One of the key factors that promote the development of digital economy is establishing Information technology centres, where business, innovation and entrepreneurship are nurtured by building ideas. It is used in many countries as a tool to promote the development of both upstream and downstream IT components for economic development across all sectors.
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), which has the mandate to develop, regulate and advise Federal Government on Information Technology related matters in the country through regulatory standards, guidelines and policies, has been building such structures and providing fully equipped centres that train and empower citizens with various IT skills.
The agency, under the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, supports initiatives in developing programmes that promote e-government, cybersecurity, digital skills, gender barrier, enhance regulation and market environment to increase access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and promote ICT-centred innovation and entrepreneurship.
NITDA has established over 1500 IT Centres across the country where thousands of Nigerians are gaining basic computer skills to set up their own businesses across the country.
The IT sector received a major boost on February 15, 2022, in Katsina State, as Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Pantami, commissioned an Innovation Centre, in line with the Federal Government agenda of economic diversification from oil resources to digital revenue generation.
The centre, named Muhammadu Buhari Innovation Hub, will create the required environment for Nigeria’s innovators, encourage innovation and indigenization of technologies. Indigenization of technologies will help address the continuous reliance on foreign products and services which has a negative impact on the country’s economy.
The hub will also serve as a bridge between the government, industries, and academia, providing space for creativity, idea integration, development of ICT policies, processes and strategies. It is equipped with facilities that can be used to develop inquisitive perspectives and create opportunities for entrepreneurs to become potential employers of labour.
It will focus on the development of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), Quantum Computing and also Smart Energy Solutions to drive ICT. In addition, the centre will allow startups to accelerate and experience innovations at scale, through customized visits, design thinking sessions and co-innovation workshops thereby creating a highly collaborative and immersive environment.
At the commissioning on behalf of President Buhari, Pantami stated that the centre will empower the youths with the requisite digital skills. He said there is a paradigm shift globally with an emphasis on proven skills over certificates, reiterating the need to diversify from natural resources like oil and gas.
“Nigeria is no exception in the quest for digital capacities in the fourth industrial revolution. We feel the necessity to establish innovation centres in at least every geopolitical zone in the country, identify existing talents, support and provide the enabling environment and mentorship so that in the next few decades, Nigeria can boast of its own Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos”, the minister said.
Prof Pantami further noted that the leading economies in the world are innovation-driven and with the commitment of the present administration to digitalise the Nigerian economy, inherent potential Nigeria is abundantly blessed with, it is achievable.
“This is the only way to lift any nation out of poverty and that is why we conceptualised this initiative, the IT innovation hub, to help lift Nigerians out of poverty and support the Katsina State Government in its talent hunt initiative.
“From the Middle East, Asia and the USA, they are where they are today because of innovation and even here in Nigeria and Africa, we have seen how innovation has turned our nation within a span of 15 years especially communications technology which has become one of largest economic sectors in Africa, creating millions of jobs”, he added.
The minister revealed that Katsina is blessed with talented youths who must be encouraged to realize their potential, especially in IT. Nigeria should create mentorship programmes that would attract young citizens to IT, Pantami urged.
Governor Aminu Bello Masari thanked the Federal Government for the initiative and assured that the state would continue to encourage youths. The new IT hub would be put into good use under the state’s Institute of Science and Technology.
“We are very pleased with this initiative, it will open doors of opportunities to Katsina youths to become job employers, rather than job seekers. We will continue to encourage them to embrace Information Technology,” he said.
NITDA Director-General, Kashifu Inuwa, commended the minister for his foresight in bringing ideas and developmental policies that have uplifted the ICT sector to the highest rank in Nigeria. The DG noted that ICT, in the last two decades, became the largest sector in Africa, creating millions of jobs.
“We conceptualized this initiative, IT Innovation Hub, to consolidate on President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty. We also support Governor Aminu Masari in his talent hunt to bring young talented people to this centre to curate, nurture and incubate their ideas and turn them into products and services”, Inuwa said.
Mubarak Umar writes from Abuja