GREAT POTENTIAL

Nigeria 2020 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

NITDA is investing in digital infrastructure to bridge digital gaps and promote digital literacy, skills, entrepreneurship, and inclusion.

Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi
BIOGRAPHY

Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi is a graduate of computer science from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi. He is a MIT Sloan-trained strategist with 15 years of experience in IT operations, business transformation, and solution architecture across both the private and public sectors. He has attended leadership and management courses at Harvard in the US, University of Cambridge in the UK, and IMD Business School in Switzerland. As the first Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) in Nigeria's public sector, he is also a certified project manager and solution architect. He was previously with Galaxy Backbone and the Central Bank of Nigeria.

What is NITDA's role in unfolding a government digital plan, and what effects will it have in enabling economic diversification?
There was an urgent need to reposition the Nigerian ICT sector to harness digital technologies and create opportunities for Nigerians. In October 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari expanded the mandate of our supervisory ministry and re-designated it to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. This resonates with recent global trends. Countries around the world are investing hugely in building capacity to create value and prosperity in the digital economy. Our ministry and the leadership of my mentor and boss Ali Ibrahim has crafted National Digital Economy Strategy to drive digital transformation. NITDA, as a focal agency within the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, is responsible for setting regulations for our digital transition. We are also saddled with the responsibility for coordinating the digitalization of government services, stimulating indigenous innovation, and driving local content to prepare our citizens for the future of work and wealth creation in a digital age. We are setting the rules to ensure healthy competition in the provision of digital services in Nigeria. All this will lead to improved services to citizens and improved productivity through innovation and local content, thereby creating opportunities in the services sector that enable economic diversification.

NITDA has restructured processes for registering and certifying domestic IT OEMs to ensure local manufacturers adhere to global best practice. What has been the evolution and response so far?
The restructuring was aimed at improving the quality of our indigenous products as well as building a vibrant customer support culture. There were many companies on poor quality customer support services. Therefore, NITDA re-organized the process to ensure those who qualify meet the highest global standards for manufacturing. We want them to dominate the Nigerian market in particular and the African market in general. NITDA also included the need for ISO 9001 certification on quality manufacturing process. Some local OEMs have completed this process and received their full status as indigenous OEMs, and we are already receiving reports on improved quality. Overall, the process has been successful. We expect the remaining OEMs to comply and finish the process too, so that they can benefit from government policy on local content. And NITDA is enforcing MDAs to support them.

What are NITDA's strategies behind the plan to deploy ICT centers in all state secretariats, and what are the benefits to be achieved by this?
NITDA is investing in digital infrastructure to bridge digital gaps and promote digital society, literacy, skills, entrepreneurship, and inclusion. So far, 320 digital capacity training centers fully equipped with e-learning facilities, eight IT hubs, 12 digital libraries, four IT innovation and incubation parks, eight community IT training centers, and four capacity development centers have been deployed across the country, and more are coming. We will continue to make these investments until all Nigerians are digitally enabled.

What is NITDA's assessment of the ICT sector's exponential growth in recent times and its future landscape in the country?
The recent GDP numbers imply that ICT is currently the third-largest sector in Nigeria, even ahead of the oil and gas sector. The volume of economic activity in the ICT sector is enormous. The IT industry as a component of the ICT sector is the underlining infrastructure for banking, finance, and, increasingly, government services. IT innovation is also the leading area of early-stage capital and investments in Nigeria, with about USD178 million and USD148 million invested in the IT innovation space in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Therefore, the programs and policies of NITDA such as the Nigeria Cloud Computing Policy (NCCP), the Nigeria ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Vision (NIIEV), and the Guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in ICT are all geared toward supporting the exponential growth of the IT industry as the leading industry for job and wealth creation. NITDA is currently working on e-commerce and outsourcing policies to further boost the IT landscape in Nigeria.