NITDA’s Pantami Promises More Growth For Nigeria’s Digital Economy, By Ismail Akanji

“Give honour to whom it is due” this often repeated classic came alive on the 10th day of May, 2019 when the Publisher of Swift Reporters, Adewole Kayode, presented, on behalf of his editorial team, the first ever Swift Meritorious Award to no other a personality than the Director General of The Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Isa Ali Pantami. To qualify for this award, in the words of the publisher, one must “have demonstrated, over a significant period of time, dedication to the promotion of Information Technology combined with a strong sense of civic duty”. This criteria and any other one set, could only have been met by Dr Pantami. 

That is how high he raised the bar. His achievements in improving Nigeria’s information technology compliance is very visible. Beyond his Agency’s characteristic policy of building human capacity by offering scholarships to deserving Nigerians, and strictly on merit, NITDA under the leadership of Dr. Isa has repositioned the IT industry in Nigeria: It has organized cyber security awareness programs to educate Nigerians on how they should operate in the cyberspace; his efforts earned the country the number 4 spot on the African continent in the ranking of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on Global Cybersecurity Index.

NITDA under Dr Pantami has identified seven areas from the current administration’s priorities and crafted its strategy from this, setting its own agenda on how it would help the government achieve its objectives in the following areas:

·        Sustainable home grown products;

·        Job creation and wealth generation;

·        Revenue generation;

·        Capacity building;

·        Cost streamlining and waste reduction;

·        Anti-corruption; and

·        National security.

As governance in Nigeria witnesses a paradigm shift, electronic governance is slowly building it’s way into the nation’s consciousness. And it should give every Nigerian joy that Nigeria is not being left behind due to the efforts of people like Dr. Pantami. As can be gleaned from the activation and implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), Automated CAC processes amongst others, Nigeria’s governance space is being defined for the better by technology. Not just to ensure smooth running of governance but even to check excesses and cut the potentials of wrongdoing by the civil service. And even beyond these, these policies are opening Nigeria up to the international commerce space and allowing local entrepreneurs and start -ups earn foreign exchange. 

Local Start-Ups have a place in Dr Pantami’s heart. His role in helping grow Nigerian companies like PiggyVest cannot be overemphasised. Today they are known for making strides geared towards making it possible for people to accept payments for products and services. Nigeria has an opportunity to establish itself as one of the most attractive FinTech hubs in the world. We have the capacity. FinTech opportunities in Nigeria are expanding by the minute – and the efforts of this industry can potentially redefine the financial services landscape of the world in the next five years.

NITDA has taken the bull by the horn on this. It has not only harmonised all government’s IT systems, it has constructed 3 hubs for IT, 80 centres for digital job creation, 8 virtual libraries, 86 centres for building digital capacity amongst other things. They have assumed their role – and rightly so – as the clearing house for all IT projects in MDAs. That means all IT projects embarked by any government institution must follow an approved template and standard set out by NITDA, and it is been implemented vigorously. This would ultimately ensure that substandard technology is not brought into the country, and there is compliance with our laws that give local technologies an upper hand in procurement.

Dr Isa Pantami has not only succeeded in repositioning the agency to a height unattained in its history, he has also made the agency – and Nigeria’s information technology space – attractive for investors. He has played a critical role in ensuring government agencies key into information technology framework in their processes and activities. Through the deployment of IT software and hardware in government Ministries and Agencies, Nigeria saves N24.7 Billion monthly.

With all these in place, Nigeria is steadily coming out of the woods and embracing information technology for growth – with Dr Pantami on the saddle, the journey is propitious indeed. 

Ismail, is a business man and technology enthusiast, he writes from Abuja.

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President Buhari Restates Commitment To Fight Against Corruption

The Nigerian government says it is very serious about the fight against corruption and will not rest until the menace is completely dealt with.

President Muhammadu Buhari was speaking in Abuja on Monday, while opening the 2018 e-Nigeria International Conference and exhibition.

