By Nwafor Sunday
President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated his commitment towards achieving the promised change made to Nigerians during his campaign in 2015, noting that Information and communication Technology, ICT, would be used as the major driver for his administrative developmental governance and economic reform plans to achieve the desired goal.
President Buhari disclosed this in Abuja at the opening ceremony of the 2017 e-Nigeria conference, organized by the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA).
While speaking on the theme tagged, “Fostering a Digital Economy Through Local Content Development and Effective Regulation”, Buhari said that virtually all the sectors of Nigeria’s economy leverage on ICT to increase efficiency, productivity and performance.
According to him, “I am delighted to be here today to witness the commencement of the 2017 e-Nigeria Conference. The theme of the event – “Fostering a Digital Economy Through Local Content Development and Effective Regulation” is apt, coming at a time when we are intensifying our efforts at economic diversification, and ICT has a critical role to play.
“My presence here today is a demonstration of our commitment and strong belief in using ICT as a major driver of our developmental governance and economic reform plans aimed at bringing about the true CHANGE we promised our people.
“ICT is strategic in driving productivity and efficiency in all sectors of the economy. Currently, almost all sectors of our economy leverage on ICT to increase efficiency, productivity and performance.
“The sector has recorded huge investments and contributes over 10% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and we are making conscious efforts to see that this contribution continues to grow in the next few years.
“About 80% of ICT hardware purchases are imported through local distributors of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) by MDAs and other government establishments.
“This makes it difficult for us to benefit from the dividends of continuous procurement and consumption of ICT infrastructure and limited value retention within the country.
“As the most populous country in Africa, there are huge opportunities for ICT manufacturing in Nigeria. This, when harnessed, will provide job opportunities for our teaming youths, enhance the quality of locally produced infrastructure, reduce cost of acquisition and increase government revenue.
“There is, therefore, the need for deliberate efforts, both from government as well as the private sector to see to the realisation of this. I urge you to come up with viable recommendations on how we can make the country an export hub for ICT hardware in Africa.
“We have done a lot to transform our government especially in the areas of strategy, policies and digital infrastructure investments.
“You may recall that on assumption of office, we enforced the policy on Treasury Single Account (TSA). Today, we are all witnesses to the impact it has made on our financial management.
“We have so far consolidated over 20,000 accounts, resulting into about N4.7 billion monthly savings. In addition the policy facilitated transparency, accountability and ease of transactions and payments between Government and businesses as well as Government and citizens.
“Another initiative leveraging on ICT and making huge impact on the economy is the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and Bank Verification Number (BVN). Its implementation has helped to eliminate the menace of ghost workers thereby reducing waste in the system by saving government over N20 billion monthly.
“This administration recently issued an Executive Order mandating all ministries, departments and agencies to give preference to locally manufactured goods and services in their procurement of information technology services.
“Such measures are part of the deliberate efforts at encouraging local manufacture of ICT infrastructure, creating job opportunities, providing investment opportunities as well as strengthening our currency. We commend NITDA’s efforts on fostering the patronage of indigenous IT products and services through continuous engagement with indigenous OEMs, relevant stakeholders and other laudable initiatives.
“ICT plays a pivotal role with agencies of government such as the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) which have leaned on ICT in improving public service delivery in an efficient and transparent manner. So far, 31 reforms have been completed by the Council and these reforms are already making noticeable impact on our economic diversification efforts.
“The Agency’s efforts at enforcing Federal Government’s directive on ensuring that all ICT projects in the country are cleared by it before implementation are highly commendable. These efforts will ensure that government’s ICT procurements are transparent, they are aligned with government’s IT shared vision and policy, save costs through promotion of shared services, avoid duplication, ensure compatibility of IT systems thereby improving efficiency across government and enforce the patronage of indigenous companies.
“In this respect, I hope this conference will come up with practical, viable solutions and recommendations to further develop local content in ICT as well as how we can best regulate the deployment and use of ICT systems to foster a digital economy in Nigeria.
“As I declare this Conference open, I thank you very much for your attention and wish you fruitful deliberations in the course of the Conference.
“I look forward to studying conference conclusions and recommendations”, he finally said.