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Developing Nigeria’s ICT Sector For Economic Growth

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By most accounts, a virile and well-developed Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry will invariably create jobs and stimulate the development of a country’s economy.

Such sentiments are quite logical, as ICT is globally recognised as a tool of national development and planning.

This is because the economic survival of any country in the information age of the 21st Century civilisation is somewhat contingent on its access to ICT and information networks.

Mr Osaze Omoragbon, a consultant on ICT, stressed that access to relevant information and technologies would surely provoke the transformation of industries, formal and informal sectors, defence, education and financial services, among others, in a country.

“The economies of developed countries are underpinned by ICT, even as it takes the front row in the development agenda of emerging market economies such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“These countries have built their economic development models around ICT,’’ he said.

Omoragbon, however, conceded that Nigeria and several other developing countries were striving to develop their economies via ICT.

In recognition of the invaluable contributions of ICT to national development, the Federal Government established the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) on May 24, 2001.

The agency, which is currently a parastatal agency of the Federal Ministry of Communications Technology, is saddled with the task of bridging the digital divide and repositioning Nigeria as a major player in the ICT world.

NITDA is also mandated to ensure the empowerment of the entire citizenry via Information Technology (IT), while stimulating the development of a critical mass of ICT-proficient and competitive manpower.

Since its establishment, NITDA has been initiating some measures to enhance ICT development in Nigeria and implement the government’s plans for the sector.

It has set up Rural Information Technology Centres (RITCs) as reliable vehicles for expanding public access to ICT services, particularly in the rural communities.

Through these centres, NITDA intends to provide ICT services, including Internet access, to communities in all the local governments of the country.

Prof. Cleopas Angaye, the Director-General of NITDA, said that about 250 RITCs had so far been established, adding that more than 60 RITCs were established in 2012 alone.

As part of efforts to increase Internet access and monitor online traffic in the country, Angaye said that NITDA had inaugurated its second Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in Port Harcourt.

He, however, stressed that the agency was planning to establish IXPs in all the six geopolitical zones of the country.

The director-general said that work on the Lagos IXP project was still ongoing, adding that the Lagos Higher Education Connectivity Project (LHECP), a multi-institutional project, was initiated by University of Lagos in partnership with the Lagos IXP.

Angaye said that the IXP programme was aimed at improving local Internet services and expanding the people’s access to quality ICT services at affordable costs.

However, analysts are often tempted to ask questions about the importance of current investments in ICT infrastructure to the country’s socio-economic development.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics reveal that in the first quarter of 2012, the ICT sector made a 5.83 per cent contribution to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

By implication, the ICT sector is the fourth largest contributor to the country’s GDP and the sector has been identified as the fastest growing sector in the Nigerian economy.

The sector has a 30-per-cent growth rate and it is employing more than two million people.

Gov. Idris Wada of Kogi, while inaugurating a RITC in Ejuku, Yagba West Local Government Area of Kogi, noted that the RITCs would spur development at the grassroots, while providing more jobs.

As part of designed efforts to strengthen ICT’s input to national development, the Ministry of Communications Technology, through NITDA, is also collaborating with local computer assembling firms, banks and ICT companies to provide computers for all students in tertiary institutions.

The Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson, said that the initial phase of the scheme would start with 12 universities across the country’s six geo-political zones.

She gave the assurance that the project would soon be extended to all tertiary institutions across the country because of its importance to the country’s socio-economic development.

Alhaji Ma’sud Elelu, the Rector of Kwara Polytechnic, Ilorin, whose institution received 15 computers, commended the government for the programme.

He pledged that the polytechnic would strive to make meaningful contributions efforts to boost Nigeria’s technological advancement.

Observers have been appealing to NITDA to initiate pragmatic strategies to fast-track Nigeria’s economic growth via purposeful ICT initiatives.

However, Angaye said that the agency had initiated a special “train-the-trainer’’ programme in ICT for university lecturers so as to keep university students abreast with current trends in the ICT world.

“The goal of the scheme, under which no fewer than 74 institutions has benefited, is to equip tertiary institutions with basic ICT tools and facilities that will enhance global competitiveness of Nigerian graduates.

“The policy, when eventually launched, will provide the much-needed impetus for the rapid development of the software industry in Nigeria.

“NITDA is also involved in various initiatives, including the development of National Software Policy, which is now awaiting the Federal Government’s approval.

“We believe that the enabling environment and regulatory framework provided by the policy will provide the needed incentive for the innovative skills of the youthful Nigeria population,’’ he said.

All the same, the stakeholders urge NITDA to sustain its proactive measures aimed at transforming the ICT sector.

They note that the benefits of the sector’s development include creation of employment, reduction of the cost of running businesses and boosting investors’ confidence in the country.

