By Emmanuel Elebeke
A NEW World Bank report clearly states that Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are transforming the world of works; creating new job opportunities and making labour markets more innovative, inclusive, and global. The report says ICTs are influencing employment both as an industry that creates jobs and as a tool that empowers workers to access new forms of work, in new and more flexible ways.
In 2012 alone, about 2.5 million jobs were created by the sector for tasks ranging from customer service to software development. Other recent studies have also revealed that ICT sector remains the sole catalyst for growth, helping to build up many other sectors of the economy.
It is also evident that technology increases productivity when people share access in form of collaboration thereby building stronger business strategy to establishing large successful firms in the business ecosystem.
However, at the moment, problems of the sector appear to centre on funding the scores of start-ups springing up daily in the ecosystem. Startups are the backbone of the informal sector which itself is the back up of the fortunes of the formal sector. In Nigeria, funding for start-ups has been a survival struggle. Dearth of seed funds has in no small way inhibited the growth of startups in the information communications technology (ICT) industry in the country.
NITDA’s bailout option: Meanwhile, the nation’s IT clearing house, the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, has just given the ICT start-ups a boost. The agency is acting as an aggregator, positioning the sector where funding could meet it easily. First of all, it has recently organised the maiden stakeholders’ forum to brainstorm on the challenges bedevilling the start-ups, with the aim of proffering enduring solutions.
However, the focus of discussion was on building a startup innovation fund, collaboration and partnership with hubs as ways of igniting the ICT ecosystem in the various states of the country.
Director General of NITDA, Dr. Ibrahim Isa Pantami said NITDA took time to study and listen to stakeholders and found it expedient to join in repositioning the sector to create an enabling environment for ICT entrepreneurship to thrive. He said that through the agency’s Office of ICT Innovation and Enterpreneuship, OIIE, it has served as the connector between all the necessary stakeholders and eventually an ICT Startup ecosystem has been born.
According to him, NITDA created OIIE as its subsidiary to drive the innovation mandate of the agency with a vision of ensuring young Nigerians have a responsive and agile facilitator in other to achieve collective goals. He stated that OIIE is expected to influence government policies by sharing research findings from similar markets to Nigeria.
For him, the agency has not only assisted the start-ups in packaging Nigeria as an attractive ICT ecosystem but has also provided opportunity for educational institutions to turn ideas into spin-off businesses that will provide funding for research and innovation in the long term. “I believe the modest achievement of these institutions should shape our educational policy and inspire our universities to rethink the content of their curriculum,” he added.
Other mandates the OIIE is expected to champion, included: To drive programmes and policies that support innovation in ICT development; develop, establish, support and incentivize ICT innovation hubs, information technology parks and community enterprise hubs across Nigeria; implement, monitor and revise guidelines for setting them up and collaborate with private sector, development partners and MDAs at both federal and state levels on policies and programs that support ICT entrepreneurship and commercialization as well as support Federal and State MDAs in formulating and implementing ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship programmes, among others.
In his remark, the minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, said IT innovation and entrepreneurship remain the only hope for Nigeria to survive in a knowledge economy. He said Nigeria has remained a third world country because of its failure to invest in IT innovation and entrepreneurs compared to the first world countries, who had invested heavily in IT.
Having realized the importance of IT, the minister pledged federal government’s commitment to creating the enabling environment to enable IT Startups thrive and contribute to the economy. “Government has no option but to support the innovators and entrepreneurs in order to survive and create jobs to the teaming population. We know that it is not also possible for government to engage everybody. I am aware that the entire civil service is made up of only 1.5 million Nigerians, in a population of about 180 million. That means that what government was able to do by provision of direct jobs is hardly up to one percent of the population.
“So, whether we like it or not, since government cannot provide jobs for everybody, government must create enabling environment for everybody to responsibly be engaged. In this years’ budget, we have introduced so many new efforts to encourage you but it takes two to tangle. On our part we are there for you as your servants,” Shittu said.