With 97 Million Nigerians Online, The Government Needs To Do More To Leverage On The Power Of The Internet

The recently concluded two-day Nigerian Digital Innovation Conference organized by the Centre for Cyber Awareness and Development (CECAD) in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Kano State government and Bayero University, Kano has stressed on the importance of building a country with a viable digital economy.

The conference, themed Building A New Nigeria In A Digital Economy, featured ICT stakeholders such as the Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria CEO Mr. Mohammed Rudman, Executive Director of CECAD Bayero Agabi, Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, Nigeria's Minister of Communications Barrister Adebayo Shittu, Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Prof. Umar Danbatta, and Prof. M. Y. Bello, Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, amongst others.

In his opening remarks, Bayero Agabi explained how ICT is a growth enabler and how other nations are using it as a tool to their advantage.

“ICT is a veritable tool for economic development", Mr Agabi noted, "and broadband penetration must be accelerated to speed up delivery of ICT innovations in Nigeria.”

Digital innovation is already forming the basis of new social currency. Any government that fails to provide opportunities in this space will surely lose its relevance.

“We must use ICT to innovate in our competitiveness", Yusuf Kazaure of Galaxy Backbone PLC said. "This we must do by coming out with policies and regulations that would encourage innovation among our youth.”

Mohammed Rudman also noted that the Nigerian government is not leveraging on the power of Internet, even as 97 million Nigerians actively use the medium.

Internet access in Nigeria has grown rapidly, with the number of active mobile phone subscribers increasing from almost none in 2000 to over 148 million subscribers, or a 106% teledensity in March 2016, as reported by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Despite the rapid growth of the country's telecommunications sector, the government of Nigeria has failed to create policies in favour of the ICT sector. Rather, internet freedom has been threatened with proposed policies such as the 2015 Frivolous Petitions Bill, which was meant to curtail Nigerians' freedom of expression on the Internet.

A report by Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) notes that there has been a trend of increasing budgetary allocation for surveillance equipment, including Internet communications monitoring.

Agabi further stated that the essence of the digital innovation conference was to see how Nigeria, its businesses and innovations are responding to the digitally competitive world. He said that one of the observations made over time is that there is a gap in capacity building among the youths of Northern Nigeria.

“We have identified a gap in the area of capacity building for the youths. We are already in discussions with our partners to bridge that gap by exposure the youths to ICT tools that would make them competitive and create jobs for themselves and others,” he said.

This explains why the Centre for Cyber Awareness and Development (CECAD), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Kano State government and Bayero University will sign a digital innovation pact for youths of Northern Nigeria.

Hopefully, details of the digital innovation pact will surface soon.