Following the leaked 2021 National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) bill in amendment of the regulatory Act passed in 2007, the Advocacy for Policy and Innovation (API) has communicated its concerns.
The body is an advocate for policy and innovation in Africa, responsible for sifting and critically evaluating development and implementation of policies, laws and regulations that affect the innovation ecosystem and investors in global markets.
Conveying its concerns and recommendations, API Intelligence touched on issues including conflict of statutory mandates, NITDA levy and scope of application, meaning of digital services, products and platforms, testing and approval, classification of licenses, data regulation, data monitoring, among other concerns.
In terms of responsibilities such as licensing, registration of technology, policy on assessment of tax of foreign entities operating in Nigeria, among others, already regulated by other ministries and departments of the Federal Government, but still bestowed upon NITDA, API recommended that such be reconsidered and removed from the bill.
The innovation advocates stated that NITDA should be given power to grant specific licenses, considering conscious private sector involvement from the conception and drafting stages of its Bills and regulations to widen the scope of the consultation.
Stating its advice on NITDA levy and scope of application, API noted that consideration be made to exclude ambiguous categories such as digital platform operators and e-commerce companies. Its reason was that these categories cannot be objectively and wholesomely identified.
The body recommended that there be an appropriate definition of digital services, products and platforms so as to enable stakeholders identify and understand the scope and application of the Bill.
It proposed that NITDA focus more on the development of platforms in the public sector and those that interphase with the Federal Government to deliver quality digital service to the public.
In its suggestions for testing and approval, API proposed that a multi-agency regulatory coordination platform come together to build a central database.
This is to track deployment of technology, providing a comprehensive single view of technology for Nigeria.
Further suggestion stated that NITDA considers an innovation sandbox to spur development innovation for public service delivery, stating that the framework can be issued under the subsidiary legislative powers of the Agency.
In terms of license classification, the advocate stated that the Bill considers licenses for specific purposes not covered by other laws and requiring controlled use of predefined technology.
Additionally, API recommended that the government considers an approach that promotes competition in the market, rather than imposing authorisation or licensing requirements.
Going further, API proposed that the data regulation and data monitoring provisions in the NITDA amendment Bill be deleted; recommending that NITDA supports the development of a robust data privacy law.
Other concerns in the NITDA amendment Bill include the singling out of the Jigawa State Government in the membership of the Digital Infrastructure and Service Provision Company and the proposed collaborative effort with the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to maintain standards and criteria envisioned for products and services, provided in the Bill.
The advocate recommended that the Act provides for a corresponding collaborative platform with the Federal Inland Revenue Services, providing input to the annual Finance Act review by working with the Federal Ministry of Finance in curating incentives that correspond with the regulatory burden envisaged by the Act.