In furtherance of the actualisation of the digital literacy agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa, played host to the Amazon representative in Africa and the Middle East, Narrimane Benakcha, in the company of her team from Anderson Nigeria, where discussions were centred around open-door policy in developmental regulation and digital services for the benefit of local operators.
The familiarisation visit to the NITDA’s Corporate Headquarters, Abuja, provided an opportunity for the DG to expatiate on the mandates of the Agency and its scope of operation in implementing the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a digital Nigeria, and expressed concerns of a group of Fintech operators who were disturbed by the enormous cost incurred in accessing hosting services from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, and other related services.
He said, “As a government, we have a cloud-first strategy. We encourage even the government’s Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) to go to Cloud because it is easier, cheaper, faster, and convenient to deploy your services without the stress of overhead and other costs.”
Inuwa proposed self-sufficiency in terms of digital infrastructure requirements in the country, stating that, “no government in this world would prefer to be dependent on other countries when it comes to digital services, because our life today is centred around digital services.”
He urged Amazon and other multinational organisations to have a common interest in Nigeria, adding that the market is appropriate and foretells that Nigeria will be the next frontier in digital services, while postulated that digital services would thrive in Nigeria because of her youthful population.
“Africa has the fastest-growing population and one of the youngest populations in the world, with the fastest-growing broadband penetration and other factors that can accelerate digital business,” he added.
He, therefore, implored Amazon to consider investing in the data centre in Nigeria to support startups and other entrepreneurs, especially now that the government is creating enabling environment and leveling the playing field for everyone in the industry.
Inuwa further appreciated the fact that Amazon now has offices in Nigeria but said the country would benefit more if Amazon could collaborate with the government on areas that would enhance and support startups and innovators, while referring to Google’s recent selection of 60 startups across Africa where Nigeria got 23 slots in its Google Black Founders Fund (BFF) to enable the upscale of their ongoing projects.
According to Inuwa, the public sector policy, which is the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), has an ambitious target of digitising all government services with 98% of broadband coverage by 2030.
He noted that the Head of Civil Service is working with MDAs to implement the Electronic Management System (EMS) to ensure paperless documentation processes by 2030. All of these, he asserted, are already implemented at NITDA.
Inuwa affirmed that the government, through NITDA, is ready to learn from Amazon experience in other jurisdictions especially in policy and regulations.
“We are interested in building talents because it’s one of the major global challenges,” he noted.
He said NITDA is already working on the National Talent Strategy, training of 1 million developers in the next 18 months, and several digital capacity training programmes.
Amazon Web Services, Head of Data Policy, Africa & Middle East Ms Narrimane Benakcha appreciated the open-door policy of NITDA, while assuring that her organisation is ready to operate in Nigeria.