ICT Parks as Boost for Digital Economy

TECH DIGEST – The initiative by the Nigerian Communications Commission to establish information, communication, technology parks in all six geopolitical zones, will further boost the digital economy drive of the federal government.

In order to complement the efforts of the federal government in creating a digital economy for Nigeria, through its digital transformation initiative, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has commenced the establishment of information and communications technology (ICT) parks in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country and it is in the process of completing the first phase of the project in four of the six geopolitical zones.

The four zones include: Abeokuta for the South-west; Enugu for South-east, Maiduguri for North-east and Kano for the North-west.

According to NCC, when completed, it would boost digital skills acquisition among youths, promote innovations, provide jobs for the teaming Nigerian youth and ultimately support the overall digital transformation agenda of the federal government.

Chairman of the Board of NCC, Prof. Adeola Akande, who disclosed this, said the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), which is controlled by the NCC, is presently undertaking many projects to boost telecoms service, in collaboration with telecommunication companies.

“All these programmes are designed to meet the objectives of President Muhammadu Buhari, who re-designated the Ministry of Communications as Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. A digital economy is impossible without the widespread availability of telecommunications services and training facilities, which the ICT Parks seeks to address,’’ Akande said.

The ICT Park is an initiative of the Executive Vice-Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, to provide innovation labs and digital fabrication laboratories (Fablabs) for use by ICT innovators and entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into products and prototypes.

The Tier-4 Digital Industrial Complex (DIC) will provide a commercial hub for ICT capacity building and digital skills, create employment and entrepreneurial activities and facilitate smart city deployment across the Digital Industrial Complex.

The ICT Park, when completed, will also provide capacity building to ICT startups and entrepreneurial activities across the country.

The parks are designed to provide fast broadband internet service and constant power supply. It comprises an area or location with concentration of all ICT facilities, which enables a concerted leap into the digital age by creating a dynamic environment in which local talent is incubated, cultivated, and shared.

ICT park is best tested and trusted institutional mechanism to address the needs of technology-intensive, knowledge-based Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The ICT Parks involve the construction and equipping of fully-functional modern training facilities, designed to drive digital skills for digital transformation.

Speaking on the ICT Parks project recently, Danbatta stated that the project was conceived and designed to support the federal government’s ICT-related policies and programmes by facilitating the availability and accessibility of ICT services across the country, promote their usage across all sectors and ultimately address youth unemployment in the country.

Designed to propel socio-economic transformation in the country, Danbatta said the ICT Parks would help build capacity for the teeming population of Nigerian youths in the areas of skill acquisition and innovation by complementing existing initiatives geared towards accelerating socio-economic transformation of Nigeria.

“The whole idea of putting the skill acquisition and innovation at the forefront of this very important initiative is to produce youths that can be self-reliant, generate employment for themselves and for other Nigerians,” he said.

Danbatta explained that based on its national structural spread, no part of the country would be left out as beneficiaries of the initiative. “The NCC ICT Parks Project is another move by the current leadership of the Commission to boost youth digital skills acquisition, promote innovations, provide jobs for the teeming Nigerian youth and ultimately support the overall digital economy agenda of the federal government,” he said.

He added that the parks would support software development, incubation and hardware development. “We also hope to see innovative technologies that will leverage the broadband network, which the Commission is deepening in order to socially and economically transform our communities and societies,” Danbatta said.

He therefore urged the potential and would-be beneficiaries of the project, especially the youths, to be ready to leverage the initiative as it promises to empower them socially and economically.

“I would like to send out a very important message to our youths, especially those who are currently occupied with various innovative applications, those who have acquired the skills but are looking for where to put the skills into fruitful engagements, by incubating them, commercialising them, or giving publicity to these excellent initiatives, to be ready to leverage the facilities,” Danbatta said.

The NCC has been commended on the parks. The latest commendation came from the Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, when he recently visited the Kano site of the ongoing construction of an ICT Park by the Commission for the North-west zone.

The governor acknowledged the efforts and commitment of the Danbatta-led NCC in ensuring increased digital access for fast-tracking digital innovation across Nigeria and the North-west in particular, saying the initiative will trigger socio-economic transformation of the area in no distant future.

According to Ganduje, “Realising that a major project that resonates with the global vision for the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) is being vigorously driven by NCC leadership, shows the kind of socio-economic transformation we should expect through ICT across Nigeria in the next few years.

“For the ICT Park being built in Kano to serve the North-west zone, the government and citizens of Kano State are grateful to Danbatta and the NCC team for bringing development to the state and the zone at large.”

He also applauded the quality of the construction work being undertaken by the NCC on the ICT Park and expressed appreciation for the foresight of the NCC for accommodating an expansion plan at the project site.

Shedding more light on the ICT Park project, Danbatta, who recently visited one of the parks being built in Maiduguri, in the North-east geo-political zone, said the NCC decided to embark on the important project in order to decentralise ICT Parks in all the six geo-political zones of the country.

Danbatta, however, stated that the commission started with four zones at the moment. These include the ones located in Abeokuta for the South-west; Enugu for South-east, Maiduguri for North-east and Kano for the North-west.

The projects, he said, are being implemented with a view to building capacity, exposing Nigerian teaming youths to capacity building initiatives in the areas of skills acquisition and innovation.

Danbatta said the project, which is consistent with global best practices, has targeted areas of in each of the zones with large concentration of youths.

He promised that, because of its design to have a national spread, the Commission would ensure that no part of the country would be left out of the initiative and insisted that every part of Nigeria would experience the initiative at different times.

Speaking on the expectations from the ICT Parks, Danbatta said: “As I said, we have four ICT parks, which are at different stages of development. Going forward, we hope to see software development, incubation, including, even, hardware development. Above all, through the NCC ICT Parks, we hope to see innovative technologies that will leverage the broadband network, which the NCC is trying to deploy in order to socially and economically transform our communities and societies.”

According to the NCC boss, as the commission deepens broadband access to achieve the 70 per cent broadband penetration target by 2025, as enshrined in the current National Broadband Plan, the Commission, through the ICT Park, would build a pool of digital skills and literacy in line with the country’s National Digiotal Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.

“As you may be aware, one of the eight pillars of the NDEPS is Digital Skills and Literacy and in this regard, NCC is supporting this critical pillar of the digital economy agenda. This is because, when we provide resilient broadband infrastructure platforms, there is a need for us to encourage local technology products and applications that will ride on the infrastructure toward developing the country’s overall socio-economic ecosystem in a sustainable way,” he said.

Optimistic that the ICT Park initiative will benefit Nigerian youths immensely, Danbatta encouraged them to take advantage of the initiative to acquire the digital skills needed for digital transformation.

According to him, “These centres will be used to showcase innovations to the global community and very soon, there will be light at the end of the tunnel. These various initiatives by the youths in areas of apps development, and other initiatives, will be achieved through the ICT Parks.”

“This is because the ICT Parks will become centres where Nigeria will be showcasing, not only to potential investors in this country but also to the international communities, who definitely will be interested in some of these important applications from Nigerian youths,” Danbatta further said.

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