By Simon Onmeje,
For 10 years after its establishment, the National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA) remained a sleepy outfit. But under a determined management, the agency conquered the peculiar and strangulating odds in Nigeria to impressively place the country on the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ladder in just one year.
By ensuring the visibility of ICT application and safety in the country recently, both the private and public sectors of the economy have been motivated to show extreme enthusiasm in cropping the multiple benefits of the ICT innovations and transformations instituted by the current management of NITDA. It has also positioned the agency as the ideal destination for e-Nigeria in accordance with its establishment mandate.
NITDA Director-General, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami’s professionalism and leadership commitment have impacted on Nigerians in a manner never before felt in the administration of the agency. Consequently, it has posted many rewarding returns to Nigeria and Nigerians in the world of Information Technology (IT), especially in the Year 2017. Therefore, for Nigerians who have monitored Pantami’s focused and result-oriented, re-engineering of NITDA, the search for the ICT Promoter of the Year 2017, a platform raised by a London-based online news portal, “The Nigerian”, was not a difficult decision. The Associate Professor of Computer Science and Information Systems and Fellow of the British Computer Society (FBCS), Dr Pantami instantly became the overwhelming choice of Nigerians who massively voted him the exceptional ICT Promoter of the Year in Nigeria.
Certainly, a peep into the underbelly of NITDA under Dr. Pantami amply justifies his unrivalled choice by Nigerians. As soon as he assumed office, the NITDA boss sought to define a definite focus to reposition and transform ICT application in Nigeria through a blueprint he branded as “The Strategic Roadmap to Transform the Nigerian IT Sector” crafted with specifics in consonance with the core mandate of the agency. The document has been his guiding light and its faithful implementation has created a warm synergy among the disparate ICT stakeholders in the country, ranging from private sector investors in ICT, to MDAs and individuals keen in developing skills and capacity in the ICT industry.
Topmost on the agenda of the NITDA boss was cyber security. He erected IT infrastructure potent enough to protect and secure the cyber activities of Nigerians from hackers and other dubious elements who before now could criminally invade the cyberspace. One of the manifest results of the initiative was NITDA’s instant intervention and restoration of the hacking of the JAMB website by cyber fraudsters during the novel 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) Computer Based Test (CBT) exercise. NITDA was able to detect the hacking and restored JAMB’s website for the continuation of the UTME, much as it detected the cyber fraudsters.
In addition, Dr. Pantami has consistently conscientised Nigerians on threats of cybercrimes and other fraudulent activities by partnering relevant stakeholders to avert it. Just recently, NITDA and the Federal Ministry of Justice in conjunction with organized private sector staged the second annual conference on “Financial Fraud and Cyber Crime” in Abuja. This was on the heels of the “Wannacry Ransomware” cyber-attack that hit most countries of the world. The proactive measures the agency adopted by propagating the preventive steps, as spelt out by Microsoft Corporation guidelines assisted MDAs in arresting the scourge and saved them from system collapse.
The agency is always responsive to its responsibilities by constantly alerting the public of such pending cyber-attacks and measures to implement in order to forestall destruction to systems. It was the same experience when the ‘Petya’ ransomware or ‘GoldenEye’ threatened the cyberspace by rendering computer systems inaccessible. And even in this instance, NITDA came to the rescue, much as the virus affected several countries in the world. Dr. Pantami also believes that “Cybercrime is inevitable simply because the way you are trying to clear the cyber space, the same way the cyber criminals are creating free avenue to launch attacks.”
But to sustain the protection of ICT systems, NITDA under Pantami is coupling an enduring solution in fighting cybercrimes with the establishment of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), tailored to relentlessly trail cyber fraud to curb the threatening menace. Furthermore, NITDA is also engaged in partnership with ESET, an IT Security company for anti-virus and firewall products for Nigerians. It recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with ESET designed to ensure maximum protection of both private and public organizations ICT systems.
And executing its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the ESET deal will offer free anti-malware solutions to millions of Nigerian students in higher institutions under its Secure School Initiative. And similarly, operating from this standpoint, NITDA also donated a Digital Capacity Building Centre (DCBC) to the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) headquarters in Abuja.
NITDA has never rested on its oars to reach out to a wider spectrum of Nigerians. The agency also established a multi-million naira Digital Capacity Building Centre, at the Praxis Catholic e-School for IDPs in Abuja, which is training Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). And over 300 IDP students in the school are beneficiaries of the training.
Nigeria is a country where fake products are smuggled into the market easily. But Dr. Pantami’s enforcement of the regulations on the importation of IT infrastructure or hardware by its insistence for clearance and certification from the agency by all stakeholders has experienced unprecedented compliance by contractors, MDAs and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). The mutual interaction and seamless co-operation has largely insulated the IT industry in the country from fake and adulterated products which has been the bane of Nigeria in other sectors.
NITDA has endlessly also promoted Government Digital Services to service Nigeria’s quest for digital e-Governance. The effective implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) by MDAs has manifestly assisted in the fight against corruption in the public service by enhancing transparency and accountability in the handling and management of public funds.
Thus far, the NITDA boss, Dr. Pantami has demonstrated more than a passing interest in ensuring the penetrative domestication of the values and gains of the ICT technology in the drive towards e-Nigeria. His choice by Nigerians as “The Nigerian” ICT Promoter of Year 2017 is unmistakably a statement of his resounding success in turning around the fortunes of a hitherto sleepy agency, into a national treasure.
As he prepares to receive this honour as a token of appreciation for his selfless, purposeful, result-oriented and impactful leadership of the agency, at a grandeur conferment ceremony in London, Nigerians implore him to remain ever-focused to surpass his imprints of today, in promoting Nigeria’s IT industry for economic prosperity, ease of doing business and transparency in public governance.
Onmeje wrote from the United Kingdom.