Emma Okonji

Moved by the ravaging effects of Covid-19 that has compelled countries around the globe to look inwards, the federal government has said it will engage indigenous digital technology companies to improve digital services to citizens in post Covid-19.

The Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Kashifu Abdullahi, said this during a recent webinar organised jointly by NITDA and Co-Creation Hub (CCHub).

Abdullahi, who was represented by the Director, IT Infrastructure Solution at NITDA, Abdulahi Usman, said: “In Nigeria, the effect of the Covid-19 on the economy, governance and public service delivery has spurred a greater urgency for the development of government digital services and a digital economy for Nigeria.

“Therefore, engaging our indigenous innovative digital technology companies will play a vital role to improving services to citizens in these trying times and beyond.”

With the theme: ‘Harnessing Indigenous Solution’s for Public Sector Innovation and Digital Economy Development’, Abdullahi said as the agency of government mandated to assess and clear all Information Technology (IT) Projects of Federal Public Institutions (FPIs) in Nigeria, NITDA has assessed 62 projects worth N1.2 trillion between January and May 2020. He added that N64.9 billion was spent on software and software enabled projects to be delivered by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in service to the public.

“Our assessment shows that even more can been achieved, with a deeper collaboration between the public and private sectors going forward using technology as a driver for public services.

“These types of collaboration will create vast opportunities for more Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) or collaboration with multilaterals and Development Finance Institutions (DFI’s) to even co-fund these projects and deepen the opportunity for learning to create tailor made solutions for societal problems.

“Also, as public finances are strained due to the global economic downturn as triggered by the pandemic, the opportunity for innovation and co-ideation will bring other benefits and partnerships to MDAs to include capacity building and access to global tools in addition to other finance sources,” NITDA Director General said.

According to him, NITDA would soon issue frameworks on the development of Government Digital Services and Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in IT Projects as there is an urgent need for government to accelerate the delivery of government digital services for the benefit of Nigerians.

Therefore, for the successful development and delivery of Government Digital Services, it is significantly important that innovative Nigerian companies are engaged very early in the project conceptualisation and design stages to achieve some of the benefits highlighted, he said.

Ecosystem Development Manager, Office for Nigerian Content Development In ICT at NITDA, Yakubu Musa Yakubu, who presented a paper titled, ‘Foundational Regulations and Policies for Innovation In the Public Sector,’ stressed the need for Presidential Executive Orders that would drive government policies on digital service deliveries. He said such orders would support local content in public procurement by MDAs, give preference for indigenous goods and services in government procurements, and encourage local sourcing of at least 40 per cent of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) procurement spend in all MDAs.

Co-founder, CC-Hub, Bosun Tijani, in his presentation on ‘Harnessing Technology and Leveraging Research for Public Sector Innovation’, highlighted the importance of data and behavioral research that would boost research and development objectives.

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