By Emmanuel Elebeke

The Federal Government has reiterated its commitment to create and enforce regulations that will Fast-track effective utilisation of Blockchain technology for the development of the Nigerian digital economy.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) made the pledge, while delivering a keynote address on the Applications of Blockchain Technology for Intellectual Property (IP) Enforcement at the American Business Council event, in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The Minister who was represented by Dr Salihu Abdulkareem Arsh of the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR), alluded to the fact that the theme of the event: “Blockchain for IP Enforcement; More than Crypto and NFTs” is apt and timely especially at a time when crypto currency is presently the headlines of financial losses.

The Minister noted that in today’s knowledge based economy, an increasing share of business value is derived via intangible assets, which means success often depends upon the ability to manage and exploit IP.

He stressed that businesses require managers to effectively acquire, govern and commercialize copyright-and patent-protected content.

“You would all agree that, traditional businesses that rely on IP-protected material are confronting internal and external factors that pose several key challenges. Internally, unsynchronized IT systems do not enable data to flow, creating friction to locate and comply with copyrights under control. Externally, firms are recently operating in more complex, and diverse business networks with the need to validate multiple IPs within a single transactions model”, he said.

Prof. Pantami highlighted the benefits of Blockchain technology which he said represent a paradigm shift in how various companies protect their information exchange, adding that emerging technology provides a secure and fault-tolerant distributed ledger platform for transactions.

“No doubt, Blockchain technology has evolved greatly since the introduction of Bitcoin in 2008, the first decentralized peer-to-peer electronic cash system. Today, innovators in various fields are realizing the benefits behind this great technology. From medicine to agriculture, finance to governance, education to transport and across global supply chain; many sectors are looking for ways to integrate Blockchain into their infrastructures”, he added.

 While observing that governments and businesses all over the world are realizing the powerful usability of Blockchain, Prof. Pantami affirmed that the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy as well as its parastatals are not left behind, as they are inclined to employ the statutory responsibility towards innovative technologies, to develop corresponding strategies for a healthy ICT ecosystem that encapsulate emerging technology such as Blockchain.

According to him, ” NITDA had developed a National Blockchain Adoption Strategy that seeks to facilitate effective utilisation of Blockchain technology for the development of the Nigerian digital economy.

The strategy, he said outlines the roadmap and schemes for the adoption of the Blockchain technology by government in its digital transformation agenda in a way that supports efficiency, transparency, and productivity.

The minister underscored the need to create and enforce regulations to protect citizens and ensure fair markets, while letting innovation and business flourish.

He further expressed  optimism that the technology would be used to foster healthy growth of the nation’s digital economy and safety through the right regulatory instruments and implementation strategy that drive the adoption of the technology by both public and private sectors.

“In this regard, we directed NITDA to develop a national infrastructure for the deployment of Blockchain solutions that integrate identity and incentive platforms, promote research and development, in addition, to focus on the skilling of the workforce, and create a procurement process to enable government agencies to adopt Blockchain solutions”, he noted.

As a way of exploring regulatory actions that would strike the right balance between facilitating innovation and mitigating new risks, the Minister confirmed that the ministry has further directed NITDA to introduce regulatory sandboxes that enable participants to test products and services on a small scale in a controlled environment, reducing innovation costs and barriers to entry.

These sandboxes, Pantami said will also allow regulators to collect important information about innovative products before deciding which regulatory action to take.

“Through sustained engagement with stakeholders like you and many others, implementation of these regulatory guidelines would be enhanced and in turn, would engender a conducive regulatory environment for all players in the digital economy to thrive and fulfill their potential for prosperity and national development,” he added.

Meanwhile, Prof  Pantami recounted that many IT issues still remain unresolved, such as “the interoperability of different Blockchain platforms, and legal issues such as data ownership, privacy, liability, and jurisdiction”.

However, Pantami expressed his belief that with engagements such as the event, all business stakeholders and IP communities would reap the full benefits of Blockchain technology to promote innovations, support anti-counterfeit and anti-piracy operations;  grow businesses, create jobs; entrench security, reliability, and transparency in all processes models.

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