Digital economy contribute significantly to nation’s economy- Pantami

By Oluwaseun Sonde

The Minister Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Ali Ibrahim Pantami has said that Nigeria does not currently contribute significantly to the global digital economy but has an opportunity to become a key player while digital economy is not just a buzz term for Nigeria, rather it provides a very good opportunity for the nation to redefine its approach to the development of the economy in a way that makes digital technology central to all aspects.

He made this known at the eNigeria Conference, Exhibition and Award in Abuja on Thursday.

He said this approach has the potential to improve the various indices of our economic growth.

“To give an idea of the potential that a national digital economy has, let us consider the prospects that can open up to Nigeria from the recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, on the 7th of July, 2019. Earlier in the year, the World Bank Digital Director stated that AfCTA opens up new markets for technology start-ups and e-businesses that is valued at about $600 billion.

“On the 17th of October, 2019, Mr. President graciously approved the redesignation of the Federal Ministry of Communications as the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. This timely and strategic action has positioned Nigeria as an early adopter of the digital economy paradigm to take advantage of the many opportunities that it provides”, he said.

He noted that National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria will be unveiled today and it focusses on 8 pillars that address the different aspects that need to be addressed for a vibrant digital economy. “The 8 pillars are Developmental Regulation, Digital Literacy & Skills, Solid Infrastructure, Service Infrastructure, Digital Services Development & Promotion, Soft Infrastructure, Digital Society & Emerging Technology and Indigenous Content Promotion & Adoption. These pillars align well with the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan of the Federal Government and also address the 3 key focus areas of Mr. President, namely economic development, anticorruption and security.

“We will actively collaborate with all stakeholders as there is a need for synergy for us to successfully develop the National Digital Economy. The process of developing of our Policy and Strategy has benefited from the work done by other countries and our development partners. In particular, we will like to sincerely thank the World Bank for funding a comprehensive Digital Economy Diagnostic for Nigeria. The Report will be presented during the 1st panel session of this Conference,” he said.

He added that as a national document, we encourage the States and Local Government areas to cascade these policies and strategies so that we can be on the same page as we achieve the vision of the document which is “To transform Nigeria into a leading global digital economy providing quality life and digital economies for all. “I had the privilege of being appointed as a Minister on the 21st of August, 2019 and since then we have taken a number of steps towards the development of our National Digital Economy. I will now briefly discuss some of our modest achievements in the last 100 days.

“We started by harmonizing the activities of the parastatals under our supervision, after a series of briefings by the CEOs, which commenced on my first day in office. It resulted in my giving short-term targets to all the parastatals. One of such targets was given to the Nigerian Communications Commision, they were to ensure that only fully registered SIM cards should remain active on our telecommunications networks. By the 26th of September, 36 days after we resumed, about 9.2 million lines were either properly registered or blocked as our boost to our national security”, he said.

He said cyber and physical security are necessary for citizens to adopt and accept digital technologies. “It is with this in mind that we established Emergency Communication Centres as well as a ‘112’ toll free number to end the lingering issue of a harmonized emergency number. This was done on the 23rd of September.

“Digital entrepreneurs and software engineers play a very important role in the innovation ecosystem that powers the Digital Economy. As such, we were really concerned by the news of alleged harassment of these group of people by the security agencies, ostensibly due to their possession of digital tools. We engaged the security agencies on the 2nd of October regarding this and we are grateful for the support and cooperation we received from them on the matter.

“We are working hard to ensure that government agencies become digital-ready, starting from the parastatals under our supervision. This explains why we put an end to cash payments at NIPOST from the 7th of November. This move will reduce inefficiency and block leakages.

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