NATIONAL DIGITAL ECONOMY FOR A DIGITAL NIGERIA: THE JOURNEY SO FAR
BEING A SPEECH PRESENTED BY THE CHIEF HOST DR ISA ALI IBRAHIM (PANTAMI), FNCS, FBCS, FIIM HONOURABLE MINISTER FEDERAL MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND DIGITAL ECONOMY, NIGERIA AT THE E-NIGERIA CONFERENCE, EXHIBITION AND AWARDS ON THURSDAY, 28TH NOVEMBER 2019
All Protocols duly observed.
May Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon you!
I count it a privilege and an honour to welcome this distinguished audience to the 12th edition of the e-Nigeria Conference, Exhibition and Awards 2019. e-Nigeria has consistently provided an annual platform for stakeholders in the ICT sector to make contributions towards the overall development of the sector.
This year’s event is a watershed in the sector as it provides a unique opportunity for us to set the foundations for our paradigm shift from the mere approach of using technology to support the traditional economy to an outright focus on the development of a National Digital Economy for a Digital Nigeria.
According to a 2016 Report by Oxford Economics, the global digital economy is valued at $11.5 trillion dollars or approximately 16% of the Global Economy. This value is expected to grow significantly over the coming years and the World Economic Forum predicts that over 60% of global GDP will be digitized by 2022 and that over the next decade, digital platforms will be used to create close to 70% of new value.
Nigeria does not currently contribute significantly to the global digital economy but we now have an opportunity to become a key player. Digital economy is not just a buzz term for Nigeria, rather it provides a very good opportunity for us to redefine our approach to the development of the economy in a way that makes digital technology central to all aspects. 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.
The 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.
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.
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. It will also position NIPOST to play a key role in improving digital and financial inclusion in Nigeria.
We recognize that it is Nigerian citizens that will drive the digital economy and they are unlikely to be willing participants if they feel they are being exploited as they access digital services. As such, we are ensuring that Nigerians are treated fairly online. This informed our actions on the 7th of November to call for a drop in the price of data and to ensure that illegal deductions of data are stopped. We also directed that default voicemail subscriptions be discontinued.
We have also given a listening ear to technology providers and are addressing their concerns. For instance, on the 22nd of November, we initiated a process to classify core telecommunications equipment as Critical National Infrastructure in order to stem the tide of vandalisation of telecom equipment across the country.
We commenced trials for the 5G networks on the 25th of November. This will enable us to keep an eye on the future while we expand the 3G and 5G coverage across the country. The 5G trials are being done in collaboration with the security agencies to ensure that our deployment does not compromise national security in any way.
We are open to support and partnerships from our international partners. The partnership with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) enabled us to develop an e-Government Masterplan for the country and a World Class e-Government training Centre was commissioned on the 15th of November 2019.
We are committed to redoubling our efforts as we develop the National Digital Economy for a Digital Nigeria. I thank you for your kind attention.