WIRED

Nigeria 2016 | TELECOMS, IT & MEDIA | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Peter Jack, Director General & CEO of the National Information Technology Development Agency, on facilitating investment and partnering with private and public actors to promote IT development.

 Peter Jack
BIOGRAPHY
Peter Jack is a Development Consultant in the areas of Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships (MSPs), Entrepreneurship, Information Technology for National Transformation, Job Creation, and Poverty Alleviation. Until January 2007, Mr. Jack was a Technical Assistant to the Director General & CEO of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Nigeria (a position he held for seven years). He represented the DG/CEO on several key national committees including the National Committee on Outsourcing, and served similar advisory capacities over the years. He is a Government Research Fellow of the United Nations University at Macau, China, and a Research Fellow of the Columbia University Center for International Conflict Resolution. He is currently a PhD Candidate at Seoul National University.

What efforts are you making to grow the ICT industry and what growth have you seen in the past couple of years?

The Demo Africa Event, for example, was successful for quite a number of our start-ups. There were around 600 start-ups that competed, and 30 to 40 made it to the finals. Investors from Europe, the US, and all over the world came, and many of these investors indicated a desire to invest in almost all of our start-ups that were showcased at Demo Africa. In terms of statistics, it is difficult to give exact figures, however, if we combine the activities of Demo Africa and that of our E-Nigeria Event, there are potentially over 100 start-ups being exposed to global and local investors. Locally developed solutions for education are mature and robust. Some of these local developers are taking universities or schools from low performance to outstanding. There is also the perspective of catalyzing productivity across all sectors of the economy, from health to agriculture. We are leading municipal departments to develop the national health framework. The first version has been shared with the general public and the effort is to develop a partnership between regionalized initiatives, the UN foundation, NITDA, the Ministry of Health, and a host of other stakeholders. An important thrust is the partnership between NITDA and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

How will the smart city initiative concentrate innovation?

We are working with the ministry to develop an idea called the Information Technology Entrepreneurship Accelerator, which is meant to promote start-ups. However, when I came on board, I decided to establish an office of ICT innovation and entrepreneurship to coordinate our investments in IT parks, smart cities, incubation centers, software development centers, and so on. In Lagos, our flagship investment is a partnership with the Nigerian Computer Society called Lagos Smart City; we showcased it in Dubai and there is a lot of investment interest from international investors. It is our flagship for a smart city because it is conveniently situated in the most attractive zone of development in the country, the Lekki Free Trade Zone. Right in the middle, we have our Lagos Smart City project of 48ha that is adjacent to the Lagos Business School. We are looking to grow a smart city that will benefit from the existence of gas in Lagos and high-speed, fiber-optic internet from the major operators. There is substantial internet capacity in Lagos close to the construction of this smart-city estate, so there will be access to high-speed internet and this will be the attraction of a smart city. It will be a mixed-development city featuring a business district in an upmarket medium to high-income area. We want to make it a pilot that can be replicated in other parts of the country. The Abuja Technology Village offers an opportunity for similar development because the space there is around 700ha, compared to the 48ha in Lagos. We are already in talks with Abuja Technology Village for ICT projects via the World Bank. We are in the process of negotiating the amount of space we need to relocate our GSM villages there. We are working with African investors to have close proximity and sign agreements on the way forward to develop a mini IT Park. We have the Lagos idea of being closely located with the procreation hub, which is a private sector initiative and a media-sponsored smart city in Lagos. In Calabar, we have two projects, where one is an idea hub and the other is a knowledge city, which is a partnership with the municipal government. We also have the provision for building the tunnel IT Park. In the space we have a number of interventions and are looking to have them on stream and operational in a short time.