By Etuka Sunday
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, yesterday said as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was need to fast-track the implementation of the National Digital Economic Policy and Strategy (NDEPS).
He made the disclosure during the virtual Final Demo and Prize Giving Day of the Nigeria COVID-19 Innovation Challenge organized by the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA).
Dr Pantami said as a result of the pandemic Nigeria needs to fast track the NDEPS for quick economic recovery.
He said: “with COVID-19, there is a need to fast-track the implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria.
“ICT will play a great role in supporting contact tracing and physical distancing in the war against the virus.
“ICT innovation was a perfect tool to ensure physical distancing and contact tracing of COVID 19 patients.
“The present administration is determined to leverage digital platforms and opportunities for the betterment of the economy in the post COVID era,” he said.
He directed government agencies to: “work on providing research grants for promising innovative solutions that will help in the fight against COVID-19; Incubate the proposed solutions, Transfer / Deploy solutions to relevant government agencies.”
Speaking further he said: “the active, focused, result-oriented Federal Executive Cabinet member gave this marching order today while making his remarks during the Nigeria COVID-19 innovation challenge; virtual demo day and prize-giving ceremony organized by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).”
The agencies include the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerian Communications Satellite Systems, Galaxy Backbone and Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST).
The Minister further directed that half of the funds be invested in translating the proposed ideas into solutions.
Also speaking at the event, the Director General, NITDA, Mr. Inuwa Abdullahi said, Nigeria was facing dual crisis of (economic and health) this year after celebrating the previous year with high hope for this year.
“Today we are confronted with a crisis like no other. A dual crisis, Health and economic crisis. What is going on is unprecedented that you and I have not seen in living memory.
“The virus is causing health crisis, and the lockdown needed to keep the virus in check is causing economic crisis. What was normal just few weeks ago such as going to school, attending religious congregation, and socializing with family and friends, is now a huge risk,” he said.
Mr. Abdullahi noted that: “2019 ended in a pretty solid shape. Our economy had stabilized, growth rate had increased from -1.62% in 2016 to 2.29% in 2019. Our budget cycle has changed to January to December. We celebrated 2020 with high hope and we were optimistic at the beginning of the year that it will be a great year and a great decade. Soon after the celebration things started falling apart. Coronavirus that started as an outbreak in the Wuhan City of China spreads to other parts of the world. And on 13th March, WHO declared the virus as pandemic.
In addition he said: “we are prioritizing digital solution because that is the only thing working during this pandemic. And the pandemic is accelerating technology trends shaping the future of digital world and digital economy in general. Imagine being in this crisis without digital technology. Our life would have been miserable, therefore our recovery and exit strategy should be based on what is working now. As a nation we can have all the technologies and talent but to extract value we need clear objectives and mechanism.
“Our broader objective is fast recovery to normal and our mechanism is our National Digital Economy Strategy and plan. Which highlights initiatives for Digital Nigeria.
He gave reasons why the initiative was conceived as he concluded.
He said: “this programme is one of the initiatives aimed at using indigenous digital technology to contail the virus and cushion the economic impact. Our objective is to mitigate the health and social impacts of COVID-19 in Nigeria using innovative technologies. And we hope the challenge will deliver on the following: Showcase relevant innovative technologies developed by Nigerians towards COVID-19 and the future pandemics.
“This initiative, the Nigeria COVID-19 innovation challenge is aimed at identifying innovative ideas from our talented youth, incubate, prototype and develop the ideas into a digital solutions that can help us contain the virus and prepare us for post covid era.
“Facilitate and enhance processes along the prevention-detection-treatment value chain of COVID-19. Cushion the financial and social impact of COVID-19 during and after the pandemic in Nigeria and possibly beyond,” he said.
Out of about 150 participants home and abroad, Algorizmi, an innovation start up meant to provide clinical support to medical personnel and patients came first in the competition with a Prize of One Million naira. Smart Chamber came second with a prize of 750,000 naira, while Myclinic.ng came third with a prize of 500,000 naira.