The chief social function of technology is to create new possibilities for human activity– William Leiss
For Kashifu, it was always going to lead to this, one way or the other. A life marked by dedication and hard work will be rewarded with responsibilities and more responsibilities. This is the life of Kashifu Imam Abdullah, the new Director General of National Information and Technology Development Agency NITDA.
NITDA was an unknown item before the appointment of the former DG and current Minister of Communication, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, alongside the team he brought in, which included Kashifu, his then Technical Assistant. They had come in with an unprecedented drive with transformational policies Dr Pantami championed, and they recorded immeasurable successes.
For the most part, Kashifu was placed in charge of strategy execution, which in turn led to a 13 percent increase of ICT contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product GDP. He was at the forefront of coordinating local content initiatives that increased ICT local production by more than 200% in 2017.
Recent figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS puts ICT contribution to the GDP at 13.8 percent as against petroleum, which stood at 8.8 percent.
His appointment came with so much buzz, especially on social media, most commentators were in awe of his age and stellar achievements. But Kashifu knows better that the journey has only begun, and all the achievements he has stocked like feathers to a cap were only preparing him for an assignment like this. This can be attested to by a tweet shared on twitter, between Dr. Joe Abah (@DrJoeAbah) former director-general of Bureau of Public Sector Reform (BPSR) and Kashifu (@k_inuwa) where he (Kashifu), in responding to Dr Abah’s congratulatory tweet noted that: “Congratulating me now is tantamount to congratulating a surgeon on his way to theatre. He deserves congratulation when he comes out of the theatre with smile of success.” It is clear he understands the enormity of the task ahead of him.
One of the numerous mandates of NITDA is to ensure that the citizenry are empowered with information technologies through the establishment of a workforce that is IT proficient and globally competitive. It is open knowledge that Internet penetration in Nigeria is expanding; according to NCC’s data it is 115,938,255 million.
Interestingly, Nigeria via NITDA is investigating Trucaller, the Swedish call blocking app for privacy breaches against over 2.9 million Nigerians users, which contravene Nigeria’s Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) by collecting more information than it needs to provide for its primary service.
However and important to note, the NDPR bill is yet to be signed – NITDA’s new leadership needs to lobby more for the Presidential assent. It is earnestly required for the implementation of the strategic policies the regulation has in place. Its scope includes enthroning data rights and protection of Nigerians, Africa’s largest mobile market.
By the way, a precedent has been set in Ireland when the European Union fined Facebook $1.63 billion for a data breach in which hackers compromised accounts of more than 50 million users. Any violator of the law would be fined and this would be an avenue to generate revenue.
One must applaud the synergy between the Ministry of Communication and the agencies it supervises. The directives from the Honourable Minister of Communications on the Subscriber Identification Module, SIM registration exercise uncovered that 9.2 million SIM cards did not comply with the proper procedure, he directed the Nigeria Communication Commission, NCC to deactivate improperly registered SIMs across various networks; so far 6.8 million cards have been regularized while the 2.2 million SIMs not regularized have now been blocked.
In this age of cyber warfare and hacking private information must be placed in safe hands. There is need for a well-defined data law stipulating how personal information of citizens should be stored and protected and also penalties meted out should citizens information be compromised.
Furthermore, the information technology sector in Nigeria is gaining notoriety in the world for the wrong reasons. These days, cyber frauds are becoming synonymous with the Nigerian identify and Nigerian companies are losing millions of dollars to hackers, both international and local. Nigerians are waiting to see the line of action that will be taken by the NITDA leadership to secure the cyberspace. Not only that, how these fraudsters can be identified and prosecuted accordingly.
We will like to see agents of national security deploy sophisticated infrastructures in the course of their work. NITDA has the mandate to ensure and enhance national security and law enforcement. Our battle with insurgents, kidnappers, bandits, will definitely be boosted with the deployment of the requisite technology. We await the DG’s blueprint on that.
Ordinarily, many secondary schools in Nigeria cannot boast of having a functional computer lab. A huge majority of those that claim to own computer labs have computers for use in pictures and nothing more. This should be part of the DG’s agenda and I am happy to have noticed the successes of the NITDA Kids Kode Kamp 2019 where children within a week created html websites and other elementary coding technics.
Consequently, laws to establish IT infrastructures all over the country and to ensure that such infrastructures are utilized optimally as stipulated in NITDA’s mandate should be put in place. Additional tech hubs, especially in zones hit by insurgency, more boot camps, more hackathons and the likes are areas Mr Kashifu would be expected to make happen. The leadership must also look for ways to bring in the private sector for collaboration.
Silicon valley is not a dream too big to aim for. Nigerians expect Kashifu to do more in transforming Nigeria’s technology ecosystem. Good for him, his predecessor has already laid a worthy foundation that though sets the bar high, leaves Kashifu an opportunity to mark his era as one that transformed Nigeria’s digital space. His work is cut out for him, but his ability has never been in doubt.
Ismail Akanji is a businessman and cyber security enthusiast, he writes from Abuja.