The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami has reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to protecting Nigerians from the harmful use of data.
Pantami said this in Abuja on Thursday, at the inauguration of the World Development Report (WDR) 2021 in Nigeria.
The theme of the report was “Leveraging Data to Foster Development: Where does Nigeria Stand”.
The minister, represented by the Director-General, National Information Development Agency, Mr Kashifu Abdullahi, said the government had the responsibility to protect citizens’ data and how it was being used.
He said this had led the government to come up with policies and regulations to safeguard its citizens from the use of digital platforms.
According to him, one of which is the national digital economic policy and strategy for a digital Nigeria.
“We have an ambitious target under the policy, in terms of building trust, being equitable, and safeguarding data, infrastructure, etc.
“We have the ambition to achieve 95 per cent broadband penetration by 2030 even though from the report we are struggling with its usage.”
The minister said the government had a target to achieve 95 per cent digital literacy in Nigeria, which would help the usage of broadband because there was the need to understand the technology to embrace and use it.
According to him, everyone in Nigeria should use digital devices to access digital services, as well as to use them for economic activities.
Pantami said to that effect, the ministry had developed an inclusive digital literacy framework so that no one was left behind.
He said the ministry was working with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other partners to achieve it.
Pantami said the ministry would soon unveil its initiative of training one million developers within a year in Nigeria.
“We need to build capacity in-country, so our people can build Apps that can be used by our citizens because it will be easier to build our services than buy off-the-shelf services.
“These services should be available in English or our indigenous languages, which will connect more with our people in terms of our culture and value,” Pantami said.
He said that the government had initiatives in terms of cyber security and data protection with the establishment of the data protection agency, which is independent of every other government agency as recommended by the World Bank.
Speaking on the theme of the report, the minister said Nigeria stood at a crossroad between harnessing the value of data for development while avoiding its peril.
Pantami said that Nigeria was doing well based on the facts from the report.
He, however, said the government would look at areas where Nigeria needed to improve and consolidate on her achievements so that every Nigerian benefited from the digital economy and knew how to use data for good.
The minister said that the ministry was working with the big tech companies to ensure they used data not only for profit but for humanity.
Also speaking, the Minister of Science and Technology and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, while reacting to the report, said he was glad to see that Nigeria had put in some positive efforts over the years.
Onu, represented by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Monilola Udoh, said that from the report, we could see that Nigeria was on top of infrastructure development in the region.
He, however, said there were still some challenges to digital literacy, which included cultural challenges, such as girl-child absence from school.
The minister said CSOs were working with the government and other stakeholders to address these issues to improve digital literacy.
The Country Director, World Bank, Shubham Chaudhuri, in his remarks, said Nigeria had the potential to do more to realise its digital transformation by taking full advantage of digital technologies.
Chaudhuri said the Nigerian government should ensure all Nigerians have access to the potential of digital technology, such as having broadband access no matter where they reside in Nigeria.
He said data could be helpful and harmful, helpful because it had the potential to generate economic growth and social value, as well as improve the lives of poor people.
“Data can also be harmful to individuals, businesses, and societies if misused and inaccurate.,” he said.
The country director said what he found most interesting about the report was how data was used to improve service delivery, accountability, and empowerment in the public and private sectors.
Vivien Foster, the Chief Economist of, World Bank, while presenting the report, said that it showed the need to forge a new social contract built on value, equity, and trust.
“We need a new social contract that enables the use and reuse of data to create economic and social value, ensure equitable access to that value, and foster the trust that data will not be misused in harmful ways,” she said.
Foster said the report focused on four key pillars of data governance, which included infrastructure policies, laws and regulations, economic policies, and institutions.
She said that based on the pillars, Nigeria was doing quite well compared to other countries in the region.
On the pillar of infrastructure, she said Nigeria was doing quite well compared to its neighbouring countries, adding that Nigeria was the only country in its region to have the presence of a cloud on map.
In terms of laws and regulations governing data, she said Nigeria stood out in having data regulation in terms of safeguards and enablers.
According to her, safeguards are those regulations to secure and protect data from the threat of misuse, while enablers are the rules and regulations that facilitate data sharing among different stakeholders in the data economy.
“Nigeria has been seen to have a balanced development of both of these types of laws, and stands out in West Africa, ” she said.
She said that Nigeria had a vibrant fintech ecosystem, adding that Nigeria was home to the largest number of digital platform firms.
“Nigeria is doing extremely well on national data infrastructure and has the potential to allow others access data infrastructure on a regional scale, it, however, does face a major domestic problem of digital literacy.
“Nigeria does on paper have a pretty good legal and regulatory framework but there are still gaps and issues of implementation of institutions to go with them.
“On data network trade, Nigeria is adopting a closed kind of approach, but it must think about the implications, and on tax issues we need to ensure that tax administration catches up in the digital economy, ” she said.