DG NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa, CCIE presenting a copy of agency’s SRAP 2024-2027 to representatives of Workd Bank and World Trade Organisation, Washington DC Office, Aleksandar Stojanor and Dr. Maryam Lawal for the Digital trade engagement.
DG NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa, CCIE presenting a copy of agency’s SRAP 2024-2027 to representatives of Workd Bank and World Trade Organisation, Washington DC Office, Aleksandar Stojanor and Dr. Maryam Lawal for the Digital trade engagement

Improving Cross-Border Data Services
By Shuaib S. Agaka

The collaboration between the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the World Bank, and the World Trade Organisation marks a significant step towards realizing the potential of a digital transformation that promises to spur economic growth and development.

The digital economy has revolutionized the way countries develop and engage with the global market thereby enhancing cross-border data services which has the potential to unlock new opportunities for various segments of Nigerians and foster a more inclusive economic environment.

Their combined efforts aim to reform the economy for sustained inclusive growth and accelerate diversification through industrialization and digitization. These initiatives are crucial in harnessing the power of digital trade, which can connect Nigeria’s businesses to global markets and equally drive innovation.

Digital trade involves the exchange of goods and services through digital platforms, underpinned by the flow of data across borders. Cross-border data services facilitate this by ensuring data can move freely and securely between countries.

These services are crucial for e-commerce, cloud computing, financial transactions, and other digital activities that form the backbone of the modern economy.

By improving cross-border data services, Nigeria can enhance its participation in global trade, boost productivity, and stimulate economic growth. The importance of digital trade cannot be overstated. It not only opens up new markets for Nigerian businesses but also paves ways to overcome the economic challenges and more inclusive and resilient economy.

Access to global markets is one of the critical advantages of the collaboration. With improved cross-border data services, Nigerian businesses can integrate into international value chains, enhancing their competitiveness. This access allows local companies to collaborate with foreign partners, adopt best practices, and innovate continuously. As a result, Nigerian products and services can gain a foothold in global markets, driving exports and contributing to economic growth.

Additionally, Utilizing cross-border data services can significantly reduce costs for businesses by offering more affordable data storage and management solutions.

Traditional on-premises data storage requires substantial investments in hardware, maintenance, and security. In contrast, cloud-based services provided by global data centers offer scalable and cost-effective alternatives. Companies can pay for only the storage and computing power they need, avoiding the upfront costs associated with purchasing and maintaining physical infrastructure.

Also, the presence of reliable cross-border data services assures foreign investors of seamless operations and secure data handling. Investors are more likely to commit to markets where their data can flow freely and safely across borders, without facing regulatory bottlenecks or security risks. For example, a global tech company may choose to set up a regional hub in Nigeria if they are confident in the country’s ability to support its data needs effectively. This can lead to job creation, technology transfer, and increased economic activity.

Enhancing cross-border data services can significantly contribute to the economic resilience of Nigeria. By diversifying the economy through digital trade, Nigeria can reduce its reliance on traditional sectors such as oil and agriculture. This diversification makes the economy more adaptable to global economic fluctuations and less vulnerable to external shocks.

Despite the significant benefits, there are several challenges that Nigeria must address to fully realize the potential of cross-border data services. One of the primary challenges is the need for a robust digital infrastructure. Reliable internet connectivity, data centers, and cybersecurity measures are essential to support the seamless flow of data across borders. Investing in digital infrastructure is crucial to ensure that businesses and individuals can take advantage of digital trade opportunities.

Data security and privacy are also significant concerns. In an interconnected digital economy, protecting sensitive data is paramount. Cybersecurity threats and data breaches can undermine trust in digital services and have severe economic and social consequences. Developing and implementing robust data protection laws and cybersecurity measures is essential to safeguard data and build trust in the digital economy.

Regulatory hurdles can also pose challenges. Navigating the complexities of international data regulations requires a coordinated approach. Different countries have varying data protection laws and standards, which can create barriers to cross-border data flows. Harmonizing regulations and ensuring compliance with international standards is necessary to facilitate smooth and secure data exchanges. Policymakers need to work together to create a regulatory environment that supports digital trade while protecting data privacy.

Addressing these challenges is essential to create a conducive environment for cross-border data services and ensure that the benefits of digital trade are realized.

To overcome the challenges and harness the potential of cross-border data services, Nigeria needs to make strategic policy interventions. Investing in digital infrastructure is a top priority. This includes expanding broadband connectivity, building data centers, and enhancing cybersecurity measures. Government and private sector investments in infrastructure will provide the foundation for a robust digital economy.

Developing strong regulatory frameworks is also crucial. Policies must balance innovation with data protection, ensuring that data flows are secure and privacy is respected. This involves updating existing laws and creating new regulations that reflect the realities of the digital age. Collaboration with international partners that have been into this for ages can help Nigeria adopt best practices and standards for data protection and cybersecurity.

Inclusive policies are essential to ensure that all segments of the population benefit from digital trade. This includes promoting digital literacy and skills development, especially in underserved areas. Targeted initiatives to improve internet access and affordability can help bridge the digital divide. Policies should also support marginalized groups, such as women and youth, by providing them with the tools and opportunities to participate in the digital economy.

Overall, enhancing cross-border data services presents a significant opportunity for Nigeria to drive inclusive economic growth. By creating economic opportunities, improving access to global markets, and fostering innovation, these services can contribute to a more prosperous and equitable society.

Businesses, both local and international, play a critical role in this transformation. They must embrace digital tools and technologies, invest in digital skills development for their workforce, and engage in partnerships that enhance their capabilities and reach, as the time to act is now.

Shuaib S. Agaka, a tech journalist writes from Kano

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