NITDA chief advocates for a ‘digital first’ strategy in coronavirus recovery plan

On April 30, 2020, the Director-General of NITDA, Mr Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, delivered a presentation on the role of digital technology in limiting the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in a webinar organized by Nile University of Nigeria. The webinar themed “Dealing with Coronavirus: Digital First Perspective,” was another in a series of virtual seminars held by the Nile University of Nigeria in its quest to ensure that its non-classroom educational activities (similar to its regular lectures) are not disrupted by COVID-19.

This sentiment was echoed in the program’s opening address by the Vice-Chancellor of Nile University of Nigeria, Prof. Osman Nuri Aras, who stated the University’s commitment to continuing its educational activities (both classroom and non-classroom) uninterrupted. According to Prof. Aras, Nile University of Nigeria has implemented the necessary measures to ensure that its students can continue to attend lectures and seminars in the comfort of their homes and without compromising their safety.

Following the Vice-Chancellor’s address was the webinar presentation by Mr. Abdullahi. In his presentation, Mr Abdullahi stated that the current pandemic and the resultant social distancing measures have made digital technology an indispensable part of people’s lives. The likes of Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook, and other similar online platforms have become the only means through which individuals and organizations can stay connected to the outside world and remain operational respectively. In recognition of the importance of digital technology in minimizing the disruption caused by COVID-19 to the activities of individuals and enterprises, he continued, NITDA and the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy have created a number of initiatives.

One such initiative is the NITDA Academy (a virtual learning environment), which was commissioned by the Honorable Minister of the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, on April 29. Other schemes launched by the Agency in this regard include the Nigeria COVID-19 Innovation Challenge and the Startup Clinic.

Mr. Abdullahi also stressed the need for the Nigerian government and other relevant stakeholders to adopt a “digital first” strategy in their recovery plans following the easing of lockdown measures. According to him, pending the discovery of a vaccine for the virus, business operations and all other human activities will remain restricted. Thus, it is imperative for the government and various enterprises to start working toward implementing the necessary digital infrastructure to enable them and individuals to operate effectively in this new world. These include infrastructure to support activities like online shopping, contactless payment, remote work, distance learning, telehealth, among others.

He concluded the lecture by highlighting some of the unintended benefits of COVID-19, one of which is increased technological innovation. For instance, the coronavirus pandemic has led to the emergence of disinfection and contact tracing technologies, to name a few.

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