Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of Communication and Digital Economy
Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of Communication and Digital Economy

Driving Digital Innovation For Sustainable Entrepreneurship
By Inyene Ibanga

Technology and digitisation are the bedrock of every thriving digital economy, spanning both advanced and emerging national economies. The transformative power of digital technology is having wide-ranging impacts on business in its entire ramification.

Globally, digital technology is accepted as one of the single most powerful enablers of innovation, entrepreneurship and competitiveness in all spheres of human activity. It is creating innovations in business models and also enhancing some of them extensively, within the purview of prevailing realities.

New businesses are forcing traditional players to reinvent themselves to stay afloat. This means that conventional entrepreneurship (creating products and services for a profit) is being replaced by alternative digital innovations, operating models and work practices.

As such, for businesses to remain competitive in the burgeoning digital economy, they have no choice than to develop strategies for guaranteed efficiency, productivity and healthy staff/customer experience.

Digital innovation and entrepreneurship are the leading catalysts of rapid economic growth in countries that have adopted the digital economy. This combination has helped to improve communication, collaboration, access to international markets and networking among businesses.

Entrepreneurs are adopting emerging digital technologies to achieve value addition in the products and services they offer to consumers. A large number of these consumers are increasingly relocating from the physical market place to e-commerce platforms.

Key drivers of transformation across the digital economy space include, but are not limited to: the Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain technology, Robotics, Quantum Computing, Virtual/Augmented Reality, among other emerging technologies.
The global digital economy is estimated to be worth about $30 trillion and there are projections it could generate about 123 million jobs by 2030.

In Africa, Nigeria is one of the few countries that is demonstrating an unwavering commitment to sustaining the enabling environment to entrench innovation and entrepreneurship.

So, the recent commissioning of the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre (NDI&EC) in Abuja, another project of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has further confirmed that Nigeria’s digital transition from the traditional economy to a digital economy is on course.
The minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami performed the groundbreaking with the support of dignitaries from the public and private organisations.
As a strategic area of focus, the ministry has the responsibility of positioning Nigeria to achieve seamless digital transformation through the provision of policies to spur more Nigerian entrepreneurs tap into the prosperity of the digital economy.

The National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre represent the actualization of the federal government’s economic diversification initiatives and generating jobs and employment for the teeming young population as outlined in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

Designed and constructed to close the gap between the industry and academia, the centre has the objective of replicating practical industry environment suitable for developing technology and innovations for achieving an indigenous digital economy.

According to Director-General of NITDA, Inuwa Abdullahi Kashifu, the core objectives of the centre include serving as a catalyst for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in public and private sector organisations; fostering development in emerging technologies and provision of enabling environment for technology startups to accelerate relevant innovations.

In addition, the centre would provide enabling environment for the promotion of advanced and applied research in Information and Communication Technology (ICT); and equipping indigenous businesses to become world-class service providers.

Again, the centre is expected to serve as a research hub for technology stakeholders based on Work, Live, Play and Learn concept to foster creative idea integration and accelerate innovation in a highly collaborative and immersive setting.

To realise the objectives that informed its establishment, modern facilities have are being put in place to create the ideal atmosphere needed to inspire logical, innovative, result-focused and solution-based deliberations among tech enthusiasts.

Key facilities in the centre include a Co-Working Space where innovative Nigerians would collaborate and brainstorm on common areas of interest in ICT through peer learning and knowledge sharing.

For the provision of technological advisories and training for indigenous businesses and institutions, the Business Research and Innovation Space is well equipped to serve as a meeting place for startups and potential investors.

Also, the centre houses many other state-of-the-art facilities among which are an Information Technology (IT) Museum; Demo Laboratories (for exhibitions of emerging technologies); R&D Hi-tech showrooms; Media Studio and R&D Hi-tech showrooms.
Other facilities in the centre comprise a Smart Data Centre; Network Operation Centre; Computer Emergency Readiness and Response Centre (CERRT) and Storage area/Archives to ensure Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability of official documents.
Sporting and recreational facilities (Gymnasium, Snooker, Table Tennis etc); a penthouse is available as a relaxation area for innovators and entrepreneurs that are likely to be working in the Centre for a prolonged period; while a Sick Bay will be fully equipped to operate 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

Incidentally, the facilities in the Centre will be fully automated to simplify activities and make the environment comfortable and efficient for stakeholders to experience productive connections.

In view of the foregoing, the NITDA and its parent ministry have once again taken another giant stride in their march to the successful implementation of our digital economy.

This National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre and the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, launched in October 2020, represent a genuine consolidation of the digital transformation in Nigeria.
Indeed, it is heartwarming to know that plans are underway to site similar centres of in all the geo-political zones of the country to enable participation of more Nigerians in the globally-acclaimed MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (MIT-REAP).

These centres are going to provide opportunities for communities to engage with MIT in an evidence-based, practical approach to strengthening innovation-driven entrepreneurial (IDE) ecosystems in the country.

More importantly, emphasis must be placed on regular training and re-skilling of workforces in the public and private sectors through well-articulated policies to always evaluate the design and quality of such training courses.

In all of these, it is apparent that the re-designation of the former Communications ministry into the current Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is yielding the desired stimulus for prosperity national development.

Inyene Ibanga is Managing Editor of TechDigest, Wuye District, Abuja.

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