That Virtual Commissioning of ICT Projects in Nigeria
By Inyene Ibanga

Nigeria’s determination to transform into a leading continental Information and Communication Technology ICT hub is yielding the desired fruits. The aim of training and equipping a new crop of certified experts in the emerging areas of technology is the focus of the leadership of relevant Ministry and agencies of the federal government. The authorities are set to deploy these ICT-competent citizens as the major driving force for the country’s economic diversification programme.

A key objective of the diversification programme is to move from the current natural resources-based economy to a digital economy driven by knowledge. Under this approach, the emphasis is on the effective combination of education and knowledge to build a high level of human capital. This can only be accomplished through the coordinated application of Information Technology IT in all sectors of the economy.

Unfolding developments strongly indicate that the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is more than committed to put Nigeria on the frontline of ICT development. For the first time in Nigeria, a Minister commissioned several projects in different locations across the country in one single day. How is this possible?

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, demonstrated the endless possibilities of technology during the Second Phase of the Virtual Commissioning of Projects. Physically present in Abuja, he was able to commission all the projects within two hours.

A total of 11 ICT projects were virtually commissioned by the Minister. They include the Tertiary Institution Knowledge Centre (TIKC) in Delta State University, Abraka; School Knowledge Centre (SKC) at Government Day Secondary School, Hassan Central, Gombe State; a Health Data Sharing Centre, at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), in Bauchi State and aVirtual Examination Centre in University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), Borno State

Others are the Information Technology Innovation Park at the Kogi State University, in Ayingba; Emergency Communications Centres (ECCs) at Ilorin and Calabar, in Kwara and Cross-Rivers States, respectively.

Also, the minister commissioned the Information Technology Capacity Centres sited in Jigawa and Imo States, a Neighboourhood Post Office in Awka, Delta State as well as a remodeled National Mail Exchange Centre in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

The projects were executed by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) and the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST).

Interestingly, the successful completion and inauguration of these landmark ICT infrastructures highlights the pivotal role of the Ministry in coordinating agencies operating under it to ensure they achieve their specific mandates. The ability of each agency to realize its mandate would serve as a major boost for the emergence of Nigeria’s digital economy.

As a trailblazer in the efficient deployment of technology, the minister opened a new vista in the inauguration of infrastructure without necessarily being physically present on the location. Beyond saving time and reducing cost, this would go a long way in reducing the attendant risks involved in travelling to inaugurate infrastructure. It would help to cut down the cost of governance while also checkmating the scourge of corruption in public procurement.

It is not surprising that Governors Inuwa Yahaya and Senator Hope Uzodinma of Gombe and Imo States alongside Ministers of Information and Cuture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and his counterpart from the Ministry of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola attended the event. Also in attendance were heads of agencies relevant to security, economy and technology.

Obviously, the attendance of these public officials is a demonstration of their endorsement of this novel initiative by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy through the collaborative efforts of some of its agencies.

In a remark, Pantami noted that these key projects would enhance internal security, economic development and the fight against corruption.

“These emergency communication centers would make internal security much easier. It would support security institutions in the country. The ICT incubation centers that are being constructed all over the country, championed by the National Information Technology Development Agency, will go far in promoting and developing our economy particularly economic diversification.

“Some of the projects related to E-governance will help fight corruption, because the more our activities are being digitalized, the less people interact physically, and as you reduce physical interaction, corruption will definitely reduce significantly.”
Minister of interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola urged the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and its agencies to effectively deploy technology to strengthen security.

“Security is the bases of governance because people surrender their liberty to a state primarily and purposely for the assurance of security. Security is too key to be toiled with. What I plead for is that the ministry of communication, NCC and other agencies make emergency centers everywhere and operationalize them.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Pantami has been in the forefront of the campaign for development of critical manpower to engender a seamless transition into a digital and knowledge-based economy. This resolve is amply demonstrated by the Minister when he announced that about 36,000 young Nigerians have been trained and certified in several virtual institutions established by the federal government.

The Minister assured that under his watch, the Ministry is well-positioned to champion the government’s strategic efforts towards diversification of the economy through the development of skilled manpower to actualize this objective. He pledged to build a legacy of ICT

Indeed, this is a huge step towards developing a large pool of quality human capital in the emerging ICT specializations needed to accomplish knowledge-based economy. Such areas include Artificial Intelligence, Digital Investigations, Information Assurance and Security, and Software Analysis and Development among others.
It is against this background that the agencies under the Ministry are applauded for laying a solid foundation to enable the creation of local digital skills and contents to bridge the existing digital gap. The synergy existing between the Ministry and its agencies is worthy of mention and should be emulated by other Ministries, Departments and Agencies to facilitate sustainable development national development that cut across all the critical sectors of health, education, security, agriculture, environment, power and energy.

In conclusion, there is need for the agencies to focus on the realization of their mandates through a transparent and accountable process. They should provide the necessary infrastructure and facilities to enable more Nigerians participate in the virtual realities of today. Yes, virtual commissioning of projects has come to stay in Nigeria.

Inyene Ibanga is Manager, Special Project Manager at Image Merchants Promotion Limited, Abuja