Dr. Ali Isa Pantami, is minister of Communications & Digital Economy, where he drives government’s vision of creating a digital economy. It is the plan of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to enhance the performance of the economy under his Next Level Agenda through the use of information communication technology to drive government and commercial activities.
Improvement of processes is expected to enhance output across sectors and industries in the economy and boost Nigeria’s GDP. The multiplier effect of that is targeted to drive new jobs, power household incomes and deliver the key promise of lifting people out of poverty.
Pantami is eager to get this done byensuring a practicalapproach is adopted to usher in e-government through strategic implementation in line with the Next Level Agenda of the President. He expects that moving e-government implementation to the next level will in turn work to move the economy to the next level.
He has in place the e-government master plan and wantsevery hand to be on deck in translating itinto action in order to bring about the expected benefits by way of socio-economic development. His plan is that a lot of the job creation needed to lift Nigerians out of povertywould be digital jobs. “We want to ensure that all the agencies under the ministry play significant roles in the area of e-government implementation”, he said.
The capacity of his ministry to keep Nigeria at same pace of digitisation with the rest of the world was tested and proven during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The surprising rate at with Nigeria adjusted instantly to the e-world speaks of a sector that has made a major transformation in a short period of time. The opportunity to switch over to digital economic activities at the economic lockdown in 2020 paved the way for Nigeria to stem the tide of economic decline and quickly resume growth.
ICT is a rapidly growing industry and the minister wants to plug into it to quicken the rest of the Nigerian economy. The industryhas grown the size of its contribution to GDP, reaching anunprecedented mark of 17.8 percentin the first half of 2020.This is a phenomenal growth within a space of one year.
Pantami attributed the strongand rising contribution of the ICT to GDP as a direct result of focused and committed effort of the President. According to him, the strategic policy directions of the federal government include the inclusion of digital economy in the mandate of his ministry.
It also encompasses the unveiling and implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy and the National Broadband Plan, amongst others. The minister has recorded reasonable progress in pursuit of these targets.
He said broadband penetration in the country has grown rapidly to the region of 42 percent as at July last year.This, he said,is a remarkable achievement that translates to a percentage increase of almost double digits in less than one year.
Implementation of broadband connectivity for development of a digital economy is a key priority of government assigned to his ministry. The implementation of the New National Broadband Plan (2020-2025) under his ministry is projected to deliver data downloads across Nigeria at increased speed and low cost with effective coverage of not less than 90 percent of the population by 2025.
The ministry, together with its parastatals, has made major regulatory interventions that are shaping up the economy towards the digital world. “The GDP report has shown how critical the ICT sector is to the growth of our country’s digital economy and by extension, the general economy”, Pantami said.
A computer scientist and a technology advocate, Pantamihas used superior technology tofight digital crimes. He has established a security apparatus to trace registered SIM cards used for criminal purpose in a matter of an hour.
In his first one year in office last year, he had established Nigeria’s first Emergency Communication Centre in Katsina State. He has proceeded to establish the centre in all the states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The centres offer a 24-hour manned toll free number 112 with the purpose of enhancing security of lives and property in the country.
Through the various activities of his ministry in deploying technology to bridge the digitisation gap in Nigeria, Pantami has created new jobs and raised hopes that the Next Agenda promises of the President are realisable.