Attending Events Like GITEX Shows us the Gaps and Encourages us to do More- Isa Ibrahim

Isa Ibrahim, Director General, NITDA with CFA
Isa Ibrahim, Director General, NITDA with CFA

By Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata (CFA)

Nigeria is one African country that puts on a good outing at each edition of the GITEX Technology Week, one of the world’s technology events which hold in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, UAE. The Director-General, DG, of the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Isa Ibrahim, led other government officials, both at the Federal and State levels, to tour the Dubai Pavilion at the just concluded GITEX Technology Week 2017, in order to learn from their experiences.

After the tour, I had a discussion with him to know what his experiences were as well as other issues.

He stated that he learnt some lessons, which he will be bringing to Nigeria in order to help grow the IT industry in Nigeria. “One of the lessons we have learnt is that other nations are not sleeping. They are progressing. They are developing and as long as we want to remain relevant, then, we need to progress in ICT”, he maintained. He also observed that between the last GITEX Technology week in October 2016 and this year’s  GITEX Technology Week 2017, it was obvious that the UAE had progressed tremendously in ICT. “This is an indication that, if we are sleeping, other nations are not, so, we have to wake up and ensure that we try to increase our pace”, he asserted.

The NITDA DG stated that, since the event last year, NITDA has been at the vanguard of monitoring our Startups. He also stated that NITDA had established strategic partnerships through IT regulations, improvement of standards and government digital services. On whether the right environment is being created for the Startups to grow in Nigeria, the DG stated that the best is being done to assist the Startups, working within the constraints of resources, etc.

He stated that, in spite of these constraints, NITDA was always there for the Startups, through mentoring, guidance and counselling. “secondly, we usually support them with seed funding. It could not be sufficient, but it is a clear indication that we are willing to do more, as long as the resources are available”, he explained. He stated that another assistance that NITDA does for the Startups, is the annual sponsorship of them to the GITEX Technology week events and this year, 10 Startups were sponsored, 100%, to the GITEX Technology Week in Dubai, in spite of the constraints.

Answering a question on whether investors are interested in partnering with our Startups, the NITDA DG responded in the affirmative and explained that, as he speaks, Google has indicated interest in partnering with some of the Nigerian Startups that were taken to GITEX Technology Week 2017. He emphasised that our Startups are doing wonderfully well and some countries and Multinational companies, MNC’s, are also looking for ways of taking up for mentoring or partnership.

In the opinion of the NITDA DG, organising events like the GITEX Technology Week is relevant to Nigeria because no nation can develop IT alone without sharing their experiences with others as they need to engage in strategic partnerships professional collaboration and much more. He stressed that, by attending events like GITEX all over the world, gives the Nigerian IT industry the opportunity to see what other nations have achieved compared to what we have achieved, note the gap and encourage us to do more.

“NITDA came in touch with many MNC’s and up till now, we maintain our contacts and relationship with them. Recently, some MNC’s are even supporting us to develop some standards and guidelines, based on their experience and expertise as well”, he noted, on the importance of attending such events.

On how these foreign partnerships will not be for only the importation of products and services, but also include the increase in our local content input, the DG stated that NITDA always emphasises at meetings with these MNC’s that, Nigeria is interested in them coming to domesticate their products in Nigeria and not for Nigeria to be importing from them. “The advantage to being derived from this, include the reduction of the pressure on our local currency, reduction in unemployment in Nigeria and also an improvement in the image of our country”, he observed.

The idea, he further stated, is to encourage our local manufacturers to learn from these MNC’s to develop our local content. On his personal assessment of himself in office in the past one year, the DG stated that third parties are in a better position to assess his work at NITDA in the past one year. He, however, noted that NITDA has, so far, achieved a lot, but there are still much more things to be done.

You can watch the full interview here.

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