The establishment of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has positioned Nigeria on a strong pedestal to leverage the continuously evolving Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools to nurture a Digital Economy for Nigeria.
The value chain of a digital economy has triggers for economic prosperity and social cohesion, which Nigeria should vigorously tap to benefit from its advantages.
The Federal Government assigned four main mandates to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the first being to “facilitate universal, ubiquitous and cost effective access to communications infrastructure throughout the country.”
It should “promote the utilization of ICT in all spheres of life to optimize the communications infrastructure – digital content creation, domestic software applications and the delivery of private and public services over the internet.”
Thirdly, the Ministry is expected to “promote and facilitate the development of the ICT industry and increase the contribution of the ICT industry to the GDP.”
And fourthly, “utilize ICT to drive transparency in governance and improve the quality and cost effectiveness of public service delivery in Nigeria.”
The mandates are appropriate. If they are applied totally and effectively utilised, Nigeria will benefit enormously in a multifaceted way. And that is the big challenge.
But what is the digital economy? Techopedia, a website, describes it thus: “The “digital economy” is a term for all of those economic processes, transactions, interactions and activities that are based on digital technologies. The digital economy is different from the internet economy in that the internet economy is based on internet connectivity, whereas the digital economy is more broadly based on any of the many digital tools used in today’s economic world.”
Another definition, which is not substantially different from the first by toppr, an online trainer says: “Digital economy is one collective term for all economic transactions that occur on the internet. It is also known as the Web Economy or the Internet Economy. With the advent of technology and the process of globalization, the digital and traditional economies are merging into one.”
Experts in the subject agreed that there are generally three pillars of the digital economy, which are e-business, e-business infrastructure and e-commerce, all of which are conducted through digital platforms. The platforms are so many that listing them here is not possible.
Other elements of the digital economy facilitate e-healthcare delivery, distance educational services, e-finance and banking, digital music and entertainment. Today there is Webiner and e-Conferences and virtual-summits across oceans and continents by Presidents, Prime Ministers and statesmen each without leaving his headquarters. All these are derivatives of the digital economy.
The digital economy equally includes digital government or e-government, Digital Skills, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Smart Agriculture, Digital Culture, Digital Infrastructure, Digital Energy, Digital Citizen, Digital Entrepreneur and so many other digitals, all of them fruits of the digital economic tree.
The industry also encompasses the manufacturing of and trading in computing devises, software, mobile phone handsets, broadcast equipment, networking tools and countless accessories that facilitate inter- and intra- institutional connectivity, and ultimately, world-wide linkages, through the internet.
Is Nigeria working enough to provide the necessary infrastructure for a digital economy to boom and create 100 million jobs, and contribute more to the Gross Domestic Product?
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that the emerging digital economy in Nigeria contributed more than N4.4 trillion to the country’s GDP in 2019. This underlines its economic importance.
For the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, the country is poised to attain an up and running digital economy by 2023, about two and a half years from now. He said steps toward achieving that are being taken.
One can believe that ambition going by the observed flurry of activities by the Ministry and its agencies.
The activities are guided by the eigh-pillar National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) which was designed to harness the capacities of its agencies and properly blend them with the roles of the private sector, in building a flourishing digital economy for the benefit of Nigerians.
Salisu Na’inna Dambatta is a retired Federal Director of Information