In setting the Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy agenda for Nigeria, priority should be given to innovation. Instead of continuing with the outdated economic model of resource extraction, the new Federal Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy and other stakeholders must place greater emphasis on innovation.
Youth and Innovation and Digital Economy agenda for Nigeria
Nigeria must create an environment that specifically attracts young people and empowers them in the fields of innovation and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs and startups should be encouraged to harness technology in order to develop innovative solutions to the challenges facing the country – including healthcare, education, transportation, and agriculture.
To promote innovation, it is crucial that we implement the Nigeria Startup Act. Its implementation can facilitate the success of numerous startups while also attracting increased investment to the technology sector.
NBP, Infrastructure and e-Government
The expansion of broadband penetration is essential for constructing an inclusive digital economy that benefits all. It’s imperative to address the internal digital divide. The presently unserved and underserved areas should be integrated into the digital revolution. The faithful implementation of the National Broadband Plan is therefore a necessity.
When enhancing infrastructure, Nigeria must notably improve the quality of service and ensure the security of infrastructure up to the desired standards of a dynamic digital economy. In this context, the challenges of right-of-way charges, multiple taxation, insecurity of telecom infrastructure, and bureaucratic bottlenecks faced by telecom operators should be addressed.
The government must also exhibit leadership to ensure that digital government projects encompass more than just technology. The emphasis should be citizen-centric, prioritizing enhancements in public service delivery, public sector administration, accountability, and citizens’ quality of life.
Talent for the Innovation and Digital Economy agenda for Nigeria
In the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which is propelled by emerging technologies, everyone needs digital literacy and 21st-century skills, including critical thinking and communication, not as a luxury but as a necessity. Both formal and informal education sectors play a crucial role in addressing this concern.
Equally important is the development of the nation’s tech talent. Rather than solely focusing on consumption, Nigeria requires young individuals to emerge as tech specialists, innovators, and entrepreneurs capable of harnessing science, technology, and innovation to address local issues and provide global solutions.
Promoting innovation within the tech sector entails investing in and supporting education and research and development. It’s imperative to invest in STEM education to nurture this pool of talent and cultivate a skilled workforce for the tech sector.
Security and Privacy
Cybersecurity and data protection should hold a prominent position on the agenda. As digital adoption expands, so do the threats to cybersecurity. We need to heighten public awareness and integrate cybersecurity as an essential aspect of digital literacy and all forms of digital education.
Enhancing the cybersecurity culture and implementing and updating cybersecurity policies and strategies are crucial. The enactment of the Nigeria Data Protection Act has advanced data protection.
It is imperative to empower the Nigeria Data Protection Commission to fulfill its mandate and elevate the standards of data protection and privacy in the country to meet globally acceptable norms.
The ICT (communication, innovation, and digital economy) sector plays a critical role in the Nigerian economy, and the key areas mentioned can contribute to the establishment of a digital economy that aligns with the nation’s developmental needs and growth aspirations. It is imperative to assess the current state of digital development, build upon the progress achieved by the previous administration, and address both longstanding and emerging challenges. For instance, it is important to evaluate the accomplishments of prior policies and their effectiveness. Additionally, identifying areas of concern that require improvement is crucial.
National System of Innovation
Addressing these key areas—leveraging technology to create jobs, generate wealth, and enhance quality of life—requires the adoption of inclusive, systemic approaches, such as the National System of Innovation, along with strategic initiatives. Engage stakeholders from the ICT sector, government, private industry, education, and research in this process. Importantly, develop and implement strategies with stakeholders, not to stakeholders.
Moreover, ensure there is synergy within the ministry, eliminating duplication, confusion, and ineffective bureaucracy. Agencies should not operate in isolation or at cross purposes; instead, they should function as a cohesive team to realize the ministry’s shared vision.
Innovation and Digital Economy Agenda for Nigeria and Africa
At the continental level, we should tap into opportunities such as AfCFTA and STISA.
At the continental level, we should tap into opportunities such as AfCFTA and STISA. As well as the Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa Additionally, we must assume a leadership role in Africa.
Establishing an enabling environment for the sector necessitates innovative, supportive, and visionary regulations. These recognize the significance of innovation, in the local and global context, as well as the nation’s needs and aspirations.
In addition, leveraging innovative regulations can help cultivate an environment that attracts investment to propel sectoral growth. Investor-friendly initiatives, modernized ease-of-doing-business measures, and meaningful incentives can achieve this.
Unlocking Nigeria’s Digital Potential: The Path Forward
Nigeria’s realization of its potential lies in its ability to harness the transformative power of communications, innovation, and the digital economy. The task before the Ministry is to position Nigeria as a regional and global leader in the digital age. Nigeria has immense opportunities, but the question is: how prepared is Nigeria to seize them? Informed, inclusive, and systemic approaches are crucial on this journey. It’s important to remember, however, that technology is not a cure-all.
Fundamental to building a brighter future for Nigeria is ensuring that innovation, connectivity, and digital inclusion are at the heart of our efforts. These efforts are aimed at making economic and social progress.
Author: Jide Awe
Science, Technology and Innovation policy advisor.
Find him on Twitter @jidaw