New NITDA sheriff to wrest IT watchdog from contractors

New NITDA sheriff to wrest IT watchdog from contractors

New NITDA sheriff to wrest IT watchdog from contractors

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The new sheriff at National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) plans to transform the government agency from contract-awarding to become key driver of information technology (IT) for Nigeria

Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the new Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) says he is working to ensure that the Nigerian IT regulator delivers on its mandates rather than being a “contract awarding” agency.

Any Ministry, Department or Agency (MDA) in the public sector that deploys Information technology without getting clearance from NITDA will be sanctioned, says the IT agency’s new chief.

The DG said this at the West Africa Convergence Conference (WACC 2016) held this week at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Lagos, and explains that NITDA has been mandated by law as the clearing house for all Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) on the deployment of IT in Nigeria.

Any Ministry, Department or Agency (MDA) in the public sector that deploys Information technology without getting clearance from NITDA will be sanctioned, says the IT agency’s new chief.

Pantami who spoke on the theme “Convergence, IT Regulations and the Promotion of Local Content”, explains that the NITDA Act 2007 empowers the government agency to develop guidelines, framework, standards and regulation for IT deployment, IT maintenance and innovation in Nigeria, which he said has been neglected over the years.

“NITDA is the regulatory body of Information Technology in Nigeria, and this is clearly stated in the NITDA Act 2007. If you look at the Act, it empowers NITDA to develop guidelines, framework, standards and regulation for IT deployment, IT maintenance and even IT innovation in Nigeria. NITDA is the regulatory body of IT and also the strong adviser of government and private sector when it comes to IT. So, it also the advisory body of IT deployment, IT maintenance and IT innovation in Nigeria,” Pantami told the WACC 2016 audience.

According to the DG, the NITDA Act 2007 clearly states the mandate of the agency regarding regulation and sanctions to be imposed on MDAs that fail to adhere to the guidelines and regulations developed by the IT agency.

Welcome on board, Dr Vincent Olatunji, former acting Director General of NITDA, seems to says to new DG of the agency in this file photo. Photo credit: NITDA
Welcome on board, Dr Vincent Olatunji, former acting Director General of NITDA, seems to says to new DG of the agency in this file photo. Photo credit: NITDA

“For the MDAs, NITDA is also the clearing house for any deployment of all MDAs. This is according to the Federal Government circular which was released on the 18th of April, 2006 from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. That circular emphasises strongly that any MDA that intends to deploy IT gadget in Nigeria must approach NITDA seeking for clearance and certificate of compliance. Meaning that NITDA is the clearing house for IT deployment for MDAs in the nation, another indication that NITDA is the regulatory body for IT in Nigeria”, according to Pantami.

“On IT deployment, if you look at section 17, subsection 1 also states that any MDA, any Ministry or Department or Agency that deploys IT without seeking for clearance from NITDA commits an offence. In section 17, subsection 2, clearly states that, the Executive officer or any Officer as the case may be, should be fined or be imprisoned for one year. And he repeats the same mistake; he should be imprisoned for three years.

“These are some of our mandates that have been neglected and many people are not aware of this. And this is very important. IT regulation is very important. You can’t develop your capacity without regulation,” the NITDA chief says.

He believes that leaving an entire sector without regulation is like leaving a house without any door, without controlling who comes in and goes out.

“Regulation is for us to avoid that. At least to have a good door that will close your house and open it at the time you wish, meaning that you have control of your house. You have your key at your disposal, you open your house whenever you wish to do that and you close it whenever you wish to close,” Pantami says.

While explaining to the WACC 2016 audience that the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) is the regulatory body of Communication Technology in Nigeria, Pantami says NITDA is the regulatory body of Information Technology in Nigeria, which he sees as a “wide mandate.”

The NITDA chief says that “our sole responsibility as encapsulated in our mandate is to regulate IT in Nigeria. And this is something that has been neglected.

Peter Jack, Director-General of NITDA
Peter Jack, former Director-General of NITDA

The NITDA chief says that “our sole responsibility as encapsulated in our mandate is to regulate IT in Nigeria. And this is something that has been neglected. Why? Because of the scope of our mandate, the mandate is very wide. It is difficult for you to fulfill all at once. There must be strategic plan. You must get your priorities right so as to look at what to give more emphasis. So, based on the mandate, whoever wants to deploy any facility in the public or the private sector, should approach NITDA seeking for an advice on how to deploy.”

Speaking on the promotion of local content, the NITDA boss said for Nigeria to develop in IT, there is need to place more emphasis on local content patronage and deployment.

Along this line, there is a need to strengthen the enforcement of local content deployment and patronage through regulations so as to boost the country’s economy and create more jobs.

