As Microsoft partners NITDA to develop SMEs in Nigeria Leave a comment

The year 2021 has been action-packed thus far, and this is in both positive and negative ways. For newspaper columnists, it is a sort of bumper harvest. Every day you pick the pen or draw your computer to write for your column, a columnist is faced with too many topics on which to write about.

With the magical and embarrassing defeat of Afghanistan’s military in the hands of the Taliban, a columnist like me who has written countless pieces on national and international security has a ready-made material to write on. But a cowardly President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan four days ago, paving an easy route for the Taliban to make its takeover of the country complete. With that move alone, the former president succeeded in ridiculing America, which has spent over $80 billion equipping the Afghan military and close to $2 trillion in prosecuting the war against the Taliban.

For a Friday columnist, writing on an event that happened at the beginning of the week could at times be slippery. Most of the issues to be discussed have already been dissected by analysts. And so I grudgingly decided to look inwards, taking a look at the one federal government agency that has continued to make this country proud, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

Since his appointment into office by President Muhammadu Buhari two years ago, Malam Kashifu Inuwa, NITDA’s director-general, has left no one in doubt as to his determination to help transform the nation’s economy by impacting heavily on a critical sector, the small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs). Many of NITDA’s actions and policies in the past two years are targeted at the growth of this critical sector. And it has been one interesting story after the other of what a man can do to transform a sector of critical importance to the survival of a nation’s economy.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, small and medium scale enterprises in this country have contributed almost fifty percent, or specifically 48 percent, to the national GDP in the past two years.  In the first quarter of this year also, the ICT sector, which NITDA credibly regulates, has contributed 9.91 percent to the total GDP in the country. Imagine just one sector doing this. And at the rate Kashifu Inuwa is pushing NITDA to impact more on Nigeria’s economy, experts believe it is a matter of time before the ICT sector beats agriculture and trade in contributing most to the growth of our GDP.

The SMEs have helped in pushing China virtually to the summit of global economy. And do you know the percentage of contribution of that sector to the Chinese economy? A whopping 60 percent.  If there is one key reason China is almost pushing ahead of the United States economically, it lies in the premium it places on the growth of SMEs, which in America is only 44 percent.

Earlier in the week, the NITDA DG received in audience Mrs Ola Williams, the new Country Director of Microsoft to Nigeria. Apart from getting to know each other, the other primary reason informing the visit was primarily to further strengthen the very strong partnership and collaboration existing between NITDA  and Microsoft.

Recognizing the importance of SMEs to the growth of our national economy, Malam Kashifu told the visiting Microsoft delegation that “Small and Medium Scale Enterprises contribute up to 90% of the workforce and it is very important to use technology create fancy employment for our youths. We have so many initiatives with respect to this and I think you can be a key player.”

Small businesses, especially the ones in the ICT sector, contribute to local economies by bridging growth and innovation to the community in which the business is established. SMEs also stimulate economic growth by providing employment opportunities to people who cannot be employed in the formal sector, specifically large corporations.

The Director General also added that his agency has recalibrated its activities to align with the new Government aspirations and have therefore crafted new strategies.

“We are committed to aligning with these new government goals by transforming our agency and to achieve this, we need an organization like yours to do that”, he said.

Abdullahi stated that the Developmental regulation is one of the strategic pillars of the Agency’s Strategic Road Map and Action Plan (SRAP) 2021-2024 which will encourage innovations and help service providers as well as end consumers.

He said, “Microsoft has been of great assistance in this regard by supporting development of the Cloud Computing Policy.

Abdullahi further stated that the Agency is pushing for Cloud First Strategy in the government and needs further collaboration from Microsoft with the aim of learning the best practices and domesticate them in the country.

“We have collaborated on the Nigerian Data Protection Regulations but we need to collaborate more in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy”, Abdullahi averred.

The NITDA boss said the Agency has been intensifying efforts on Digital Literacy which is another strategic pillar of its action plan in order to help youths upscale their digital literacy skills and retain their jobs in the trending pandemic era.

He further disclosed that the Agency has trained over 2,400 youths and are currently targeting on training 7,200 people from 11 states basically on Microsoft productivity tools, digital content creation and digital marketing.

Abdullahi mentioned that Digital Transformation, Cyber Security, Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship are strategic pillars in which the Agency has collaborated with Microsoft in using technology to enhance traditional processes, help government get insights into the dark web and encourage local startups respectively.

He added that the Agency would need the collaboration of Microsoft in the areas of its Public Key Infrastructure solution to boost cloud first strategies in government institutions and initiate a collaborative process on the acquisition of Microsoft Digital Certificates.

The NITDA DG earlier congratulated the newly appointed Microsoft Boss for being the first female and homegrown boss of Microsoft, adding that NITDA and Microsoft have come a long way and must continue to trail that same direction in order to achieve their goals and objectives.

“With the emergence of a new country manager, we should look at areas we can work together for the betterment of our country Nigeria”, Abdullahi noted.

“Our visit here is as a result of your demonstration of contributions and impact to our organization and to solicit for more support and partnership to create a digital Nigeria”, she concluded.

Cloud First Strategies which are operational strategies in which infrastructures are being moved to cloud computing platforms like the Amazon web services, Google cloud or Microsoft Azure rather than using physical clusters have been identified to have outstanding benefits in terms of auto-scaling, easy configurability in getting new services online and reliability amongst other benefits.

Malam Kashifu Inusa’s primary goal has always been enriching the ICT sector in Nigeria and making it a global player of respect. Already, Nigeria has been reaping huge dividends from the the global digital economy, which the Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami has been pushing, in concert with with such credible patriots as Malam Kashifu as his foot soldiers. We all have a role to play in driving these noble visions.

BRASS TACKS assures of its support to all Nigerians contributing to the growth of this country, and wishes Pantami and Kashifu the very best in this onerous task.

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