Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his commitment to making Nigeria a digital economy giant, not only in Africa, but the world at large.
Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, Nigeria is abreast with the global innovation trend under the president’s stewardship, particularly in responding to the pandemic, said the minister.
“In Nigeria, we are lucky to have the right leadership at this time. The government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has set the foundation to innovate even before COVID-19,” said Pantami who was represented by the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, at the Nigeria Innovation Summit 2020 organised by Innovation Hub Africa.
He said the theme of this year’s summit ‘Innovating in Critical Times’ is exciting because never before has innovation been more critical as it is now, especially now that COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone to embrace new practices such as social distancing and remote everything, adding that the new practices, or new norm as it is being called, is making innovation to have a profound influence on exit strategy from the pandemic.
“On 23rd October 2019, the President renamed and expanded our ministry’s mandate to cover the digital economy. And on 28th November 2019, the president launched the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for Digital Nigeria, and he us to start implementation immediately. On 19th March 2020, just before the lockdown, the president launched Broadband Plan and unveiled Digital Nigeria initiatives, and flagged off digital skills and literacy trainings,” he added.
Reacting on COVID-19 pandemic, the minister said, “Today, it is obvious we are in a critical time. We are confronted with a crisis like no other, a triple crisis that you and I have not seen in living memory. It is the worst health and economic situation of our generation.
“World Bank predicted that COVID-19 would plunge the global economy into the worst recession since World War II. It is also a learning crisis because of two reasons. Firstly, at the end of March this year, over 180 countries closed schools, forcing over 1.5 billion students to stay home. Secondly, we are forced to unlearn and relearn how we live and work to navigate our way out of the pandemic.”
He added: “At the ministry, we blazed the trail in remote working and set the pace for innovation in this country during the pandemic. We conceptualised and implemented groundbreaking initiatives under the lockdown. Here we are today as a ministry coming through the pandemic in a fine style.
“These initiatives set the foundation that helped us as a country to innovate and navigate our ways from the crisis mode to the recovery stage. At the ministry and agencies it supervises, we started groundbreaking initiatives that will be game-changer in the innovation ecosystem.
“We have achieved almost all the objectives. We collaborated with the ecosystem to host the COVID-19 Innovation Challenge, where innovators were invited to showcase their ideas to manage the pandemic. The winners got prizes and funding that helped them turned their ideas into impact. We helped them developed working products and services.”
Some innovative products from the COVID-19 Innovation Challenge, include an indigenous ventilator, a smart decontamination chamber, which is an intelligent tunnel that can be used to disinfect a person entering a location, and MyClinic (an online platform that enables users to hold video consultations with qualified medical doctors from anywhere and at any time either using its mobile app or via a toll-free line.)