ONDI: Refining Local Content for Powering Nigeria’s Innovation Revolution

By Inyene Ibanga

TECHDIGEST – Technology and innovation are the engine room of economic progress for consumers, businesses, and the economy as a whole. This combination stimulates economic growth by allowing higher productivity which leads to increased improvement in the quality of goods and services produced.

Advances in technological innovation engender economic growth and prosperity of countries, regions, and cities. Most economies foresee a future where a significant proportion of their productivity and economic growth would be attained through the application of new digital technologies.

It is in recognition of this new pervasive reality that Nigeria took concrete steps to diversify its economy by transforming it into the digital economy which is become the new normal where creativity and innovation dominate.

The National Information Technology Development Agency was created in 2001 and established by the NITDA Act 2007 as the Information Technology (IT) regulator and policy implementation arm of the then Ministry of Communications which was renamed the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy on 23rd October 2019.

NITDA’s key mandates focus on developing, regulating, and advising IT in Nigeria through regulatory standards, guidelines, and policies. It serves the IT and innovation ecosystem through effective implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) towards repositioning the Nigerian economy to exploit the many opportunities presented by digital technologies.

To expedite the delivery of its mandate, NITDA established the Office for Nigerian Content Development in ICT (ONC). The role of the ONC was to enforce compliance with the regulatory guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in ICT and help to develop the indigenous ICT industry to create wealth in the economy.

Likewise, the Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship was created to interface with stakeholders, and collectively design and implement strategic interventions for the growth of innovation and entrepreneurship in Nigeria.

But to streamline its operations and boost efficiency and effectiveness, NITDA merged the two offices (ONC and OIIE) into one strong and functional subsidiary: the Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI) that will ensure the promotion, growth, and protection of Nigerian digital innovation ecosystem for a sustainable digital economy.

ONDI directs the activities of the two offices and promotes innovation and entrepreneurship in the Nigerian digital ecosystem. It coordinates and supports activities on policy implementation, enforcement of regulatory guidelines, and interventions targeted at the growth of the technology ecosystem for a greater impact on job creation and economic progress.

Since its inception in December 2021, ONDI has embarked on a purposeful mission to implement its major focus areas – strategic human capacity; activating funding and ecosystem support; research and insights; monitoring and compliance; partnerships; and implementation of innovation policies and guidelines.

ONDI has executed high-impact programmes, like the Bridge To MassChallenge (B2MC) Nigeria and iHatch Startup Incubation Programmes, aimed at strengthening the Nigerian digital innovation ecosystem to create more Innovation-Driven Enterprises (IDEs), as well as promoting the development of indigenous content in the Nigerian digital sector.

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With its partnership with MassChallenge, a global network of zero-equity startup accelerators, ONDI successfully organized and completed the Bridge To MassChallenge (B2MC) Nigeria 2021-2022 programme to empower and propel entrepreneurs as they work to build successful careers and businesses in various national economies.

Consequently, this NITDA subsidiary announced Negs Empire, Dozzy Agricultural Enterprise, and Maximus Recycling Solutions as the winners of the B2MC-Nigeria 2021-22 Programme. The three winners emerged from the initial 30 startups shortlisted in December 2021.

ONDI’s partnership with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) yielded the iHatch (Idea Hatch) Startup Incubation programme, which is currently ongoing at the National Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) Abuja, Nigeria. It is aimed at increasing the number of IDEs by the youths and also transforming Nigeria into Africa’s leading destination for digital innovation and entrepreneurship.

This free intensive incubation programme will help Nigerian entrepreneurs refine their business ideas through a series of free coaching, lectures, and boot camps to generate adaptable company models in the country. The first cohort is expected to end in July 2022 and applications have opened for the second cohort.

ONDI has organized several activities in which ecosystem players, corporate organizations, and startups have been pivotal in increasing knowledge and awareness about innovative entrepreneurship. The recent engagement tour of the Lagos Tech Ecosystem by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), and NITDA Director-General, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, provided the basis upon which the federal government approved tax reliefs and other incentives for tech startups.

Without question, ONDI is well-positioned to promote indigenous digital innovation and multiply IDEs in all sectors of Nigeria’s digital economy. Hence, forging and sustaining creative platforms for increased cooperation among stakeholders in Nigeria’s tech innovation ecosystem remains its dominant priority.

 

Inyene Ibanga is with the Corporate & Communications Desk, Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI).

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