Nigeria:Expanding the Frontiers of Information Technology

From the 9th to the 11th of July 2018, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osibanjo led a high powered delegation of IT Professionals and enthusiasts on a road show to the heart of the cyber world in the United States of America – the Silicon Valley. The objective of the timely and auspicious event tagged investinnigeria2018 Summit was crystal clear – to attract global investment in IT to Nigeria, a country whose potential in that regard remains undeniable. The delegation comprised of policy makers, regulators, indigenous innovators and other stakeholders. It was an intense three days of meetings, presentations and networking with global industry players who had converged on the Cyber Valley at the behest of the Nigerian government.

Leading the charge from the regulatory arm of the sector was the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency NITDA, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, a seasoned professional and die hard IT enthusiast. This was his forte and he came prepared as usual.

As part of its core mandate to enter into, and  foster strategic partnerships with global entities to ensure Nigeria secures a competitive pedestal in IT among the comity of nations, the Agency provided sponsorship for some of the indigenous startups thereby, availing them the rare opportunity of showcasing to the world and indeed, potential investors the immense potential that abounds within our great country Nigeria. And they made Nigeria proud. One after the other, all eleven indigenous egg heads took to the stage and pitched their solutions before an impressed audience.

Addressing the elite audience of industry giants, Dr Pantami was passionate in his delivery. The globally recognized Professor of Software development and Fellow of the prestigious British Computer Society who has determinedly led NITDA to champion engagements of global investors to explore IT opportunities in Nigeria as well as expose the country’s community of startups at various fora, told a spell bound audience that  Nigeria remains a formidable market with high Return on Investment. “As demonstrated today, there is no dearth of potential in Nigeria. The potential is immense and the possibilities limitless. Investing in the Nigerian IT industry is the next best thing out of Africa and there is a guaranteed infinite Return on Investment as it can only get better owing to the dynamic nature of the sector”. Citing copious examples of the talents in the country, Dr Pantami disclosed that young Nigerians were making their mark in the industry every where in the world as partners and employees in various organisations. “The addiction of the average Nigerian youth to the tools of ICT, is a glaring testimony to the tremendous interest vested in technology. The hunger for knowledge has led to the high rate of IT solutions churned out daily by Nigerian youths.”  The erudite professor seized the moment and appealed to his spell bound audience to partner and collaborate with individuals and entities who have demonstrated their willingness and ability to add value to the industry. Especially at this time when the country’s IT Policies are investor and investment friendly.

Nigeria’s National IT Policy is predicated on the roadmap document developed by the regulatory Agency and supported by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. At the Summit, NITDA acting in accordance with its mandate made contacts with, and established a working foundation with tech giants like Google, LinkedIn and Facebook towards digital job creation for Nigerian youths.

That been said, it is pertinent to note that the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is pushing the boundaries and expanding the frontiers of Information Technology like never before seen in this country. Enabling policies to drive ease of doing business like the recent Visa on arrival pronouncement, empowering policies like the Executive orders 003 and 005 to further give impetus to NITDA’s regulatory powers, the establishment of various startup hubs around the country to drive indigenous innovation, the deployment of local content in government practices like the TSA to mention but a few, are part of the larger picture gradually taking shape.

This administration has demonstrated in no small measure, its recognition and adoption of IT as the only infinite resource that can guarantee economic stability, security and a pride of place in the global scheme of things. Little wonder then that the Office of the Vice President is personally committed to its development in word and in deed.

For NITDA as the regulator, it is proof that its leadership is working. Since assuming office as the Director General just over a year ago, Dr Pantami’s relentless efforts at instilling professionalism in the industry is paying off! He has successfully drawn the attention of the highest offices in the land to a sector which had hitherto been plagued by corruption and unethical conduct. He is steadily proving his critics wrong on all fronts. He has successfully reduced corruption in the industry and by extension, the entire country through a series of strategic policies and programmes methodically aligned with the anti-corruption and change mantra of the presidency. Dr Pantami has taken the bull by the horns and there is definitely no going back at this rate.

During the visit to the Facebook Headquarters in Silicon Valley which he led, he needed no introduction. It was a moment of glory on the world stage as his picture was boldly displayed on the giant electronic billboard at the office grounds of the tech giant where he yet again called for the continuous engagement with the sector in Nigeria leveraging on the existing relationship.

Long after this epoch event is gone, Nigeria will continue to benefit from the fruits it has borne. According to Google, the future of the internet is in the hands of the next billion users which will lead to innovation on an unprecedented scale and Nigeria, has been identified as one of the major countries where the next billion will come from. This generation of users are already changing the internet in three prominent ways:

An instinct for universal computing

The prominent use of smartphone for internet access and;

A demand for localized content

NITDA is grateful to the Executive arm of government for its unparalleled support and encouragement and it is in order to give accolades to the leadership of both parties.