Stakeholders set ICT agenda for Nigeria's 2020 vision

No Comments » January 23rd, 2008 posted by // Categories: ICT Industry Development Project



 

GUARDIAN

January 23, 2008

 

Stakeholders set ICT agenda for Nigeria’s 2020 vision
By Sonny Aragba-Akpore

THE United Nations Organisation’s (UNO) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target date of 2015 is just about seven years away.

And nations that understand the UN rules, especially the Information and Communications Technology (ICT), as indices of growth are already at work. For instance, many of them through the spirited adoption of ICT have begun to fuel their economics in order to join the New Economic Order.

The World Bank statistics are replete with daunting escapades of supposedly emerging markets joining the New World Order in the last 10 years. Philippines, Malaysia, Brazil, Vietnam and new entrant into the European Union (EU), Poland, and Hungary, are inching close to China and India as industrial czars from the emerging markets camp.

But while it appears that Nigeria wobbles in feats and starts, worried stakeholders last week met to chart a new course. The stakeholders reasoned that “Nigeria’s only option outside of becoming part of this New Order is to cease to exist.” President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Lanre Ajayi, summed up the situation thus: “We must realise that full integration of ICT in achieving our development goals is crucial to getting anywhere near India or any of the newly emerging economies.”

Ajayi, who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pinet Informatics, a Lagos-based ICT firm, told his audience, including the Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Prof. Cleopas Angaye: “I am glad that a meeting of this nature is holding to get every one involved in drawing our common destiny.”

Ajayi and others spoke at the one-day final conference of Nigeria’s Information Communication Technology For Development ICTAD) Action Plan in Lagos last week. Hosted by NITDA, the forum gave stakeholders from various sectors, including health, engineering, education, science and telecommunications, among others, the opportunity to articulate the draft that will serve as precursor for Nigeria’s roadmap to being among the world’s 20 leading economies by year 2020.

As stakeholders after stakeholders from various sectors of the economy made input inside the hall, it was glaring to all participants that Africa’s most populous country of about 150 million people has a formidable challenge in joining the exclusive list of 20 and ICT would be crucial to becoming a member of the club.

The World Bank projected last year that information technology would be responsible on a scale of 70/30 for determining real growth in most countries from 2015. It further hinted that by 2020, the most critical factor that would separate developed economies from non-developed ones would be hinged on whether a country would be an ICT have or ICT have-not country.

“It is important to note the direct relevance and usefulness of the Nigeria ICT4D plan in achieving the present administration’s seven-point agenda and positioning Nigeria among the 20 leading economies by year 2020. The final document, which would be the outcome of this workshop, will therefore be presented to the Federal Executive Council for approval by all stakeholders,” Prof. Angaye told stakeholders at the kick-off of the meeting in Lagos.

In sub-Sahara Africa, only South Africa has made substantial progress in leapfrogging its economy through ICT, with heavy investment made in the last 10 years to build robust information infrastructures and develop sufficient human capacity to manage its increasingly ICT-led economy.

As is the case in India and other countries with well defined ICT direction, ICT4D is expected to enable government pay more focused attention on effective policy direction for the country’s IT industry, development of appropriate IT infrastructure, development of appropriate guidelines and standard as well as ICT curricula for our educational sector, capacity building for a globally competitive workforce, enhanced healthcare delivery and effective law enforcement and judicial system.

Others are development of agricultural sector to enhance food security and creation of the necessary enabling environment for the full integration of IT in the country’s national environment.

Earlier at the one-day workshop, stakeholders had been encouraged to have useful deliberations by the inspiring opening remarks of the NITDA boss. He said: “We are all aware that ICTs have been identified as major tools in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and other development agenda.

“The idea behind the Nigeria ICT4D is to set out a time-sensitive action plan with realistic targets and benchmarks for the sectoral applications of ICT for national development. It includes actions and programmes that cover various sectors of our national economy for short, medium and long-term implementation by relevant stakeholders.”

Nigeria’s ICT4D is being put together by foreign-based committee, with members drawn from various segments of corporate Nigeria such as technology, health, banking, education and the media. The committee is chaired by a private sector player and CEO of Abuja-based Alteq Consulting, Dr. Armstrong Takang. The ICT4D committee was first inaugurated in 2003 and has had several strategic sessions in Abuja and Lagos. The workshop last week would be its final open interaction with the public or to use the words of Dr. Tagang, “the general stakeholders.”

The committee has 11 sub-committees which make up all the areas covered by the ICT4D, which include eGovernment, ICT Infrastructure, Health, Agriculture, Education., Human Resource Development and Private Sector Participation. Others are Research and Development, Security and Law Enforcement, Legal and Regulatory Framework and IT Popularisation and Awareness. Each sub-committee has an expert, resource person mandated to put together the input of different stakeholders under that specific sub-committee.

According to Takang, “the first thing this workshop is expected to achieve is to provide a forum for the stakeholders in the ICT industry, contribute to the development of national action plan to implement the IT policy that will guide the various agencies on the roadmap for implementing ICT programmes within the respective agencies.

“The workshop will extensively have an impact on social growth in Nigeria. If we focus on providing the resources, leadership, and also implementing those programmes that are included, there will be a radical change for the Nigerian economy to become truly a digital economy or a knowledge-based economy.”

The outcome of the Lagos workshop, which would cumulate in the final ICT4D document, is expected to provide the guidelines for project execution in all the 11 sectors identified as critical to leapfrogging the country. Also, the policy document is expected to form the basis on which the NITDA, the country’s apex IT agency, would seek to collaborate with stakeholders from within and outside the country for specific IT-related projects that would enhance sustainable national development.

“ICT4D should not be done as a stand-alone project but should be done within the context of ongoing, successful and sustainable development projects,” said Dr. John Dada, a resource person for the IT Popularisation and Awareness sub-committee.

“If you pick ICT4D as if it were one on its own, the issue of its sustainability becomes very questionable. But if you make it sit centrally in any other ongoing development project, that way it will be sustainable because it would provide wider and long term basis for such projects.”

The ICT4D initiative is being funded by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), which also recruited the consultant that has an oversight role in the drafting of the ICT4D document in the person of Prof. Clement Dzidonu.

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