By Mubarak Umar
Two years have gone, and it was just like yesterday, President Muhammadu, GCFR, approved the appointment of Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, USA) – trained IT expert, as the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), following the elevation of the then Director General, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) FNCS, FBCS, FIIM, to the position of Minister of Communications, which was his ministry later re-designated to Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
With his appointment, it is heartwarming to note that growing corps of well-educated, world class technocrats are coming to the public domain to help change the narrative in public service.
Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the current Director General of (NITDA, has equipped himself with leadership and management courses at Harvard University (USA) and IMD Business School, Switzerland before his appointment as DG, NITDA on 20th August, 2019. He is one of the growing numbers of leaders appointed by the present administration many Nigerians are proud of.
In these two years, Abdullahi proved to the world that he knows the ICT global terrain deeply and he is very aware of the challenges, limitations and constraints keeping Nigeria – a nation of about 200 million lagging behind in the evolving world of digital economy. Against all odds that face Nigeria’s IT sector, Kashifu has an indefatigable vision and passion to take the nation into the comity of nations running on digital economy.
Tough, it is a herculean task considering six month after his appointment, the entire world found itself fighting an invisible enemy – COVID-19, but that does not stop him from looking outside the box to find out the lasting solutions of the economic challenge posed by the deadly virus.
Abdullahi has already made it to a stage where he plays pivotal roles in Nigeria’s quest to be Africa’s largest digital economy. Since ascending leadership of NITDA, there has been a steady and impressive implementation of the Strategic Roadmap for the Development of Nigeria’s IT sector envisioned by Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Ibrahim (Kashifu’s predecessor at NITDA who is now Minister of Communication and Digital Economy), as well as implementation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s core vision of Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) through Information Technology.
For Nigeria to effectively operate a digital economy, NITDA mapped out a Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2021-2014), pillars identified by the Agency as the fulcrum for the Roadmap are: 1) Developmental Regulation; 2) Digital Literacy and Skills; 3) Digital Transformation; 4) Digital Innovation & Entrepreneurship; 5) Cybersecurity; 6) Emerging Technologies and; 7) Promotion of Indigenous Content.
SRAP has been broken down into strategic initiatives that speak to its goal. The resultant initiatives were further fragmented into activities and an implementation plan which was in turn developed for these initiatives. Also, a result monitoring framework was developed for identified key performance indicators of each of the initiatives.
The Agency set out strategies to digitize government functions and processes and it successfully created over 150 user accounts to enable Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) submit their IT projects through the agency’s IT projects clearance portal, licensed of 94 Data Protection Compliance Organizations (DPCOs), and of Nigeria Government Enterprise Architecture/Nigeria e-Government Interoperability Framework (NGEa-Ne-GIF).
Under Kashifu’s watch, NITDA has developed several regulatory frameworks for information technology development, which most of them have been published both on soft copy and hard copy by the Agency.
The Standards, Guidelines and Frameworks developed by NITDA include: Nigeria Government Enterprise Architecture (NGEA); Public Private Partnership regulatory framework for ICT and eGovernment projects; Government Digital Service Framework (GDSFrame); National Block Chain Adoption Strategy Document; Nigeria Digital Agriculture Strategy (NDAS-2020-2030); Business Process Management Guide for Federal Public Institutions (FPIs); Management System Guidelines for Federal Public Institutions (FPIs); Government Digital Transformation Performance (Readiness) Assessment Toolkit (GDT-PAT); and eGovernment Masterplan and Digital Transformation for Jigawa, Nasarawa and Ogun States, to mention a few.
To drive these initiatives, the Agency set up an ICT Technical Working Groups in MDAs to enable the adoption of Ne-GIF, NGEA and other related initiatives to drive ICT, e-Government and made a mandatory ICT Capacity Building for staff of MDAs. It organised Capacity Building and Certification of 442 Digital Transformation Technical Working Group (DT-TWGs) members drawn from different Federal Public Institutions (FPIs).
Furthermore, during these two years, Kashifu continues from where his predecessor stopped in unfolding potential Nigerian farmers through Federal Government initiative of National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA), to change the face of agric sector in the country.
National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture is an ecosystem-driven digital platform envisioned for the transformation of the agriculture sector in Nigeria. It is designed to help farmers and other agricultural ecosystem players navigate their journey across the agriculture value chain. This journey cuts across farm production to management, processing, harvesting, storage, marketing and consumption. 565 farmers were trained and empowered with digital devices and N100, 000 seeds funding, which also created jobs direct and indirect jobs in the country.
NITDA also launched the National Adopted School for Smart Education (NASSE) to promote digital literacy and skills among students with 500 students and 30 teachers at Junior Secondary School Karshi benefited from the pilot scheme. The Agency supervised training of a total number of 1,858 Artisans across the 6 Geo-Political Zones on digital literacy and phone repairs.
The Agency also conducted training for 200 women on ICT and Entrepreneurship, each provided with Laptops (pre-installed e-learning & graphics Software), Internet Dongles & Bag-Packs, 1200 direct jobs and 3000 indirect jobs were created; it further graduated 300 Nigerians on Software, Mobile App & Web Development, and Entrepreneurship. People Living with Disabilities were also not left behind, as NITDA trained 30 and 52 persons in Kano and Enugu respectively, and laptops were giving to them as working tools.
In addition to making an effort in IT development as well as enhancing the IT capacity of the citizenry, hundreds of IT Hubs, IT Parks, and Community ICT Centres were either deployed, furnished or equipped with world class facilities across the states of the country.
On cybersecurity, NITDA conducted five (5) incidents analysis affecting National ICT infrastructure, handled 34 hacking of MDAs’ websites, 15 ENDSARS hacking attempts resolved, 10 defacement of MDAs’ websites handled, and dark web monitoring 15 incidents handled.
The Agency, under the supervision of its mother Ministry, launched NITDA Academy for Research and Training (NART) with 67 plus active courses, 58227 plus active students and 55,539 plus active training sessions.
To ensure Nigeria’s fool of talents was not left behind, the Agency Establishment National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotic (NCAIR), NITDA aims through NCAIR, to drive and support the research, development, and adoption of Emerging Technologies in Nigeria.
The Centre is creating the required environment for Nigeria’s teaming youths; encourage innovation and indigenisation of technologies to help address the continuous reliance on foreign products and services which has negative impact on the country’s economy. It serves as a bridge between the Government, industry, and the academia in providing research environment for creativity, idea integration, collaborative environment, development of ICT policies, processes and strategies.
As a result of Kashifu’s commitment, Nigeria made history when it received Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), during the handover ceremony of Root Certification Authority (RCA) for Country Signing Certification Authority (CSCA) and Country Verification Certification Authority (CVCA) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
With the strategy already in place, the Agency has succeeded in programming, developing and mapping out digital process to cushion the effect of Coronavirus since it is outbreak globally; Nigeria COVID19 Innovation Challenge, an online innovation challenge that was set up to meet the challenges our society was, and still facing as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. Developers, entrepreneurs and other creative minds joined to experiment and build software solutions to help address this crisis, received overwhelming applicants in Nigeria.
Though, considering the vast technology expertise possessed by the DG, Nigerians always ask why Kashifu Inuwa has such intellectual prowess which makes him an extraordinary Chief Executive in discharging his duties in the last two years as Director General, NITDA.