By Inyene Ibanga
Creativity and innovation makes the world go round. Nature recognises innovation as a core aspect of human existence. From the beginning of creation, the combination of these two phenomena have continued to transform the universe from the rustic/traditional to the highly refined/modern today.
In fact, without creativity and innovation, humanity will not be able to achieve any meaningful progress in the course of its existence. The growth of any nation is determined by the levels of creativity and innovation, because these two are the pillars of all human growth and development.
Creativity helps to expand the scope of different human perspectives, generate a variety of ideas/innovations and provide the means for addressing society’s numerous problems. It lays the foundation for the creation of something innovative and valuable for the benefit of all.
Innovation is a vital element for the prosperity and economic growth of any nation. This means that a nation can only thrive when it innovates, invents and applies such resources to drive entrepreneurship for the creation of jobs and wealth.
For Nigeria it was a double celebration as she joined the comity of nations to observe the 2021 World Creativity and Innovation Day on April 21. It was noteworthy that Nigeria had substantial grounds to commemorate the day with the funfair it deserves.
This year’s WC&ID fell within the week in which the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) marked its 20th anniversary as the agency responsible for development, regulation and implementation of Information Technology (IT) policy in the country.
But instead of rolling out the drums, it was rather observed as a day of stocktaking. This was heralded by a press conference to observe the day while also assessing NITDA’S contribution to the digital economy within the past 20 years.
Apart from celebrating creativity and innovation, the day is also aimed to raise awareness on the importance of embracing these phenomena towards advancing the commonwealth and prosperity of Nigeria.
Advanced economies of the world are known to be heavily driven by technology-innovation initiatives and policies, which are facilitating tremendous growth for its different sectors. Those economies are powered by market-creating innovations.
These market-creating innovations stimulate entrepreneurship and commercialisation, thereby attracting investments and infrastructure for economic growth. Such innovations create new markets and profitable opportunities for citizens.
The Director-General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa, while enumerating the performance of the agency since its inception on April 18, 2001, reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to the proliferation of Innovation-Driven Enterprises (IDEs) in the country.
Kashifu said that: “We are deeply committed to fostering digital innovation culture among Nigerians. We have several programmes and initiatives aimed at boosting the innovative capacity of our youths, which include catch-them-young programmes targeted at orienting Nigerian kids to become active players in the digital technology space.
“We are recalibrating our activities to focus on strengthening the innovation ecosystem, promoting the adoption of emerging technologies for sustainable development, digital job creation, and promoting Nigerian content development and adoption.
“At NITDA, we have identified innovation as a critical tool for implementing the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS). We have taken bold steps to drive our nation’s prosperity by boosting digital innovation and entrepreneurship”, he added.
Several key initiatives supporting the innovation ecosystem are Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support (TIES) Scheme; Bridge to Mass Challenge Nigeria and MIT-REAP Abuja; as well as the Entrepreneurship Mentoring Initiative (EMI), for Nigerian innovators and entrepreneurs.
Also, there are the Community Access Venues (CACs), Knowledge Access Venues (KAVs), Digital Capacity Building Centres (DCBCs), Digital Job Creation Centres (DJCCs), Digital Divide Bridging Centres (DDBCs), and Digital Economy Centres (DECs).
Others are IT Infrastructure for Higher Institutions, Wide Area Network for Higher Institutions, Virtual Library, IT Innovation and Incubation Parks, IT Community Training Centres, IT Innovation Hubs, and IT Skills Acquisition and Computer-Based Testing Centres.
Currently, the NITDA Academy for Research and Training is delivering online programmes for the benefit of women, people living with disabilities, the military and paramilitary, public officers, students, youth corps members, artisans, primary school children and others.
So far, more than 2.5 million citizens have benefitted in different areas of IT training on software and hardware conducted in over 1,560 centres across the country. A minimum of two centres are located in each of the 774 Local Government Areas.
Through the approval of its supervisory ministry, NITDA is coordinating the operations of the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, established to position the country for the Fourth Industrial Revolution led by emerging technologies.
Similarly, the Federal Government’s commitment to fast-track digital entrepreneurship and job creation in the country is made manifest through the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre (NDIEC), also under its purview.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, who has also served as a Director-General of the agency, saluted NITDA for its critical contributions to national development by providing the legal framework for the growth of IT and pioneering important projects in the sector.
As part of the double celebrations, NITDA presented N10 million to five winners of the 2021 Creativity and Innovation Challenge, who emerged from 800 contestants that participated from all states of the federation and the FCT.
Each of the five winners was rewarded with the sum of N2 million for their brilliant and novel ideas that could solve numerous problems in different spheres of human endeavour.
As we celebrate two decades of NITDA’s positive performance, it is hoped that the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy would further empower the agency to enable it successfully drive the diffusion of digital innovation across different sectors of the economy.
Lastly, consistent collaborative engagements should be created among stakeholders in the IT sector to ameliorate cybersecurity threats and ensure safer cyberspace for users.
Inyene Ibanga writes from Wuye District, Abuja.