“Without regulation, you cannot in any way promote our local content. You cannot in any way encourage and motivate people to patronise you. Look at our local industries all over they are complaining about patronage. Why? Because we have this mentality that whatever we have that is made in Nigeria is ‘local’” he adds.

“Another circular emphasising the importance of local content was issued by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on 17th July, 2012. We need to give more priority to our local content deployment, and this is very important. Any nation that is developing in IT gives more emphasis to local content,” according to Pantami.

He continues thus: “Regulation is not in any way trying to frustrate our genuine effort, but actually trying to have a good control of whatever we do, and this is very important. No nation will develop its local content without regulation.”

The amount spent annually on ICT importation in Nigeria, the NITDA DG says “is approximately around $2.6 billion annually, and this amount is projected to reach around $1.7 trillion by 2020, which is almost six times our current budget. That is why we are putting more pressure on our local content.”

He noted that some of the goods that are imported into the nation are not up to the standards of what is being produced in here in Nigeria. “But we admire other nations, whatever they do we admire and patronise, but whatever we see made in Nigeria, we neglect it.”

Pantami further highlights the case of India saying that the country’s success in the software business is as a result of the emphasis they placed on the patronage of local content.

“We all admire the efforts of India when it comes to software. But they started striving on how to strengthen their local content since around 1967. But today, because of their patronage of local content and their expertise, India is generating around $1.7 million annually just from software only. And this local content creates 2.6 million to 2.7 million direct jobs annually.”

The NITDA DG wants Nigerians to champion the patronage of local content by Nigerians to strengthen the Naira, which will in turn boost the economy of the nation and create jobs for Nigerians.

Earlier, while explaining the meaning of convergence, the NITDA DG says technological convergence is the bringing together of different technologies to perform a similar task. “The task you have been performing with your telephone, particularly land line, you can use your computer or tablet to perform it.”

The NITDA DG said as technologies are being converged together, it is an indication that relevant agencies and parastatals of government should collaborate and work together. Otherwise, it will be difficult for them to perform their responsibilities effectively.

He underscores that it is very important for them to work together, to collaborate together to have good understanding of their mandate and what they represent because they are becoming more and more closer to each other.

“ICT convergence or digital convergence is an indication that stakeholders must always have good understanding and try to work and collaborate together and they should have some selected fora where they meet together and discuss about their mandate and responsibilities, which is very important,” he says.

According to him, communication technology “is slowly sneaking into information technology” as many things that are being done with telecom gadgets can now be done with IT gadget. He also said about four different industries are now converging together into a single sector – ICT.

 

ngNOG 2016 Workshop
Photo file shows participants at ngNOG 2016 Workshop

According to him, communication technology “is slowly sneaking into information technology” as many things that are being done with telecom gadgets can now be done with IT gadget. He also said about four different industries are now converging together into a single sector – ICT.

“In the real sense, it is the communication technology that is sneaking into information technology. This is because, whatever we have been doing with communication technology, now we can do it with information technology. Now with your computer at your disposal, you can make phone calls. With your Facebook, you can download messenger and make phone call, and at the same time, you can send text messages, you can even download WhatsApp and many other things and send text messages. You can only use your IT gadgets to do whatever you have been doing with telecommunications gadgets.

“So, it is not just about convergence, it’s about one coming into another, and this is something that is very important. Four industries are converging together here. For example, information technology, telecommunications technology, consumer electronics and even entertainment,” Pantami says.

For him, “now we are moving into a situation where even entertainment is becoming part of ICT. And that is why in many forum, you can count even our representatives, at the same time, our expert like in the media, to be part of ICT stakeholders. Why? Because these technologies are coming together, and some of them are sneaking to others, and that is what brings about the convergence we are talking about.”

Information technology is independent of communication technology, and communication technology was independent of information technology, according to Pantami. But now, they are being brought together, where we have information and communication technology instead of having information technology on one hand and communication technology on the other hand.

The event was chaired by Dr. Sola Afolabi, Chairman of Qitech Technologies Ltd, and was attended by many stakeholders within the ICT ecosystem that include: Mr. Olusola Teniola, President, Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON); Mr. Tayo Adeniyi, President, Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN); Ms Abimbola Alale, MD/CEO of Nigcomsat Ltd; Mr. Tunde Coker, CEO Rack Centre; Mr. Bimbo Abioye, Director/CEO Fintrack Software Limited; Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola, Chair, Consultancy Support Services Ltd; and Mr. Collins Onuegbu of Lagos Angel Network LAN, among others.

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Success Kafoi Journalist at Technology Times Media. Mobile: 08077671673 email: success.kafoi@technologytimes.ng

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