Still on National Innovation And Entrepreneurship Centre
By Mubarak Umar

TECH DIGEST – Over the years, United Nations system plays a leading role in promoting science and technology to sustain nations’ development. Technology, in particular, is one of the keys to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), along with finances, human resources, and capacity building. In the last couple of years, Nigeria seems to be on the right track to become one of the leading digital economy nations, considering the steps taken so far by the champion of Digital Economy in the country, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), FNCS, FBCS, FIIM, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.

Months after President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) developed by Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Agencies under its supervision and of course the full hand of ICT stakeholders in the country, Nigeria moved into action to execute numerous projects that aligned with pillars of the documents to drive innovation, ideation and promotion of the sector. To say the least, the Ministry commissioned various digital centres across the country’s geo-political zones in order to provide enabling environment for startups to create jobs, wealth and prosperity.

Last week, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), under the supervision of Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, laid a foundation to establish a world class and Africa’s first National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre, in Abuja, in a move to transit from the traditional economy and make digital economy seamless, which is in line with the NDEPS.

The Centre will create the required environment for Nigeria’s teaming youths; encourage innovation and indigenisation of technologies. Indigenisation of technologies will help address the continuous reliance on foreign products and services which has negative impact on the country’s economy. The Centre will also serve as a bridge between the Government, industry, and the academia in providing research environment for creativity, idea integration, collaborative environment, development of ICT policies, processes and strategies.

It will be equipped with facilities that can be used to develop inquisitive perspective, create opportunities for entrepreneurs to become potential employers of labour, rather than just employees. Furthermore, it will focus on promotion and development in ICT which include advanced and applied research; development in emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), Quantum Computing and also Smart Energy Solutions to drive ICT. In addition, the Centre will allow startups to accelerate and experience innovations at scale, through customized visits, design thinking sessions and co-innovation workshops thereby creating a highly collaborative & immersive environment.

Furthermore, the Centre, will serve as a hub for the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (MIT-REAP) programme, is aimed at creating an innovative ecosystem based on Work, Live, Play and Learn concept. This will focus on creating a unique platform for Tech Skills, Soft Skills and Entrepreneurship Development. This will facilitate the creation of an enabling environment that would inspire, connect, encourage, and support technology startups and entrepreneurs towards innovation and indigenisation of technologies. The Centre will also serve as a link to technology hubs across the country to foster innovation and knowledge-based ventures, thereby boosting the capacity to create jobs and provide employment for our teaming youth, in line with Mr President’s economic diversification initiatives as outlined in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. This is yet another giant stride of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration towards the realisation of the vision of transforming Nigeria into a leading digital economy, providing quality life and digital economies for all.

Dr Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, during ground breaking ceremony of the Centre, commented that Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship are globally recognized as two prerequisites for achieving an indigenous Digital Economy. As such, a successful digital innovation and entrepreneurship programme will support Nigeria in the development of its digital economy and this is exactly what the Centre aims to achieve.

“High speed and affordable Internet connectivity serve as catalysts for innovation and they stimulate the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. This inspired us to develop a Nigerian National Broadband Plan (2020 – 2025). Again, President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled and launched the Policy on the 19th of March 2020, in his characteristic commitment to Nigeria’s Digital economy. This support has motivated us and has led to significant developments in the sector. The growth of the sector resulted in an increased contribution of ICT to Nigeria’s GDP, reaching an unprecedented value of 17.83% in Q2 ‘2020 according to National Bureau for Statistics,” the minister said.

Pantami further stated that the groundbreaking ceremony of the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre is another giant leap towards the development of Nigeria’s digital economy and diversification of the country’s economy, which in turn will be a boost to the development of National Policy on Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

To buttress Dr Pantami’s assertion, the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, stated that the speed at which Nigeria is moving, can be seen, and the achievements are so far encouraging. Today Digital Economy is the fastest growing economy in Nigeria and in the World at large. Accordingly, to provide sustainable development and consolidate the growth in the country, there is need to ignite innovation and entrepreneurship in the digital space, this is why National Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre is being established.

Mallam Abdullahi added that Digital economy is mainly driven by rapid business innovation, using digital technology to deliver new customer value proposition, new business model, new organizational structure, new customer experience, operational excellence and enhanced products and services. This cannot be achieved in isolation; innovation ecosystem is equally needed.

“Innovation is a process of taking idea from inception to impact. To express it in a mathematical formula innovation is invention multiply by commercialization. It is a product of invention and commercialization. This means innovation is zero when invention is zero or when commercialisation is zero. You must have the two to be innovative. Commercialisation is about entrepreneurship, it is about starting and growing a new business,” he opined.

Mubarak Umar writes from Abuja