Similarly, the President said the Social Investment Programmes of government, meant to better the lot of its citizens would be sustained.

The President, who underscored the importance of Information Communication Technology ICT to all spheres of life, said it could help sustain the fight against corruption and the Social Investment Programmes.

He said: “We are serious about fighting corruption. We must not fail in our quest to eliminate corruption in government businesses and in the wider society. The success of this administration’s Social Investment Programme (SIP), tagged as the largest and most ambitious social safety net programme in our recent history, relies heavily on the application of ICT.

“Components of programmes such as the N-Power, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) and the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) all leverage on ICT. This programme has so far benefited over 9 million Nigerians.

“Furthermore, NITDA, in collaboration with the National Social Investment Office (NSIO), is coordinating Federal Government’s initiative of establishing eight (8) Innovation Hubs, one in each of the six Geo-Political Zones and one each in Lagos and Abuja. The purpose of establishing these hubs is to facilitate digital capacity building for immediate employment, entrepreneurial skills development, job and wealth creation. All these are aimed at promoting the digital economy in an era of disruptive technology through effective regulations.”

President Buhari therefore called on participants at the 3-day e-Nigeria conference to draw up recommendations that will help government develop a digital economy for Nigeria.

“I enjoin the Conference to come up with innovative ideas, workable and implementable recommendations that would help and enhance government’s efforts at creating the enabling environment for the promotion of the digital economy in an era of disruptive technologies, considering our peculiarities as a country,” he said.

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NITDA Partners Arewa Tech Society For Sustainable Development Through IT

In appreciation of the effort of Arewa Tech Society, organisers of Arewa Tech Talks which held in the 19 Northern states of the federation, including the FCT, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has promised to give a helping hand in boosting the idea of using technology for development.
Revealing the plans of the agency at the Kano event which took place simultaneously in all the 19 Northern states and Abuja, the Northwest Regional Head of the agency Malam Abubakar L.S, revealed that the NITDA welcomes such initiative by groups such as Arewa Tech Society.
The Kano event was held at D.I. Hub, Lamido Crescent, Kano, Saturday, 21st July, 2018, with the attendance of many stakeholders from all sections of entrepreneurs, consultants and employees in the area.
Briefing the participants on the many benefits they could drive from the Agency, the regional head assured that, “Our agency will always welcome groupings of this nature. That you understand the importance and relevance of working as a team for the overall development of our society. This is a welcome development.”
“At NITDA we provide opportunities for students to go for their second degrees and up to PhD level. Ours is to always provide enabling environment for knowledge-based engagements,” he reminded.
He also encouraged them to strive hard and put in place structure that could be the foundation of the new development, “…through which you will excel and become assets for the country and for your individual self,” he said.
In his opening remarks, the convener Salihu Tanko Yakasai reveals that, “This idea came up just in the last one or two weeks. We thought that there is a need to establish a successful technology community. We need to talk to one another to have synergy, so that we can develop collectively.”
Yakasai said, “There is a need to make ourselves closer. Nothing is impossible, anyway. We came to also realise that the future of technology in the Northern part of the country is huge.”
“We want to use technology and solve our problems as a society. We can apply technology and solve problems of health, education, environment, name it. There is less appreciation of the services being rendered by the technology community. Hence there is the need to improve the market,” he advises.
According to him, they would do everything humanly possible to look at ways where stakeholders could be engaged, at the public or private sector.
Whereas funding of such efforts could be a bottleneck for successful take-off of the newly initiative, Yakasai believes that with the coming together of the technology community under one umbrella, all perceived difficulties could easily be dealt with.
He further said that, “We want see Arewa Technology in our universities and all other places. There is this strong need for us to come and find areas of improvement as a group with focus.”
Amongst the Panelists who discussed areas of their achievements and engagements are Maryam Gwadabe, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bluesaphire, Usman I. Usman CEO of Flexisef,  Anas Yazid, CEO of Certis, Inusa Dangana, CEO of D.l. Hub and Sadiq Tanko Yakasai CISCO Engineer from United Kingdom.
They all briefed participants about how they started, grew up and what were their challenges. On his part the CEO of D.I. Hub, Dangana reveals that his company has partnership with both local and global stakeholders.
Gwadabe, said her company started since 2015 and their aim was to build capacity, such as mentorship services, consultancy service amongst others. According to her, they provide capacity building for people from 5 years up to 60 years of age.
Usman of Flexisef said they have more concern in the area of education. “We develop talent through  capacity building especially in the area of education. We identify the talent gap, especially among the less privileged ones,” he said.
Engineer Yakasai from United Kingdom argued that there was a need to put structure in place, so as to have focus in whatever they wanted to achieve, “… for us to also sustain the energy,” he said.
He further warns that, mass movement of the effort with abrupt arrangement would not be fruitful for the overall progress of the initiative. Hence, “…the need for baby-step. Not that of mass movement that can easily go into the thin air,” he maintains.
Other participants raised issues of challenges and way forward. Part of the challenges identified were that of digital divide and lack of proper awareness from the part of the public about the importance and necessity of using technology for development.
As a way forward, some of the participants advised for the inclusion of religious leaders to make use of sermons on the importance and necessity of IT in the society. Which also, according to them calls for the integration of businesses with IT.
In his closing remarks, the Convener Yakasai disclosed that more than 150 people registered with the Society in Kano, while over 950 have also been registered across the 19 Northern states and Abuja.
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FG Partners Facebook To Train 20,000 Youths In Digital Software