Oloniruha writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

 

Emmanuel Oloniruha

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Telecom Firm Trains Journalists On Artificial Intelligence

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Telecommunication company, 9mobile  Plc, has said that the company had trained some journalists across media houses in Nigeria on Artificial Intelligence-powered journalism.
The training, which was the third edition of the telco’s  capacity building initiative, designed to acquaint journalists with emerging trends in journalism, was  by multimedia producer and social media strategist, Usifo Omozokpea, who is currently the Audience Development Manager (West Africa) at The Conversation Africa.
According to Omozokpea, Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the simulation of human intelligence process or human activities through machines, especially computer systems.
He noted that there are specific applications of AI which includes expert systems, natural language processing, speech recognition and machine vision.
These tools, he said, enhance the job of media practitioners and can help them collaborate better.
According to him, there are various tools that have been designed to address specific media needs.
He urged participants to take advantage of the various AI tools at their disposal to improve their professional practice.
Speaking on the session, the Executive Director, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, 9mobile, Abdulrahman Ado, represented by 9mobile’s Public Relations  Lead, Chineze Amanfo, said that the knowledge shared during the training session had proven to be useful to all participants.
Ado noted that the knowledge gained by participants during the training will obviously aid them to work smarter and even create room for intelligent collaboration with their colleagues in a seamless and professional manner.

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INEC Admits Improvement On Voter Registration Exercise

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that over one million Nigerians have been added to the nation’s voter register.
The number of fresh online pre-registrants  was 3,165,189 while 1,457,766 have applied for voter transfer, replacement of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and update of information records.
National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, disclosed this in a statement announcing the end of the first quarter of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).
He said youths between the ages of 18 and 34 constituted the majority, with 771,770 (71.33 per cent) having completed registration.
In terms of occupation, students formed the largest category with 439,608 (40.63 per cent). In gender distribution, 555,872 (51.38 per cent) were male and 526,075 (48.62 per cent) female.
He said the second quarter of the exercise would begin October 4, 2021, and end December 20, 2021.
 “As provided by Section 19 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the Commission is mandated to publish the register of voters for a period of not less than five days and not more than 14 days for public scrutiny during which citizens may make claims and objections,
“In compliance with the law, the register of new voters will be displayed in the local government offices of the Commission nationwide from September 24 to 30, 2021.
“The aim is to enable citizens to assist the Commission by identifying ineligible registrants on the list ahead of the cleaning up of the register before adding the fresh registrants to the current register and printing their PVCs for future elections”, he said.
Okoye observed that ineligible registrants included foreigners and Nigerians below the age of 18. He also urged people to help the Commission identify multiple registrants and deceased persons so that they can be removed from the register.
Also, INEC placed a suspension on online pre-registration and in-person voter registrations across Lagos State.
It said the suspension was to give room for all registrants to check the appropriateness of information supplied. It said the stoppage would afford its officials the opportunity to embark on necessary housekeeping activities in preparation for the next quarter.
In a statement, yesterday, by its Head of Department, Voter Education/Publicity for Lagos, Femi Akinbiyi, INEC said online pre-registration and in-person registration exercise started on June 28, 2021, and July 26, 2021.

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LG Boss Constitutes Voters Mobilisation, Registration Committee

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Ahead the 2023 general elections, the Executive Chairman of Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area, Hon Vincent Nemieboka, has constituted voters mobilisation/ registration committee across wards and communities in the area.
Hon Nemieboka urged the constituted committee members to liaise with councillors to achieve the  desired objective. 
He  made the declaration during a stakeholders meeting on voters registration at Ogu,the council headquarters, recently.
The council boss reiterated that  eligible voters utilise  the opportunity as provided by the Independent Electoral Commission ( INEC ) to register for the 2023 elections.
He said that Ogu/ Bolo under his leadership would not hesitate to  provide the logistics and enabling environment  for the exercise.
“The essence of the exercise can never be over emphasised. The electorate can decide the future of Rivers cum Nigeria with their vote,” he said.
He  further  urged the Councillors,traditional rulers, Community Development Committees and youth bodies to assist in carrying out the  awareness and stressed  the need for eligible voters to participate in the on going exercise.
The council boss urged the electoral umpire to improve on its services to avoid disefranchising eligible voters in the area. 
Describing Governor Wike’s performance in infrastructural and human capital development as unprecedented, he called for improved network in order to enhance the process. 
He was of the view  that the only way to reciprocate the Governor’ s kind gesture was to  show more support and ensure that  eligible voters do the needful.
In his remarks, the  Assistant Electoral Officer in charge of voters enlightenment , Mr Austin Jonas thanked the Chairman for organising  such event and said that it was a welcome development.
Austin said the electoral body would work in synergy with council authorities to ensure the exercise was  hitch free.
In their Separate speeches,the leader  of Ogu/Bolo Legislative Assembly, Rt Hon Thompson Ogwunna, said that  the councillors would give the Chairman necessary support to succeed in his determination to deliver democratic dividends to the people. 
Thompson, who represent, Ward 11, described the chairman as God-sent , as he urged  eligible voters on the  need to  avail themselves of the opportunity. 
The Deputy Leader, Hon Tamuno Dikibala Ofori, in his contribution, said that the councillors were working  in synergy with the executive to achieve  the aim of the exercise. 
Hon Tamuno, who represents Ward Five in the Ogu/Bolo Legislative  Assembly, also urged  his people to register for the elections.

By: King Onunwor

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