Innovative engagement: An advocacy for the digital economy
By Inyene Ibanga
TECH DIGEST – In April, Africa’s leading Information Technology (IT) industry regulator, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) unveiled its new Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2021 – 2024) to accelerate Nigeria’s digital economy.
The launch of the SRAP document marked the highpoint of activities organised to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the agency.
It is anchored on the goals and objectives of NITDA’s seven strategic pillars, consisting of Developmental Regulation, Digital Literacy and Skills, Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Promotion of Indigenous Content, Digital Transformation, Cybersecurity, and Emerging Technologies.
Those seven strategic pillars are aligned with the mandate of the agency and in conformity with the vision of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) to reposition the Nigerian economy to harness digital technologies and their vast opportunities.
To ensure the successful implementation of the digital economy, the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Promotion of Indigenous Content pillars mandate the agency to create opportunities for the development of indigenous digital technologies and solutions in software, hardware and services.
Again, it is responsible for enabling the environment for the indigenous manufacturing of internationally standardised IT components to serve domestic needs, generate jobs, prosperity, and exports to boost foreign earnings.
In its commitment to sensitising the tech ecosystem on the provisions of the SRAP document, the agency has taken the step of reaching out to stakeholders to carry them along on the strategic four-year journey to strengthening the Innovation Driven Enterprises (IDEs).
This was demonstrated through a coordinated three-day advocacy visit to Lagos of the Director-General, Kashifu Inuwa, who used the opportunity to meet and interface with stakeholders in various areas of the innovative ecosystem within that jurisdiction.
Within three eventful days, Kashifu, from May 19 to 21, had a meeting with Lagos-based private sector players specialised in Fintech, software development, service/solution providers, and other stakeholders. They exchanged ideas on issues of regulation, infrastructure, the national economy, and sustainable growth.
Prior to the stakeholders’ forum, the NITDA helmsman paid a courtesy visit to the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the government house, where he received commendation for the revolutionary work the agency is doing to develop the digital economy.
The governor also outlined some smart projects that the State is embarking upon, which include the proposed building of the biggest technology hub in Yaba, the establishment of the Science, Research Innovation Council in Lagos, the Unified Fibre Duct project, the free WiFi for public schools and institutions, among many other projects.
Presenting the SRAP to the governor, Kashifu explained that the document would help to unlock the digital economy potentials of Lagos State and transform it into the centre of digital excellence, since the State hosts the largest number of indigenous software developers, ICT hardware manufacturers and consultancy service providers.
He visited some tech innovation companies such as Rack Centre, AfriOne, MainOne MDXi and Venture Garden Group and urged government and private organisations to patronise indigenous startups in order to help position Nigeria as a leading player in the global digital economy.
Under the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the SRAP clearly points to the importance NITDA attaches to holding of periodic IT stakeholder engagement with all the players in the sector including the media. This enables it to stay informed about the activities of the ecosystem for effective bonding.
Engaging with stakeholders is crucial to any organisation because it provides a platform for pooling knowledge, experience and expertise, and a shared understanding to co-create solutions, thereby building collaborative partnerships that generate value.
Regular stakeholder engagement would allow ideas to constantly flow between the private sector and the government. Such data would guide the government in the formulation of appropriate policy guidelines and regulations to ensure stability in the sector.
In addition, it establishes a sustainable communication platform that has the capacity to build trust between the regulator (government-related entities) and the startups to gain easy access to infrastructure, capital, and other resources for the uninterrupted flow of innovation.
The tour of Lagos by the NITDA DG did not only generated a buzz in the industry, but it also offered a great opportunity for the agency to review its relationship with the view to bridge any gap and keep all channels of communication open for effective exchange of information.
In fact, it is imperative that this stakeholder engagement initiative be sustained to encourage and drive startups to pool resources and create hubs within their localities to help boost the expansion of the tech innovation ecosystem across the states of the federation.
In conclusion, the innovative visitor would have been exposed to certain shortcomings/oversight on the part of his agency. Such anomalies have to be addressed before embarking on the next stakeholder engagement to other sections of the country.
Inyene Ibanga is Managing Editor Techdigest.ng and writes from Wuye District, Abuja.