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Mr Peter Jack is the Director General of the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). He led the Nigerian delegation to the just-concluded Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates where the country made a good showing. He spoke with Bode Adewumi on the event and other issues bordering on the development in the industry. Excerpts:

Nigeria was a partner at the just-concluded Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX), what do you think the country took out of it?

In selecting GITEX to showcase the investment opportunities in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector in Nigeria, we had a lot to consider in that the event is a big one, which is usually well-attended. This year, there were over 60 countries and over 3,700 companies in attendance. It is usually a large event and NITDA was the official country partner this year.

What we did was to showcase the investment opportunities in the ICT sector of Nigeria to the rest of the world. Over the few days, we received a lot of interests from Missions of various countries passing through our pavilion and had indicated their desires to discuss their interests in the sector.

But many are still wary of the security situation in the country, what is your view of this fact?

Well, you know that a lot of effort is being put in place by the government to ensure that there is security of lives and properties. And in any case, you will remember the Ebola outbreak and that Nigeria is one of the countries that has successfully eradicated the disease.

However, when it comes to national security, there are lots of regional activities going on. Recently, the president met with other West African counterparts to ensure concerted efforts in combating criminality in the region, particularly at the borders. Therefore, government is not relenting in this regard and I am sure the whole world is aware of these efforts.

How do you think government can run more efficiently using ICT, especially using indigenous contents?

There is a sister agency known as the Galaxy Backbone that is saddled with this type of function. As you would have known by now, NITDA has ceded some responsibilities as we do not want to bite more than we can chew. What we have done is to steadily reduce our mandate by creating other sub agencies like Galaxy, who is now responsible for infrastructure. About 10 years ago, we created national e-government strategies to take responsibility in ensuring public or private partnership approach to deploy e-health, e-agriculture, e-education and so on.

At the event, you saw some of our success stories, there was Sidmach Technology, and there was Cinfores, quite a number of them with solutions that are tested and delivering quality services for the country. There were more than 20 ICT companies from Nigeria who participated in this year’s event. Yes, we are using technology for the smooth running of government and in the provision of services to the people. There are so many examples. There is e-passport; there is e-agriculture, e-health and many others.

There are many of these that we are proud of. Recently, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) launched the national identity card programme for Nigerians and we all know the importance of this. So, there are a lot of initiatives with regard to ICT that are being employed by the government to create a better society for Nigerians,

Going forward on that, how do think government can use e-security to further secure the country against threats from within and without?

I will like to talk about that in two dimensions. There is the physical dimension and there is the electronic dimension. In the physical dimension, you know we have the Nigerian Communication Satellite (NigComSat) that is responsible for our satellite communication. And indeed there is a substantial bandwidth; I am working with the Nigerian Internet Exchange and the Ministry of Communication and Technology in order to put in place some effort to facilitate a level of protection across the borders in terms of coverage of the country.

In terms of physical security, yes there were threats, but you know government’s efforts are ensuring the containment of such threats.

What is NITDA doing to help local contents development in the country?

Only recently, NITDA in partnership with the Ministry of Communication Technology launched what we called Local Content Guideline and we have also established the office of the Local Content in ICT and the office is about to be formally opened to the public. We have also through the media warned the public to be aware of the level of patronage given to foreign made products as well goods and services in the ICT sector. We have also indicated that there is a commitment by government to support made in Nigeria products. All those companies at GITEX event were software developers and Nigerian hardware vendors.

At the event, we saw some Nigerian students who came to compete with students from other countries in software development, what are the plans for these students and others like them in the country who have distinguished themselves in ICT?

Actually, those students you saw at the event were part of a competition GITEX organised and I am proud to announce that two Nigerian teams won and that was why they were there and there was also another Nigerian on one of the teams from one other country. So, you can see that the presence of Nigerians was substantial there.

But what we are trying to do to encourage these start-ups is that in the first place, we have established in partnership with the Ministry of Communication Technology what we called the Information Technology Developers Entrepreneurship accelerator idea hubs in Lagos and Calabar. We have also established a software development centre in Lekki Phase 1, not so far from where we are moving our Lagos regional office to.

Our Lagos regional office will co-locate the software testing centre of world class. All of these initiatives are intended to take care of the entire start-ups or software innovation ecosystem, which starts from the ideas, all the way to the market. So, we have made a provision to ensure that these young start-ups are exposed to the various opportunities in particular they can get mentorship, support and coaching to take their products quality level where they are prepared to showcase to investors.

What I am saying here is that we also have an idea hub in Calabar at the Tinapa where are partnering with the Cross River State government to establish the Knowledge City. But the grand project is the one we are doing in Lagos, the Lagos Smart City.

The Lagos Smart City is a 48-hectare initiative at the Lekki Free Trade Zone. The project is going to incorporate a typical smart city where you have the innovation hub, Internet city, a complete smart city, which is what we are looking at to deploy in Lagos. And of course you aware of the Abuja Technology Village. What has happened is that between the Lagos Smart City and the Abuja Technology Village, we are planning to host the Computer and Allied Products Developers Association of Nigeria to a meeting.

What we are doing with them is to put them in two places. One in Ikeja and the other in Lekki area. The GSM and Computer Village in Abuja recently faced some challenges, I personally went there to assure them that we will try and relocate them at the Abuja Technology village and we have made some progress in this respect.

What are the hindrances you are facing in the course of doing all these things?

We have always looked at challenges to do with funding limitations as opportunities because we are not relying strictly on government resources. Our primary strategy is a multi-stakeholder partnership strategy, which I always explain is the best way forward, everybody wins. The international community development partners have been approaching us, particularly people like the Rockefeller Foundation; they are trying to look at how we can co-locate their job creation opportunities within our rural information technology centres. We are saying even where there appears to be some challenges, we are mitigating these challenges by engaging as many potential development partners as possible. So that, wherever we have limited resources, we take advantage of the mandate and the intervention plans of these international agencies.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Bode Adewumi

Quelle/Source: Nigerian Tribune, 21.10.2014

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