By Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata
All forward-looking nationalities are powering their economies with technology and Nigeria cannot be the exception, if she wants to compete favourably in the comity of nations. Recently, I was with Lanre Osibona, Senior Special Assistant to the President on ICT and he shared some of the strategies and policies that the government is putting in place, to ensure that Nigeria, is indeed, positioned to become a nation, powered with technology.
Lanre stated that the big area that the government is looking at, is the trend word going around, which is that, ‘data is more valuable than crude‘. “One of the biggest efforts of this administration, is to make sure we digitize government data, hence, we coined the phrase, smart digital economy, smart Nigeria’, he stated. He stressed that the government is the biggest repository of data in the country. “Citizens identification, government processes, government data, government land registry, farm information, etc. We need to bring these into a digital form”, he emphasized.
Lanre stressed that the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, has been tasked by an Act, to identify all Nigerians, kicked off about 10 years ago, but there has been a lot of issues with the delivery by the Commission. This, he said, gave rise to other Agencies to start pursuing their own identification processes, such as the BVN, the FRSC for Drivers License, NCC, INEC, etc. He said it is time for us to now harmonize all these into one. He explained that the process of harmonization has already commenced and over 23 million have been harmonized quietly without spending a kobo.
On the strategy adopted, Lanre stated that one of the strategies to adopt in capturing the 80% of the rural population, is to register them as they access government services. This, he said has not commenced because the government is currently busy with the harmonization of data between the other Agencies and NIMC. He stressed that the beauty of that strategy will be that, for instance, as you are being registered for INEC, you are, automatically being registered for NIMC.
“We need to encourage the Agencies of government and that’s the beauty of what NITDA is doing, to implement solutions that allow technology to digitize a lot of these paper-based approaches that we have today”, Lanre stated. This, he further stressed, will enhance our ease of doing business. “We see government as one Agency and it is connected it is connected to one another because of the benefit of technology and it should be able to share information with itself, seamlessly. If you come into CAC to register a company, for instance, CAC at the backend, can talk to FIRS, can talk to, even, NIMC, can talk to whoever else they want to talk to“, he emphasized. Lanre stated that a good policy will, is necessary for this to happen, but technology has to make it happen at the backend.
On what the government is doing, to ensure that Startups gets support from the government, Lanre stated that he witnessed the growth of the Startups ecosystem and he is proud of it. Some of the efforts of government, he mentioned, include the launching of the Aso Villa Demo Day, where 30 top players emerged and have gone ahead to do big things. He also mentioned the World bank support that gave grants to 80 of these Startups as a result of the Aso Villa Demo Day. “That means recognition. That is a means by which they can scale up”, he stressed. He stated that a lot of those Startups have gone on to Silicon Valley and Startup 500. He, however, observed that government should not be too much involved, but rather create policies and an enabling environment that will support the Startups ecosystem.
Lanre concluded that the other thing the government will focus on is infrastructure as well as focus on getting the adoption of some of their solutions by the MDA’s and government for their usage.
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