Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Empowering IT Start-ups For Sectoral Development - Leadership Newspaper

Nigeria is projected to spend a whopping N402 billion on acquisition of Information Technology goods and services by the year 2020. It is also projected that technologies like Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain applications will constitute a chunk of these purchases by the government. Some of these technologies have been tried and have proven useful for optimal utilizations of resources and to increase the efficiency of governments.

The Federal Government has continued to invest heavily in Information Technology and it is projected that while Nigeria’s GDP growth maybe at a modest 3.5 percent year on year (YoY) until 2022, the nation’s IT is poised to have compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the same period, and this will be driven in no small part by government’s increasing adoption of information technology to enable the everyday business of government.

To this end, government through its agencies have launched various programmes to groom Nigeria’s digital natives and information technology (IT) start-ups and provide them with platforms to grow and contribute significantly to national economy. One of such programmes is the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Start-Up Friday which seeks to identify young innovators who have potentials and provide them with a platform to achieve their dreams.

In his speech at the 10th edition of the Start-Up Friday workshop organised by the agency in collaboration with the Petroleum Trust and Development Fund (PTDF) in Abuja, NITDA’s director-general, Dr Isa Pantami talked about the need to identify budding ICT entrepreneurs, assist them to develop their potentials as well as build IT producers in Nigeria.

He said the workshop had been going round the six geo-political zones of the country to enable NITDA tap into the huge population of the country which has 65 per cent of this population as digital and IT savvy youth.

He said NITDA was poised to identify talented youths from all nooks and crannies of the country and give them the needed support to excel in their chosen areas of strength.

‘‘We called this event Startup Friday but we are moving from one geo-political zone to the other; we did one in northwest, southwest, northeast and south-south and this is Abuja, north-central and from here we will be moving to southeast.

‘‘The wisdom behind this is to identify our young innovators who have potentials and see how they can be supported to achieve their dreams. Because Nigeria is blessed with a population of over 190 million people and 65 per cent of this population are youths and they are digital natives and they are ICT savvy. So we felt they have potentials and this is to identify them and see how these potentials can transform into reality.

‘‘This is a deliberate effort in order to migrate from a resource-based economy to being a knowledge-based economy (digital economy),” he added.

Listing benefits of the workshop, the NITDA boss stated that it was helping the agency to see the relevance of innovators’ ideas to Nigeria and Nigerians, adding the agency had the opportunity to mentor them and sponsor them to international events and if their ideas are developed, relevant ministries and agencies of government would be directed to patronize what they have developed.

He added: ‘‘If you are able to come up with an automated solution to a manual problem, NITDA will make sure that the relevant agency of government is directed or encouraged to patronize the product. This means we are discouraging capital flight by developing what we need and consuming it.

‘‘We can only support our economy by spending our money on our fellow citizens because we don’t like a situation where all our ICT monies go abroad. So far, NITDA has 10 start-ups but within this period of time as we are having the fifth one here, we have 1557 start-ups so far who have participated.”

Saying the ICT sector has been burgeoning, Pantami pointed out that in the second quarter of 2018 ICT contributed 13.63 per cent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

He averred that with the little efforts put in place, a lot had been achieved in the ICT sector.

“In the case of our ICT start-ups, within the first quarter of 2018, start-ups generated $9m, in the second quarter, they generated $57million and recently in the third quarter, they generated $35million.

“This is only within 2018. This achievement is unprecedented in the history of ICT sector in Nigeria,” he added.

Earlier in a discussion, one of the panelists, Dr. Yemi Okeremi who spoke on sourcing of funds for start-ups, pointed to the necessity of our consuming what we produce and patronizing our local IT innovators.

‘‘The first point of call is to look at the Silicon valley. If we start consuming what we produce, we will be helping our local producers to produce more. Capital sometimes is not about money, it can be social sometimes. Local consumption will help us stimulate our economy,” he stated.

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