The federal government has disclosed that twenty thousand Nigerian youths will be trained in Digital software job creation by Facebook; a US-based Social Media outfit.

Director-General of the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Dr Isa Ibrahim Pantami stated this while speaking to newsmen on the recent visit of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to the Silicon Valley, United States of America, USA.

Dr Pantami said the Nigerian delegation led by the Vice President held a fruitful meeting with about sixty-seven ICT based companies who indicated interest to invest in Nigeria through youth skill acquisition in ICT.

Dr Pantami said the ICT industry which was vibrant is attracting the interest of some of the biggest ICT companies in the world.

The NITDA Director General said Nigeria expects to attract ICT investments worth over one billion Dollars to Nigeria.

Recently Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had led a delegation to the United States to solicit foreign investment from the United States ICT industry to Nigeria.

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FG Raises Alarm Over Potential Cyber Attacks

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has raised alarm over potential cyber-attacks likely to be experienced this year as well as the precautionary measures to be taken.

This was put forth in a press release by the  agency’s Computer Emergency Readiness and Response Team (CERRT). The statement, signed by Dr Isa Pantami, the Director General NITDA, stated that the body, in conjunction with other industry stakeholders, in their efforts at ensuring a safe and secure cyberspace, have intercepted some signals of potential cyber-attacks targeting banking, health and other systems, power and transportation systems, as well as other critical national infrastructure.

The statement emphasized the need for all to be vigilant and proactive as far as security is concerned.  The following precautionary measures are to be implemented: efforts should be intensified at ensuring that  data is encrypted, particularly any sensitive or personal data;agencies are to  ensure that networks are fully secure through the use of wired network thereby protecting them from possible hackers’ attempt at using Wi-Fi security lapses to remotely break into computer systems.

The statement also states that ”where Wi-Fi network is used, ensure that an up to date encryption standard is in use and turn off the service set identifier (SSID) broadcasting function on the wireless router if it is not needed.”

They are to ensure that ”free Wi-Fi connections as well as other wireless connections such as Bluetooth or infrared ports are not used unless where necessary; · ensure that operating systems and other software applications are regularly updated with the latest patches; · ensure that anti-malware protection is installed on all IT systems as this will help in protecting your organisation’s network from potential attacks through virus-laden software and email attachments. Also, all security software should be adjusted to scan compressed or archived files; · ensure that appropriate guidelines are in place for connecting personal devices into the organisation’s network.”

