• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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President Ahmed Tinubu’s one year scorecard vis-à-vis ICT sector growth

Tinubu’s silent and unreported achievements

It is that season again when the activities of our elected leaders, particularly the president’s, are put under forensic microscopes to determine what strides, if any, the economy has taken, across key sectors, in the first 365 days in office of a new administration. It’s always a curious period characterised by backslapping and thumbs up on the one hand and sneering and indignation on the other.

The leaders will often blow nonexistent trumpets while their lackeys are quick to eulogize their supposed achievements. This showboating usually infuriates the populace who are quick to point out a catalogue of bad policies, missteps, and inept management of the economy. This script never varies from one administration to another.

It is a year since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu assumed office and expectedly the media has been awash with differing opinions on the administration’s performance in that period. This article will examine how the administration managed the ICT sector in its first year in office. When President Tinubu resumed office on 29 May 2023, expectations were high regarding transforming Nigeria’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. And rightly so. The administration had emphasized its determination to prioritise digital innovation to drive economic growth. This determination birthed a potpourri of policy trusts directed at the ICT sector.

Some of these policies as enunciated by the Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, which is charged with providing direction for the tech industry, include: The launch of the 3,000,000 Technical Talent (3MTT) initiative. The initiative was targeted at building Nigeria’s technical talent pool to power the country’s digital economy and position it as a net talent exporter. Project 774LG Connectivity was also introduced to connect all 774 local government secretariats across Nigeria to the internet. A special-purpose vehicle to deliver an additional 90,000 km of fiber-optic cable to boost internet access across the country was also launched.

The National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020-2030), an initiative launched under the previous administration, was reinvigorated with more aggressive targets and funding. The National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy was also created to support the start-up ecosystem. This policy was expected to create a conducive environment for start-ups. This includes tax incentives, simplified regulatory processes, and access to funding through government-backed venture capital funds. The National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy was updated to address emerging threats.

Recognising the importance of cybersecurity in a rapidly digitising economy, the Tinubu government implemented measures to safeguard the digital space. Efforts include improving cybersecurity infrastructure, enhancing the capacity of law enforcement agencies to combat cybercrime, and promoting public awareness about digital safety. While these policies and initiatives appear noteworthy, many have not gone beyond the papers they were written on, and a year after, the ICT sector still grapples with the same old issues. One must commend the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr Bosun Tijani though. His weekly activity updates give Nigerians a peep into the minister’s efforts to establish collaborations, both local and international, attract investments into the tech space, create much needed jobs, and boost the sector’s contributions to the GDP.

It is clear that many of the policies will require long gestation periods. However, unresolved challenges in the tech sector will make nonsense of the policies and initiatives and the expected results may never materialise. Insecurity, multiple taxation, the contentious issue and high cost of Right of Way, and access to forex are just some of the challenges that will stand in the way of any real progress in the sector.

What the Government must do, going forward

The three tiers of government and their agencies must find a way to work together and streamline some of the conflicting regulations. Such regulations create an uncertain business environment for tech companies. Streamlining regulatory processes and ensuring consistency across government agencies is crucial to foster a more enabling environment for ICT development.

The 3MTT was one of the skills development policies expected to address the considerable skills gap in the ICT sector, with a shortage of qualified professionals to meet the industry’s demands. The pace of skills development has not kept up with industry needs, however. The 3MTT initiative, for instance, needs further investment to accelerate its progress.

In all, the journey towards a fully digitized and inclusive economy is fraught with challenges. Addressing the digital divide, streamlining regulatory frameworks, bridging the skills gap, enhancing cybersecurity, and securing funding are critical areas that require ongoing attention and strategic action. Can this administration tackle these challenges and unlock the full potential of Nigeria’s ICT sector to drive broader economic growth? Your guess is as good as mine.