By Emeka Aginam
While declaring digital future forÂ Nigeria by the year 2020, participants at the just concludedÂ Information Technology Public-Private Forum, (ITPPF) heldÂ in Abuja last week, expressed worries over theÂ level of IT development in the country for Vision 20-2020 attainment, saying that the countryâ€™s dream to be among 20 top economies of the world by the year 2020 may be derailed unless ICT is infused into national polity.
At the event that attracted no fewer than 100 high level public officials, opinion leaders and private IT industry captains, ICT administrators, professionals, business leaders,Â majority of speakers noted that for Nigeria to benefit from the new digital age and be globally competitive, IT must be given priority attention.
Majority of the participants at the event organized by the Information Technology Association of Nigeria, (ITAN) were worried that the stakes are too high to leave the promise of digital revolution to chance as the digital age will benefit a select few, leaving the rest to sink further into an abyss of ignorance, conflict, poverty and misfortune.
According to the ITAN ITPPF, Vision 20 -2020 remains a well conceived laudable vision of the Federal Government of Nigeria, adding that it isÂ the consensus of all participants that the vision be re-engineered to focus on a Digital Nigeria by the year 2020 (DN 2020).Â The Digital Nigeria 2020 vision, the participants noted, should achieve a digitally competitive Nigeria by 2020 and beyond, given that there is free and fair elections in 2011 and beyond; there is stable government at the Federal, State and the local levels and there is policy continuum for progressive development processes
While Nigeriaâ€™s GDP ranking according to 2008 World Bank estimates is 38 in the world, the participants agreed that the ranking should not be the end in itself, rather the competitiveness of the economy that gives opportunity to every citizen in a digital world is of essence by the year 2020.
Speaking at the event, ITAN President Dr Jimson Olufuye told the gathering that the vision of Nigeria to be one of the 20 most developed economies in the world by the year 2020 is a vision to attain a GDP of about US$900b by that year.
â€œWithout mincing words, I wish to assert that it is ONLY ICT that can drive the vision. ICT should not take the backstage! More resources MUST be appropriated for ICT capacity building, infrastructure development, the running of government process to open up governance and to promote transparency and accountability and more importantly to empower Nigerians digitally by the year 2020.
â€œA competitive Nigeria is more desirable than a Nigeria which depends on natural resources (as it is now) for economic development. Therefore, instead of targeting a particular position on the economic table it might be plausible to envision a Nigeria in 2020 where all citizens are digitally prepared to compete in the data centric world,â€ Dr Olufuye said.
For the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Prof. Cleopas Angaye, all hands must be on desk to fulfil the promise of the digital revolution for everyone.
To compete for the challenges ahead, Nigeria like other countries, according to the NITDA DG,Â needs to be digitally ready to take advantage of the new technologies. Failure to so according to NITDA DG, will make country lag behind in the knowledge society.
Reacting for the challengesÂ before Nigeria ahead of vision 20-2020, theÂ World Information Technology and Services Alliance, WITSA Chairman, Dato Dan E. Khoo earlier in his goodwill message noted that it is vital that ICT leaders and policy makers in Nigeria ensure that structures, systems, people and processes are put in place and sustained through open discussion and fora like this.
â€œI understand that this vision 20 2020 forms the foundation for Nigeriaâ€™s future and the steps your country needs to take to reach it goals. The ITPPFâ€™S efforts in planning and outlining the issues and strategic initiatives will empower your journey towards Nigeriaâ€™s vision 20 2020 and help boast its contributions to your nationsâ€™s economic, social, and political development while at the same time guaranteeing stability for long term growthâ€ he said.