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President Buhari Reiterates FG’s Commitment To Leverage On ICT To Drive Economic Reforms

President Muhammadu Buhari, has said that the Information and Communication Technology (ICT), if effectively harnessed, will provide job opportunities for teaming Nigerian youths, and  enhance the quality of locally produced infrastructure.

President Buhari stated this at the opening ceremony of the 2017 e-Nigeria Conference, organised by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), at the International Conference Centre, Abuja on Tuesday.

According to him, ICT has come to stay, and has being a major driver in developmental governance and economic reform plans of the CHANGE agenda of the federal government.

In his address, the President revealed that almost all sectors of Nigeria’s economy now leverage on ICT to increase efficiency, productivity and performance. These sectors, according to him, has recorded huge investments and contributes over 10% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and we are making conscious efforts to see that this contribution continues to grow in the next few years.

The President narrated how his administration has leverage on ICT to transform our government especially in the areas of strategy, policies and digital infrastructure investments.

His words: “You may recall that on assumption of office, we enforced the policy on Treasury Single Account (TSA). Today, we are all witnesses to the impact it has made on our financial management.

“We have so far consolidated over 20,000 accounts, resulting into about N4.7 billion monthly savings. In addition the policy facilitated transparency, accountability and ease of transactions and payments between Government and businesses as well as Government and citizens.

“Another initiative leveraging on ICT and making huge impact on the economy is the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and Bank Verification Number (BVN). Its implementation has helped to eliminate the menace of ghost workers thereby reducing waste in the system by saving government over N20 billion monthly.

“This administration recently issued an Executive Order mandating all ministries, departments and agencies to give preference to locally manufactured goods and services in their procurement of information technology services.

“Such measures are part of the deliberate efforts at encouraging local manufacture of ICT infrastructure, creating job opportunities, providing investment opportunities as well as strengthening our currency. We commend NITDA’s efforts on fostering the patronage of indigenous IT products and services through continuous engagement with indigenous OEMs, relevant stakeholders and other laudable initiatives.

“ICT plays a pivotal role with agencies of government such as the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) which have leaned on ICT in improving public service delivery in an efficient and transparent manner. So far, 31 reforms have been completed by the Council and these reforms are already making noticeable impact on our economic diversification efforts.

“The Agency’s efforts at enforcing Federal Government’s directive on ensuring that all ICT projects in the country are cleared by it before implementation are highly commendable. These efforts will ensure that government’s ICT procurements are transparent, they are aligned with government’s IT shared vision and policy, save costs through promotion of shared services, avoid duplication, ensure compatibility of IT systems thereby improving efficiency across government and enforce the patronage of indigenous companies.”

The President, who declared the conference open, urged participants to come up with practical, viable solutions and recommendations to further develop local content in ICT as well as how the administration can best regulate the deployment and use of ICT systems to foster a digital economy in Nigeria.

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EFCC Probes NITDA DG Over Alleged Illegal Award Of Contracts

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is presently investigating the Director General of the National Information Technology and Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Isa Pantami, for allegedly awarding contracts contrary to the Procurement Act.

Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, made this known on a radio programme in Ibadan at the weekend.

Recall that a Kaduna-based group, Good Governance and Accountability Monitoring Group, on September 27, alleged that Pantami did not follow due process of the Procurement Act, saying that there was a plan to give the NITDA contract for 2017 to a company.

While commenting on the allegation, Shittu said, “Before I received the letter, the case was already with the EFCC but (the petitioner) merely copied me. Since that is done, it is not in my power to investigate alleged criminality. I think we should look up to the EFCC on that matter.

“Of course, NITDA has also responded and given me a copy of its response but I don’t have the prerogative or power to investigate. If the matter had not gone to the EFCC, I would have set up a committee to look into it. But let me sound this note of warning on a matter of contracts, so many people get used when they are not succeeding in getting what they want in the processes.

“I am not saying people in NITDA or other government agencies are saints or angels but you have to look at the two ways deeply. At my level, I wish the EFCC, to whom the original petition was addressed, take it up and take a decision and report appropriately.”

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