi believes, will ensure they are able to provide products that meet quality and regulatory requirements always.
Records show that currently, only 3 out of 10 previously registered OEMs have been fully certified.
A look at the Nigeria IT Policy
There is something interesting that is currently happing in this industry. NITDA’s supervising Ministry, Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy handles policy-related issues. The Ministry has made several attempts at reviewing the policy in 2012, 2013 and 2017. Currently, with Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) as the Honourable Minister, the efforts have resulted the development of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, during the 2019 e-Nigeria International Conference, Exhibition and Awards, held on the November 28th, 2019. The NDEPS effectively replaces the National IT Policy.
NITDA has become Federal Government’s digital economy vision bearer
You may wish to know that even prior to the re-designation of the Federal Ministry of Communications, to include Digital Economy, NITDA has achieved a lot in that regard, through the implementation of a roadmap for the development of the Nigerian IT sector which consists of 7 pillars that are in alignment with the 8 pillars of the Digital Economy Policy & Strategy and the Nigeria IT Policy.
For instance, in promoting a digital Nigeria, NITDA from August 2019 to date has launched and is implementing the following regulatory instruments:
- Nigeria e-Government Interoperability Framework (Ne-GIF);
- Nigeria Cloud Computing Policy (NCCP);
- Nigeria ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Vision (NIIEV);
- Framework and Guidelines for ICT adoption in Tertiary Institutions;
- Guidelines for Nigeria Content Development ICT as amended; and
- Data Protection Implementation Framework.
Furthermore, NITDA have different IT project interventions that have been carried out across the country in the last 1 year –
- 80 Digital Capacity Training Centres (DCTCs) with E-Learning facilities;
- 6 IT Hubs;
- 6 IT Community Centres;
- 4 IT Innovation & Incubation Parks, and
- 3 IT Capacity Training Centres – all with the aim of bridging the digital divide and providing access to the unserved and underserved population.
How are these efforts paying-off
Nigeria is among the top three countries in Africa attracting the largest investments from Venture Capitalists among its flourishing Technology Startups and Hubs.
Honestly, NITDA’s efforts are paying-off. Interestingly, Nigeria occupied the first position with a total investment of US $747 Million, followed by Kenya with a total investment of US $564 Million and Egypt that attracted a total investment of US $211 Million. In an effort to consolidate these efforts, we have a series of initiatives aimed at providing a conducive environment and support for the Start-up Ecosystem.
- The NITDA Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support Scheme, targeting startups hub owners and youth with talent and building their skills in high-demand skills;
- Policies such as Tax Incentives for startups, incentives for investors and access to market for innovation adoption;
- Establishment of Innovation and Research Fund to further catalyze the growth of startups;
- Development of an Innovation Portal to monitor the activities of the ecosystem;
- FinTech software, which is already exported;
- The innovation fund established by Government will reduce risk and attract FDI; and
- Establishment of the Tech4COVID19 Initiative to measure the impact of COVID-19 on the tech ecosystem and proffer solutions especially for startups. The committee has come up with a Strategic Plan to ensure we retain about 100,000 ICT Jobs and create an additional 30,000 in the Post COVID-19 Era. We have since initiated the implementation of these recommendations.
Any efforts towards boosting Nigeria’s software export?
Nigeria has come a long way from being a net importer of software into a significant hub for the development of talent for software development in Africa. This is evident from the value of investments that come into Nigeria’s startup ecosystem due to the successes of mostly software-powered applications developed by incredibly smart Nigerians. This can be seen in the growth and capacities harnessed in the country’s technology hubs, mostly around Lagos and Abuja.
Also, there are numerous software houses churning out software to support banking, commerce and government processes in Nigeria.
This is a testament to the ingenuity of Nigerians developing software to almost sufficiently meet local needs. However, the country must strive to become net exporters of software by developing our model to produce more software engineers and find suitable markets for these talents.
Abdullahi has also aligned to this thought as he believes one way to achieve this agenda is to prepare to take advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which provides the opportunities for Africa to improve inter-Africa trade generally and trade in services particularly.
Nigerian Software will benefit immensely from an improved atmosphere in trade-in services. This is important, considering that we already have all the ingredients needed to succeed. There is also the need to continue to incentivize software developers through lower taxes, subsidized development of talent and to create a pipeline of jobs that can be offered locally.
This will lead to the development of proprietary solutions that can be standardized and sold as services to other countries in Africa or the rest of the world for significant foreign exchange.
Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support Scheme is one of the initiatives the Agency have towards talent development. We understand NITDA is in discussion with Microsoft Corporation on the Global Skilling Initiative (GSI). It is an initiative aimed at helping 25 million people worldwide who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 Pandemic to re-skill in in-demand technical and tech-enabled jobs in the digital economy.
How NITDA is positioning Nigeria for post-covid-19 era
Since the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic, NITDA has not rested on its oars to ensure the country’s recovering from the challenges posed by the novel pandemic. Abdullahi rallied his team and other stakeholders and the Agency has since launched several initiatives in order to ensure that technology continues to enable business continuity.
You may have heard about some of these initiatives:
i. Tech4COVID19 Initiative – This initiative is set to measure the impact of COVID-19 on the tech ecosystem and proffer solutions especially for startups.
NITDA set-up a Committee which has come up with a Strategic Plan to ensure we retain about 100,000 ICT Jobs and create an additional 30,000 in the Post COVID-19 Era.
ii. Virtual Startup Clinic – Startups where gathered, mostly young people to meet with mentors, successful entrepreneurs, investors, industry specialists, business consultants and hub operators with the goal of solving problems and challenges they were facing.
NITDA held two virtual startup clinics within a time frame of 1 month.
iii. Nigeria COVID-19 Innovation Challenge – An online innovation challenge was held to meet the challenges our society is facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Five (5) startups with highly innovative ideas were selected for the final challenge and 3 of them were selected for further incubation.
A support of ₦1 000,000 ₦750,000 and ₦500,000 were won by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd winners respectively.
iv. NITDA Technology Innovation & Entrepreneurship Support Scheme – This is a scheme to support startups and hubs across the country. With over 120 hubs in Nigeria, NITDA are finalizing plans to ensure rapid intervention is provided for hubs and startups based on competence and carefully selected criteria.
v. One of the enduring legacies of NITDA under Abdullahi is the SMART Agric Project, where the Agency is engaging farmers and focus on using precision/smart farming 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.
During this pandemic, NITDA engaged 130 farmers on this Project.
vi. Furthermore, Abdullahi saw a need to launch NITDA Academy – a platform for virtual learning where thousands of young Nigerians can have access to a wide range of educational courses and tools online.
The truth is that these initiatives have in no small measures impact the economy, especially the startup ecosystem.
Just few days ago, Dr. Pantami raised a placard up; not in protect rather in affirmation that Adbullahi has done well with the grand repackaging of the brand that NITDA has become.
The rebranding touches on the Logo, Mission, Core Mandates.
What is the essence?
“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,” he said.
The DG added “the rebranding would enable the agency to be dynamic in our culture, mindset, and public perception of the agency”.
Surely, Abdullahi has started on a good note and his vision for NITDA is clear. He had shown intent to leave behind legacies in the IT space; to leave an unprecedented record of achievements that will continue to support the growth and development of the ICT Sector, thereby contributing meaningfully to the lives of Nigerians.
Happy first anniversary [in office] as DG NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi!