The Governor of Imo State, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, has solicited the partnership of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in his administration's effort to deepen the embrace of digital culture in Imo State.
Governor Ihedioha stated this today (17/9/19) in an address presented on his behalf by Gerald Irona, his deputy, at the opening of a 2-Day Research and Innovation Forum organised by the NCC for tech entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the South East geopolitical zone. The event is taking place at Protea Hotel, Owerri.
The governor recalled that in its first 100 days, his administration has recorded strides through the creation of the Ministry of Technology Development, funding ICT training programmes for different categories of persons, and instituting the digitisation of the State's tax and revenue collection processes. The governor then solicited the support and partnership of NCC to enable Imo State government to expand its vision for ICT innovation and technological development.
In a keynote paper by the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta who was represented by Haru Alhassan, NCC's Director of New Media and Information Security, Danbatta affirmed the Commission's commitment to collaborate with stakeholders in the country to deepen the impact of ICT research, innovation and utilisation.
Danbatta noted that the Commission "in its effort to encourage tech entrepreneurship and innovation in the ICT sector, has embarked on visitation to various tech startups across the six geopolitical zones to assess their development and challenges."
The EVC said NCC is ready to assist the various innovation hubs with the appropriate interventions to ease their operations, stressing that the deliberations at the Forum will improve collaborative efforts and actions designed by governments and the NCC to accelerate innovation and accentuate digital economy in Nigeria.
Ephraim Nwokonneya, Director, Research and Development (DRD) at NCC underscored Danbatta's remark that the Forum theme, "Developing Nigeria's Tech Ecosystem: The Imperatives for Improving Local Content" was selected to emphasise the commitment of NCC to leverage local content in the nation's effort to achieve concrete digital transformation. The DRD also said NCC's initiatives in this regard will unlock the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the young people, boost local content in the ICT sector and enhance wealth creation, facilitate the introduction of new value added services that will improve quality of consumer experience, and support President Buhari's agenda to reduce poverty in Nigeria.
In a presentation by Dr. Chris Uwaje, a leading light of ICT research and innovations, Nigeria will concretely harness opportunities lurking in ICT and digital economy by improving local content participation, see innovation hubs as fulcrum of local content, ensure legislative and government support for tech initiatives, and nudge young people to be globally competitive.
Dr. Fidelis Onah, a former Director of Technical Standards and Network Integrity at NCC and now a tech entrepreneur, who made a presentation on the "Imperatives of e-governance in the Emerging Digital Economy", allayed the fears of the public about people losing jobs as a result of tech innovations.
He said while some job losses may be recorded, much more jobs will be created in the increasingly digital economy. He advised that stakeholders need to be ready by designing and reviewing existing policies to design strategies that will enable Nigeria to take advantage of the opportunities that abound within the digital culture. He also warned that any society that refuse to embrace the digital culture will have to do so later at higher costs.
In a panel session on Legislative and Government Support for Enhancing Tech Ecosystem in Nigeria, chaired by Tony Ojobo, former Director Public Affairs at NCC, Founder of Tech X Innovation Hub and President of African ICT Foundation, discussants agreed on the need for state governments to designate a Commissioner for ICT Development.
The panelists reasoned that it is also important for all stakeholders to demonstrate the awareness of the capacity of ICT to galvanise growth so that such knowledge can trigger more concrete action to provide access, adoption and application of ICTs in all facets of life.
In another panel discussion focused on Innovation Hubs as Fulcrum of Local Content, chaired by Hanson Johnson, Founder of Nextdeegit Hub, panelists were on accord that innovation hubs hold the promise of harnessing the energy of the youths for creativity and measurable outcomes.
Overall, all panel sessions emphasised the need for clear and harmonised policies and strategies, more collaboration of stakeholders and particularly advocated for a new approach by government that shows the government appreciate the value of ICT, innovation and the treasures lurked in the digital culture.
Participants welcomed enthusiastically the NCC's vision of Silicon WAZOBIA, a replication of the Silicon Valley Model, but discussants and other participants urged government to get more intimately involved in mobilising the innovation hubs, the academia and other strategic actors in the emerging revolution driven by ICT.
The Forum is being attended by many stakeholders including Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited, Galaxy Backbone Plc, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), tech economy enthusiasts, entrepreneurs of tech innovation hubs, as well as captains of other capacity-building and startup businesses, Nigerian Computer Society (NCS), banks, Zinox Technologies and other players in the telecom ecosystem.