The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, on Saturday advised the Nigerian youth to develop their skills and drive innovation and entrepreneurship in the space sector.

National Information Technology Development Agency’s (NITDA) dogged passion for ICT development in Nigeria over the years, has contributed to the increase in the Gross Domestic Product, (GDP) and ignited job and wealth creations in the country, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami FNCS FBCS FIIM, has said.

Speaking during a press conference to flag-off activities lined-up to mark the 20th anniversary of NITDA at the Digital Economy Complex, Mbora, Abuja, Pantami said the Agency has lived up to expectations.

Dr Pantami who expressed his utmost delight to be part of the success story of the Agency, notes that it has done tremendously well even as he says that he was satisfied with the laudable achievements the Agency has been able to record in its 20 years existence.

The minister recalled that NITDA was established in 2001 to implement the National IT policy, but became a statutory agency in 2007 and has been headed by seven Chief Executive Officers with two on an acting capacity.

While lauding the IT Project Clearance, the Agency activated from its mandate in 2016, Dr Pantami stated that the initiative alone has helped the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to combat corruption in the area of IT projects.

“NITDA has been able to come up with the IT Project Clearance initiative which has been one of the strategic areas in which corruption has been fought.” The Minister cited an example in which two billion naira was saved by the IT Project Clearance on a particular project.

The minister reiterated that the process of obtaining the IT Project clearance is of very high integrity and it deserves commendation because the process has not been compromised since its creation.

He says another accomplishment of the Agency which deserves commendation is the introduction and implementation of the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) in 2019, disclosing that the NDPR is a subsidiary legislation of the Federal Government of Nigeria enshrined to ensure data protection and privacy of Nigerian citizens.

Describing the NDPR as first of its kind in Africa, Dr Pantami indicates the Regulations are serving as a source of reference for other African countries in the process of coming up with drafts for enacting their laws as regards to data protection.

He commended the Agency for its digital inclusion’s initiative which has seen increased and deepening of capacity building to all strata of the national life.

“Another area that deserves commendation by the Agency is in areas of Capacity building in which public servants, women, youths, People Living With Disabilities from geographical zones of the country have benefitted immensely from training and scholarships,” he said.

The minister recalled that the Oronsaye Committee report recommended the scrabbling of the Agency in 2012 but in less than eight years, the Agency has recorded many unprecedented achievement that is necessitating adding to its functions

He commended NITDA for all it has been doing and also admonished them to redouble their efforts. He says there are so many reasons to celebrate the 20years anniversary because the Agency has achieved so many milestones.

“It is because of all these we are here to appreciate the efforts and celebrate all the CEO’s, all board chairmen, their members and all staff from inception till date because all we are doing today is building on their legacies” the minister stated.

He thanked all those who have served in the Agency in various capacities ranging from supervising ministers, Chief Executive Officers, Management staff and all staff in general from the Agency’s establishment in April 2001 till date.

Meanwhile, the Agency’s director general, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE disclosed that the Agency in its 20 years of existence has impacted directly and indirectly over 2.5 million Nigerians through its interventions and training programmes.

The director general stated that the impact was occasioned by the increased awareness of the Agency’s demand-specific interventions that include; Community Access Venues, (CAV); knowledge Access Venues; (KAVs); Digital Capacity Building Centers, (DCBCs); Digital Job Creation Centre, (DJCCs); Digital Economy Centers, (DECs); IT infrastructures for Higher Institutions; Wide Area Network for Higher Institution; virtual library; IT Innovation and Incubation Parks and other interventions the Agency has undertaken across Nigeria.

“From inception to date, you will be glad to know that the Agency has deployed over 1,560 centers with at least two in each of the 774 local government areas of the country,” he stated.

Mallam Abdullahi added that with other critical area of focus for the Agency like capacity building such as training-the-trainer programme for lecturers in tertiary institutions which has grown into special programme for women, people living with disabilities, military and paramilitary, public officers, students National Youth service corps, artisans, primary school pupils and now having various programmes delivered online through NITDA Academy.

The director general who lauded the period his successor was in the office reveals that the Agency witnessed an unprecedented improvement in its activities especially in the area of regulation.

“As the then director general and now the minister instituted the 2017-2020 strategic road map which was anchored on seven strategic pillars.”

Expressing the reason for celebrating the 20th anniversary, Mallam Abdullahi disclosed that with the important milestone the Agency has achieved, the celebration is in order. “There is no doubt that there are a lot of achievements recorded by the Agency since establishment.

“These achievements include huge ICT contribution to Gross Domestic Product from less than 0.5 per cent in 2001 to more than 14 per cent in 2020, catalysing job creation and igniting innovative activities in the tech ecosystem, likewise we have achieved a lot in digital inclusion and literacy. As a result, we are witnessing the emergence of new economic sectors like Fintech, e-Commerce, Venture Capital Investment, Business Process Outsourcing, Data protection Compliance Organisations, IT equipment manufacturing robust software industry.

The director general further mentioned that with the issuance of regulatory instruments especially the IT project process which came into force in December 2016, the Agency has saved over 22.45billion for the government in addition to the value addition to IT project delivery. He notes that, “The Agency has created a new industry with the release of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR).”

“NITDA has created a new industry, stimulated new business models and empowered thousands of Nigerians through capacity building and skills development”.

He mentions that the Agency through the NDPR, has licensed 72 Data Protection compliance organisations (DPCO) and created over 2686 new jobs roles and developed a new data protection sector valued at 2.2billion naira.

Describing the story of the Agency quintessential, Mallam Abdullahi stated since its establishment, the Agency has been working assiduously to help Nigeria catch the train of the 4th industrial revolution without leaving any sector of the economy behind. He added that “NITDA has substantially actualised the National IT Policy’s goal to digitise Nigeria and it is now in the phase of digitising the country.

The director general further disclosed that with the expiration of the Agency’s Strategic roadmap from 2017-2020, the Agency would “unveil a new strategy which aims at raising the bar of the achievement a bit higher and support the National Digital Economy Policy for Digital Nigeria.”

He commended the strategic leadership of the founding fathers of the Agency and previous Chief Executive Officer of the Agency for the roles that they played in the attachment of the achievements.

In his vote of thanks, the permanent secretary, Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Festus Daudu commended NITDA for all the milestones achieved since inception in the development and repositioning of Nigeria in the ICT digital space. He thanked the director general of NITDA for organising the programme and prayed for more wisdom and strength.

He particularly thanked the supervising minister of Communications and Digital Economy whom he described as a “goal oriented personality” for his passion for the growth of the ministry and commended the other chief executive officers under the supervision of the ministry for their cooperation and support for one another.

The permanent secretary admonished the Press to always convey and transmit positive and inspiring news, that will always portray Nigeria in good light to the world at large.

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