By Etuka Sunday
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami yesterday called on stakeholders across the country to support the government in achieving a digital economy by the year 2023.
Pantami made the call at the opening ceremony of the ongoing annual e-Nigeria conference,exhibition and awards hosted by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in collaboration with parastatals under the ministry in Abuja.
The two-day conference was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari with the theme “National Digital Economy.”
According to Pantami, the administration of President Buhari which is focused on economic diversification, ensuring security and fighting corruption will leverage on deploying Information Communication Technology (ICT) in achieving those agendas.
He noted that delivering a digital economic country prompted the President to recently change the portfolio of the Ministry of Communications to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
The minister added that the change will ensure that the use of communication gadgets and ICT are deployed to improve the economy.
“The Federal Government has the plan to deliver to citizens a digitally developed country by the year 2023 and we require that all stakeholders should be part of this growth.
“We are working on development regulations, digital integration, building solid infrastructure, deployment of digitisation and emerging technologies, as well as local content promotion and we want all hands on deck,” Pantami said.
He mentioned that upon appointment as minister from, Aug. 21 to date, the FG has ensured synergy among parastatals,institutions under the ministry, organised ICT skills training for youths to ensure digital job creation which has impacted over 5,000 citizens.
The minister also said that distress call centres has been established across the country to connect citizens to agencies that should provide help for them when in need.
He added that there has been harmonisation of emergency free toll number, 112 to promote security, resolved issues of lingered incomplete SIM card registrations, among other achievements by the government.
Mr Kashifu Inuwa,the Director General of NITDA recognised that digital economy had changed the mode of operation of governments to add value to the system.
Inuwa stated that NITDA is focusing on development regulations,digital capacity building and incentivising economic diversification through digital job creations to ensure growth.
He reiterated that the administration of President Buhari in the second quarter of the year saw ICT contributing 13.8 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product of the country.
Ms. Funke Opeke, the Chief Executive Officer of MainOne, in her keynote speech identified that investment in telecommunications in the past 10 years for digital economy has dropped and needed a boost.
Opeke appealed that the FG should develop a National ICT Strategy to pursue specific development agendas.
“Services and infrastructure are built in cities which cover less than 50 per cent of our population,leaving the rural areas behind. It is important that the infrastructure spread across the country for even development.
“We need proper framework for companies to grow to global scale especially start up companies and we need to be deliberate about our strategy so we are not a consuming nation of technology,” Opeke said.
She called for the establishment of digital economy offices in the six geo-political zones of the country which will champion training and job creation to at least one million Nigerians yearly.
According to her, the country’s infrastructure is witnessing a boost and we have a mass of talented youths to develop the sector.
The President also presented the award of 10,000 US Dollars won by a start-up, Chiniki Guard for emerging overall winner in the Artificial Intelligence competition category at the Gulf International Technology Exhibition (GITEX) that held in Dubai in October.
The President while launching the conference unveiled the National Digital Economy Strategy for Digital Nigeria and urged stakeholders to work collaboratively for a successful e-Nigeria.