The Presidential Council on Digital Economy and e-Government  on Wednesday approved a framework for the harmonisation of digital economy, e-governmance initiatives at federal and state levels.

President Mohammadu Buhari, Chairman of the Council,  Imo, Lagos, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Edo States Governors  and other members disclosed this at the Council’s  inaugural meeting held in Abuja.

 Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, said he  acknowledged that  ‘‘there have been pockets of digital initiatives going on in the state levels without accruing to the Federal government’s initiatives.

He charged the council members to put their feet on ground and ensure a smooth and seamless implementation of  the harmonized policy. 

He stated that there have been pockets of digital initiatives going on in the state levels which are not in alignment with Federal government’s digital economy initiatives.

The President insisted that digital economy cannot be implemented in silos, with FG bearing the responsibility, noting that states and other sub-national levels have to come to play their role in ensuring the full realization of the new policy.

“Many important things have been discussed and we have agreed on all of them and it is because of this we plan to have another meeting as soon as possible.

“The secretariat have been directed to come up with frameworks for the digital economy, that can be implemented in our states. Many states have good initiatives on digital economy, however, there is lack of harmonisation to their activities.

“Framework is going to be developed so that our sub-nationals will play their own role and FG will continue to provide intervention where necessary.

“From the time Mr president launched the policy to date, a lot have been achieved and in some of the pillars, more than 70 per cent have been achieved. However, still there are issues that requires engaging the sub nationals to look at decision making, implementation, coming up with frameworks, getting their input with regards to regulation and many more and that cannot be easily achieved. It is because of this, this council have been inaugurated, today is our first official meeting after the inauguration by Mr President”, the Minister said.

Pantami however, underscored  the need for establishment of the Ministry of Digital Economy in states to cascade and implement activities at the national level.

“Also after the launching of the policy, the ICT sector contributions to GDP increased significantly to the extent thts the sector alone without involving digital services, contributed 17.9 per cent which is unprecedented in the history of Nigeria. With the accommodation of our governors and subnational, I believe many positive things should come out of the sector”, he stated.

Recall that President Buhari had on  28th November, 2019 launched the National Digital Economy and Policy Strategy (NDEPS) with eight pillars which required the involvement of actors at all levels.

Consequently the Presidential council was launched to strengthen the capacity of government, to develop, adopt and deploy digital technologies to make government more efficient and transparent.

The council is also to ensure the improvement of Nigeria’s global standing in the ease of doing business index.

Responding to questions, the Imo State Governor, Gov. Hope Uzodinma said he is now motivated to inaugurate Ministry of Digital Economy in the state to drive the implementation of the NDEPS and e-governace  policy. 

This according to him, is to enable him leverage on the good idea and to participate in the whole package.

On the level of digitisation in his state, the Governor said so far some sectors of the state economy had been digitised.

‘‘First we start with proper record keeping, collection of data and then digitalise the infrastructure department has to be put in place.  Before this meeting I was about creating an agency to manage our digital economy but I am going to now create a full blown ministry of digital economy and IT management in the state as soon as I get back.

‘‘That is to tell you the kind of attention we are going to give this subject, I will also support for a well thought out policy in making sure we have a robust digital economy that will create jobs and employment for our youths.

“I am happy to be member of this council and will do my best to contribute my quota towards national development”,  said Uzodinma.

On his part, the Edo State Governor, Gov. Godwin Obaseki told journalists that the harmonisation of digital economy initiative will help stamp out waste and duplication in governance. 

For him, if Nigeria can get it right on harmonized digital economy strategies, the impact will be tremendous. 

“I am glad we finnaly have a council in the country that will set the record on the digital economy as the world is about digitisation.

“In Edo state, we have already initiated a lot of IT activities, Edo Best educational platform runs on technology, where all our 15,000 teachers have devices, we are implementing technology in our primary health care centres, we have hubs on our own and they are not aligned with what is happening nationally, so this council helps align the different initiatives on digitisation from different parts of the country so that we can reduce the waste that comes with non-alignment and also gain momentum and speed in terms of implementing digital strategy as a country. If we get it right nobody can stop Nigeria in digitisation”. 

The Minister Trade and Investment, Otumba Adebayo  said Federal Government will invest in home grown technologies to reduce cost, drive the digital economy industry. 

“We are working with Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to come up with home grown device to lower the cost of the devices that will be used through this initiative, we are working in collaboration with private sector to come up with device local”, he added. 

Others present  at the inaugural meeting included: Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta;   Managing Director, Galaxy Backbone Limited,  Prof. Mohammed Abubakar, Managing Director, Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited, Dr. Abimbola Alale; Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa and Director General, National Identity Management Commission, Engr Aliyu A. Aziz. 

Also present were, Vice Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello  University, Zaira, Prof. Kabiru Bala; Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Prof. Nnenna Oti as Representatives of the Academia; President Nigeria Computer Society, Prof. Simon Sodiya, and Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr  Gbenga Adebayo  and representative of Nigeria’s Governors Forum among others.