Information Communication Technology stakeholders have described open data initiative, a policy guideline being proposed by National Information  Technology Development Agency (NITDA),  as imperative to the socio economic development of the country.

The stakeholders, who met in Port Harcourt on Monday, agreed that for the nation to develop in line with national planning, some important data must be made available and open for easy access and usage.

The forum maintained that NITDA should come up with principles that would encourage openness of data and also establish guiding principles to Ministries Departments and Agencies, for global best practices in data collation and usage.

In his welcome remarks, the Acting Director General of NITDA, Dr. Vincent Olatunji, who was represented at the forum by the Director, Standards, Guidelines and Regulations, Barrister Lazarus Ikoti, informed the stakeholders that lack of data in Nigeria is hindering the development of the country.

Citing an example of the effect of insurgency in the country, he said lack of data has made it difficult for the country to actually know the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country.

He said; “the issue of open data has drawn so much interest in the international community and Nigeria as a country cannot afford to lag behind.” He added that it was because of this the Agency attached so much premium to open data.

“He stated that the world is drifting toward open data and many organizations like Open Data for Development were springing up to support open data initiatives.

He assured that NITDA would partner with these organisations to derive maximum benefits for open data in Nigeria, adding that the Agency has since 2013 begun preparation to make Nigeria one of the countries that complied with the initiative.

While acknowledging the role of standard, guideline and regulations to the success of harnessing the benefit of ICT, Dr Olatunji stated that the Agency would begin enforcement of the guidelines it has published in the past.

“We are not going to stop at publishing the standards, but shall go all out to enforce it. To enforce these standards, we shall work with the relevant government agencies to secure their support”, he hinted.

The NITDA boss stated that Africa Open Data Conference which held in 2015 earmarked some funds as seed support to empower Africa emerging Open Data entrepreneurs; the funds are to improve on data collation in order to achieve sustainable development goals.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the stakeholders’ meeting has been far-reaching. The meeting agreed that for the Open Data Initiative to get the desired acceptance among Nigerian MDAs, a directorate must be established with the sole aim of ensuring awareness, accessibility and usability of data.