…Pledges commitment to bridging digital divide
By Emmanuel Elebeke
President Mohammadu Buhari says federal government will allocate 0.5 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to research and innovation.
The President made the pledge on Monday while declaring open the 2021 Technology Expo tagged: “Science, Technology and Innovation for Economic Recovery and Sustainability Amidst COVID-19 Challenges’’, at Eagles Square, Abuja.
He said his administration has made considerable improvements in the budgetary allocations to the ministry of Science and Technology in the last few years to increase research and innovation with the aim of achieving sustainable development.
President Buhari, who was represented at the event by his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo said the 0.5 percent allocation to research and innovation is in line with the decision taken at the African Union Executive Counsel in 2006 to establish a target for all member states of 1% of GDP investment in research and development in order to boost innovation, productivity and economic growth.
‘‘We are fully committed to the believe that science, technology and innovation be the part for Nigeria as well. We have some of the brightest minds in the word in innovation economy and I am convinced this Expo can and should be the vanguard for our efforts not only to foster economic recovery but to reposition Nigeria entirely as innovation driven nation.
‘‘ I am aware of the efforts of the ministry of science and technology in this competition to develop home grown solution, especially those to minimize the effects of the pandemic on the healthcare system of the country by constituting ministerial committee on COVID-19 remedies and natural compounds to authenticate claims for Anti-COVID-19 products produced by our scientists and traditional herb scientists and researchers.
‘‘As a government, we are committed to providing an enabling environment for science and technology sector in order to unlock the enormous potentials for innovation, wealth creation and economic growth.
‘‘In the last few years, we have also made considerable improvements in the budgetary allocations to the ministry, this will help to increase research and innovation with the aim of achieving sustainable development.
‘‘We are happy that this has been achieved in line with the decision taken at the African Union Executive Counsel in 2006 to establish a target for all member states of 1% of GDP investment in research and development in order to boost innovation, productivity and economic growth.
‘‘We are aware that only a fewer African countries have met this target but as a result of the challenges of this economy, we will allocate a minimum of 0.5% of our GDP to research and innovation as a way to fast-track meaningful development.’’
To make the economy competitive, he said his administration In February 2018 issued Executive Order No 5 for local content development.
‘‘With this, all ministries and p agencies were directed to engage our professionals in the planning, execution and design of in all contracts and transactions reserved for all engineering and technology components.
‘‘To promote national competiveness and productivity in all sectors of the economy, this administration will continue to support science and technology and innovation sector by providing opportunities.’’
On the efforts to deepen broadband penetration, Buhari said government is working hard to bridge the digital divide by increasing access to broadband connectivity though with our National Broadband Plan which was launched in 2020.
‘’We working hard to bridge the digital divide by increasing access to broadband connectivity though with our National Broadband Plan which was launched in 2020. Suffice it to say we will achieve 90% broadband penetration by 2025. That will give special attention to unserved and underserved areas when the telecoms services are provided.
‘‘ To achieve this, the federal government has also engaged the state governors at NEC level on the Right of Ways (RoW) charges for laying infrastructure needed for Broadband infrastructure such as fibre optics. This will reduce charges for broadband services by the service providers.
‘‘ Many states have already complied and now charge as low as N140 per metre while some states have completely removed the charges. In pursuing this work, it has been recognized that internet access and broadband penetration are pillars for pillars of innovation.’’
On what the government is doing in the area of COVID-19 pandemic, the President said: ‘‘The COVID-19 pandemic has raised top questions on our national capability in the area of research and innovation. I am glad to report that we are competently answering these questions through the commendable efforts of our researchers and scientists.
‘‘ It will be recalled that the first COVID 19 pandemic recorded in Sub- Sahara Africa was reported on February 27 2020, and this was an Italian man living in Nigeria who had just returned from Milan in Italy.
‘‘When identified, a sample of the virus was taken to African Centre for Excellence for infectious diseases at Redeemer University Ede, Osun State by a team of scientists and within 48 hours shared the results of this acute respiratory syndrome, CORONAVIRUS. This result was shared faster than many done in many countries in the world.
‘‘Also at the National Institute of Medical Research, Lagos launched a new set of COVID-19 test kits that can produce results within 7 minutes . The new test was designed by a set of scientists of molecular viruses at NIMR, Lagos.
‘‘ These are few examples of how Nigeria scientists and technologists are answering the demands of the moment and providing solutions to our problems.’’
He charged all the participating exhibitors to be steadfast and have confidence that their products and services will make Nigeria truly a great nation.
‘‘I am confidence that by effectively harnessing our potentials through science and technology, we will build a nation that l meet the aspiration of all our citizens and earn respect of the world,’’ he added.
Earlier in his keynote speech, the minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu thanked the President for his many efforts at promoting science and technology and innovation.
He said the ministry has over the years continued to make efforts in ensuring that Nigeria stop depending on consumption but become self reliant in production of goods and services.
According to him, the ministry has not rested since the outbreak of the covid-19. Pandemic, as it had developed a strategy of tracking people with the pandemic and set up a committee to review all the Anti-Codid-19 claims by Nigerian scientists.
He called on Nigerians to start investing heavily in scientific innovation research findings to enable the country be competitive and self reliant.
The tech expo is in its 5th edition and is aimed at showcasing research and development results and the products and services of inventive minds in the country.