The Federal Government is leading the campaign for Nigeria to join the comity of developed nations that have succeeded in turning their economies around via digitalization. It is matching its words with actions by putting infrastructure and policies in place to drive this quest.
Speaking during the commissioning of six legacy digital economy projects by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said the digital footprint and masterplan was taking shape in Nigeria.
The projects included an Information Technology (IT) Hub in ABU, Zaria, IT Hub in UNILAG, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Emergency Communications Centre, Kaduna, Nigeria Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) north west regional office, Kaduna, IT Hub in Enugu State Polytechnic, Iwolo and IT Community Centre Hub, Daura.
‘‘I know what I see, I see the tomorrow that we are building today, and I know that it will be a better tomorrow. I have no doubt in my mind because of the way President Buhari is committed without reservation to delivery on infrastructure.
‘‘There is hardly any public statement he made without first focusing on infrastructure. It gives me pleasure to see that something is being done not only in Kaduna but in Katsina as it is being done in my state in Lagos. Block by block, centre by centre, state by state, zone by zone, the digital footprint and master-plan in this country will be executed. It is not something that you will deliver like a light switch.
‘‘For those who think, nothing is being done, connectivity is not there, little by little, the building blocks are already being laid,’’ he said.
The minister further said Nigerians resident along Kano-Maiduguri expressway would soon enjoy high speed broadband internet connectivity, saying works were already at advanced stage of the project execution which is to lay the broadband cable that connects between the 560 kilometre Kano and Maiduguri highway.
According to the him, many parts of the road have been completed, with the lanes of many parts marked as well as the high way signages now completed.
When completed, Fashola said the whole residents on that axis would have very reliable connectivity for high speed internet access.
The excited Fashola, who described Pantami as a minister with infectious enthusiasm said the minister had shown the power of relative youthfulness in assisting the president to deliver on the promises he made to Nigerians.
Earlier, Pantami said he decided to restrict the activities of the ministry to policy drive and supervision in other to enhance efficient service delivery and to entrench synergy among parastatals under the ministry.
He explained that the six projects being commissioned had direct bearing with the 8 pillars of the National Digital Policy for Digital Nigeria unveiled by President Buhari on November 28, 2019.
As part of the policy implementation, Pantami said over 33,000 Nigerians had so far enrolled into the NITDA Academy programme since inception.
With the academy powered by IBM, Microsoft, Huawei, Oracle, etc, participants would acquire quality skills on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, cybersecurity, 5G and IoT, which forms part of their promotion of digital skills.
He said another area the ministry is providing digital skills is in the area of hi-tech, agriculture.
‘‘We feel there is need for our agriculture to be integrated into the digital sector, so that we can enhance the efficiency of the sector,” he added.
The minister further underscored the need to engage our youths and reorient them more on skills rather than certificate acquisition, insisting that gone are the days when certificate dictates the pace for development. For him, certificate should only be a way to validate the skills we acquire.
In his remarks, the Governor Babagana Zulu of Bornu State, who was the chairman of the occasion said ‘‘the root cause of insurgency in Nigeria is not limited to pandemic, poverty, illiteracy, poor infrastructure, poor economic infrastructure, climate change, drug abuse but unemployment among others.’’
He noted that the six projects being commissioned in the country would no doubt create employment opportunities to our teeming youths, thereby stimulating economic growth and active growth of our GDP of our country.
‘‘The activities of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy are not known to all of us. The minister gingered the performance of his ministry that made it possible for him to achieve a lot during his short stay as the minister of communications and digital economy. He has done well with the support of his lieutenants. It’s an attestation that he has good lieutenants,’’ the governor said.
In her own remarks, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled government and the people to change the way we do things, as most of the works now are being done digitally.