SPEECH BY HON MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS AND DIGITAL ECONOMY DR. ISA ALI PANTAMI (PH.D, FNCS, FBCS, FIIM) ON THE OCCASION OF THE PRESENTATION OF GRANTS TO WINNERS OF DIGITAL SOLUTIONS HACKATHON FOR COVID-19 BY THE NIGERIAN COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
The Chairman, Board of Commissioners, NCC
The Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, NCC, Prof Umar Garba Danbatta
Executive Commissioners of the NCC
Directors of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy,
Directors of the Nigerian Communications Commission and other Senior Members of Staff
Distinguished Participants including all those who are connected to this event from remote locations
Gentlemen of the Press
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
May Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon you!
I am very delighted to participate in the presentation ceremony of Grants to Winners of the Digital Solutions Hackathon for COVID -19 and other Infectious Diseases. I am particularly happy that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) took up the challenge I posed to them in the search for solutions in ameliorating the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Nigeria, we accelerated the process of developing our digital economy when His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, re-designated the Federal Ministry of Communications as the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy on the 17th of October, 2019. The change was officially endorsed at the Federal Executive Council on the 23rd of October, 2019 and the process of implementing a digital economy for a digital Nigeria began on the 24th of October, 2019.
Since the global pandemic began, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy has strived to support the Federal Government with solutions, based on our areas of expertise and in line with our mission, to build a nation where digital innovation and entrepreneurship create value and prosperity for all. This mission is outlined in the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a Digital Nigeria. The NDEPS is underpinned by 8 pillars that align with the central ideas of the ITU with regard to bridging the digital and innovation divides.
Every sector of the economy stands to benefit from the digital economy. This is why the programmes of the Ministry target more than just sectors that are traditionally considered to be tech sectors. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), in an increasingly open global economy, achieving competitiveness requires an enabling environment conducive to digital innovation and entrepreneurship across sectors. Research has also shown that there is now growing digital innovation divide across countries, which challenge the assumption that innovation contributes to inclusive growth. The solution to bridging the innovation divide is in articulating globally comparable frameworks, with areas of emphasis according to the national needs that drive digital innovation.
Today’s occasion marks a modest but significant event in our search for adaptable digital solutions in our clime. Today’s event aligns with two of the 8 – pillars of our Digital Economy’s policy and strategy plan: the development of a vibrant digital ecosystem that supports innovation-driven enterprise and Micro Small and Medium Enterprises and the provision of a policy framework that prioritizes digitally skilled Nigerians for government funded projects. This is also in line with Executive Orders 003 and 005 of His Excellency, President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration. The current pandemic makes our discussion of solutions today even more significant, as the world searches for affordable and time saving solutions.
We are all aware that innovation is a key driver to the fast growth of the global ICT industry, which in turn drives today’s global economy. The importance of ICT innovation accentuating solutions in the health sector, especially at this time of a global pandemic is becoming evident. Digital solutions may become the difference in making the health sector smarter in addressing the problems of the current pandemic. You may be aware that very smart solutions are evolving within the ICT industry as an important facilitator in contact tracking and tracing. Several apps are now available to accelerate contact tracking and tracing for COVID-19. It is therefore important and encouraging that this competition is focused on digital solutions against the current pandemic.
I understand that the winning start-ups and Digital SMEs have come up with promising innovative digital solutions to mitigate COVID-19 health and its attendant economic dislocation that is prevalence across all nations of the globe.
When we talk about the economy, we must always realize that the digital economy and the traditional economy are very interdependent. They catalyze each other. According to Oxford Economics, the global digital economy is currently valued at 11.5 Trillion US Dollars or approximately 16% of the Global Economy. This value is expected to grow significantly over the coming years. Innovation and local content development are one of the ways we hope to make our launch pad into the global digital economy.
Ladies and gentlemen, innovations without adoption may lead to retardation. This is why we have laid emphasis on the need for deployment of solid infrastructure in Nigeria, as also indicated in our digital economic strategy roadmap. Deployment of infrastructure like fibre optics rings round the country will ensure that whatever solutions evolved in the sector are made available for adoption and application.
Since I assumed office, we have been able to increase broadband penetration to 42.02% from the 31.4% that we met. We welcome the slashing of Right of Way charges and waivers by State Governors. This has been supportive of the roll-out of such critical national infrastructure and this will correspondingly lower the costs of digital services. We hope that more Governors will toe the steps of the digitally smart Governors to ensure that their citizens enjoy the best services that the industry provides. Perhaps, this is yet another good opportunity to invite our State Governors to take advantage of the opportunities the digital world can offer to improve the lives of the citizens in their states.
Finally, let me extend my profound congratulations and encouragement to the winners of this competition. They have shown that all our efforts to become part of the global digital innovation stage are yielding fruits.
We hope that these innovations will be bankable and marketable to the local, national and international market places. ICT innovations do not discriminate. The COVID-19 pandemic has become one in which the World is united in finding a solution. Any digital solution to addressing any aspect of the challenges posed by the pandemic is welcome.
On this note distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me commend NCC for setting the tone in a very timely manner and hope that there will be a continuous focus in pursuit of innovative solutions to all aspects of our national life in a way to contribute to inclusive growth.
Thank you all and God bless
Dr. Isa Ali Pantami FNCS, FBCS, FIIM.
Hon. Minister of Communication and Digital Economy