By Ijeoma Olorunfemi
Nigeria’s participation at the 39th Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX), held in Dubai showed the seriousness of the country to showcase its indigenous technology.
The 2019 GITEX, attracted over 200,000 trade visitors, investors, technology experts, multi-national companies and other interests groups from over 145 countries.
The 2019 GITEX Technology Week, that took place from Oct.6 to Oct. 10, provided platform for participants to share evolving ICT trends.
It brought together arrays of innovative, exciting and ambitious tech start-ups that displayed their world-changing ideas to an audience of hand-picked international investors.
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), that has the mandate to regulate the country’s IT sector spearheaded Nigeria’s participation at the GITEX.
Dr Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communications, who led the Nigerian delegation, said Nigeria was at the event to showcase the country’s potential as well as network.
“Our mission is to showcase talents, potential, network with other innovators, learn from them and showcase our local content, solicit for investors to our innovations, look out for technology transfer, because you cannot undermine the capacity of those you wish to learn from,’’ Pantami said.
He also launched NITDA’s indigenous `Unity Board,’ an education technology hardware platform for teaching emerging technologies.
Being Pantami’s initiative while he was Director-General of NITDA, he said the construction of the board took three years, and was co-authored by Dr Agu Collins, the Director, Corporate Planning and Strategy Department of NITDA.
Collins said the board would facilitate teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) from the basics.
“STEAM education kit is to drive learning and teaching of Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and artificial intelligence, accelerate local content development and indigenisation of technology, through human capital development in emerging technologies.
“Unity Board is a creative medium for advancing teaching and learning, designed specifically as hands-on learning tool to help today’s students to build skills for the creative and digital economy through critical thinking.’’
According to him,
it is a board that brings all Nigerians together, showing local content, which is one of the cardinal policies of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
“It can be used in tertiary institutions, it can create an Internet of Things (IoT) system, that can give pre-warning on flooding, remote sensing and in other areas,’’ Collins added.
The communications minister also wooed investors to invest in Africa, especially Nigeria as the country has the population with favourable investment climate.
“The United Nations estimates that half of global population growth, projected to occur between now and 2050, is expected to occur in Africa.
“These statistics show that even though we already have a large market of about 1.2 billion people in Africa, investors should expect an even larger market in the upcoming years.
“Nigeria’s geographic and financial position on the continent make it a very strategic country and good starting point for investors interested in the African continent.
“Nigeria is located between the Central and Western parts of Africa and offers investors’ immediate access to over half of the African continent, represented by those that reside in Western and Central Africa,’’ he said.
Pantami further said that with an average age of over 18 years, Nigeria has a potential and critical mass of ‘digital natives’ that could transform the country into a regional and global ICT power house.
Citing World Bank records, the minister said that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was valued at 397 billion dollars, the largest economy in Africa, and has the 10th largest oil reserve in the world.
He said that investors could acquire visa on arrival, register businesses online, up to 95 per cent, which could be done electronically.
The Director-General of NITDA, Mr Kashifu Inuwa, who spoke on participation of Nigeria’s start-ups at GITEX, said the young innovators had global innovative ideas, but needed an enabling environment and the right mentorship.
He said: “A lot of start-ups are coming up in the country and this shows that government’s effort toward building the ICT sector is yielding positive results.
“Before, oil was the major contributor to our Gross Domestic Product, but now, ICT has taken over; ICT contributes almost 13.6 per cent to our GDP, while oil contributes only about 8 per cent.
“Job opportunities lie so much in ICT; it is just for us to find out the right potential within our environment and develop it,” Inuwa emphasised.
The D-G further said that NITDA, which is the clearing house for all Federal Government’s ICT projects, gives it the opportunity to liaise with investors in a fair and sustainable manner.
He restated that the agency has been using its regulatory framework to drive investment, adding that the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) is the only data protection law in the world that creates a class of professionals called the Data Protection Compliance Organisations (DPCOs).
According to Inuwa, the DPCOs are licensed to help over 1.5 million organisations, that comply with data protection laws in the country, while the regulation implementation would create over 300,000 jobs by 2023.
“Our local content guidelines also give an opportunity for investors in indigenous ICT companies to reap the abundant opportunities available in Nigeria.
“A ready pool of young digital natives awaits investors in our ICT sector. With a population having an average age of 18.2 years, Nigeria is the 22nd youngest country on earth.
“The youthfulness of our population is an asset and the fact that many young Nigerians are ICT enthusiasts even makes it better,’’ he said.
Inuwa also expressed delight that NITDA’s partnership with European Data Protection Office (EDPO) would enable business entities in Nigeria comply with the country’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
He said: “EDPO would facilitate Nigeria’s aspiration to become the first African country to meet the European Union’s GDPR adequacy requirement, which would open Nigerian businesses to opportunities in the European market.
“NITDA will through its licensed Data Protection Compliance Organisations, assist Nigerian entities to be fully compliant with the GDPR to ensure global competitiveness and business continuity,” he added.
Besides the Unity Board and securing partnership with the EDPO, NITDA showcased some ICT start-ups, with “angel innovations,’’ at the global space.
The start-ups are: Chiniki Guard, an Artificial Intelligence-based security solution for retail stores, to monitor shoplifting, Blue Circle of Notitia, a health solution that digitises patients’ medical history, 247 Medics, also a health solution, that connects doctors with patients across the country within a maximum waiting time of 10 minutes.
Others are Zowasel, an agrotech solution, that provides access to alternate financing and premium markets for all players in the agricultural value chain.
Naira Packet, a Fintech solution, that reduces the costs of micro-transactions in the country and Sublime Square, a waste management solution, designed to ensure an efficient and faster waste evacuation and management.
Chiniki Guard and 247 Medics, were outstanding in the competition for 750 start-ups from 75 countries, that made it to the SupaNova semi-finals of the GITEX contest.
Chiniki Guard, emerged the first start-up in the AI category competition, with prize money of 10,000 dollars.
The feat enhanced investors’ interest of developing the innovation to commercial and impacting standard.