By Mubarak Umar
In recognition of his unprecedented performance in Digital Transformation and National Identity programme of the Federal Government, the Abia State Government has awarded the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Ibrahim Pantami, the “Best Performing Digital Minister for the Year 2022.”
The Award, which was received on behalf of the Minister by Dr. Agu Collins Agu, Director Research and Development, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), is to commend him on the good works he has been doing at the Ministry especially in developing Nigeria’s Digital Economy through promoting the use of digital platforms.
The event is part of activities to mark the International Identity Day 2022, organised by Abia State government through the Office of the Special Assistant on National Identity Management Commission Ecosystem and Related Matters, Princess Glad Chidinma-Apugo Osoagbaka.
Pantami, applauded the Governor of Abia State, Mr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu for the development of IT infrastructure in the State, and the priority being given to the private sector to integrate Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) into the activities of different sectors of Abia economy.
He said, “I accept this award and extend my sincere appreciation to government and people of Abia State and also to fellow Nigerians for this recognition. It is also a great pleasure that I am receiving this award on the day the world commemorates the International Identity Day.
“I commend the team that put this event together. Abia State, Aba in particular, has a reputation of being a thriving commercial and industrial hub for different types of goods and services, and digital identity can greatly enhance commerce and industrialization,” he added.
The Minister recalled that United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide the ambitious target that all people will be able to obtain a legal identity by 2030 (SDG 16.9), adding that according to a May 2022 report by the UNDP, there is still a huge identity gap with nearly 1 billion people unable to prove who they are.
He added that the UNs Economic Commission for Africa rightly noted that “Digital Identity and the digital economy are not only linked, but are also, reinforcing, as digital ID is the basis for digital economy platforms.
Digital identification can be an important catalyst for various development initiatives in the continent, impacting on trade, governance, social protection, financial inclusion, domestic resource mobilization, as well as security and human rights.”
Pantami said, digital identity is the fabric of the digital economy and by expanding the digital identity database, Nigeria has positioned itself to reap the benefits of embracing the digital economy in a sustainable way.
According to him, Nigeria recorded significant increase in enrolment records from 41m in August 2020, when NIMC was put under the Ministry’s supervision, to about 89m as at August 2022, 48m additional enrollment in 24 months, a remarkable achievement in National Identification Number (NIN) issuance.
He said, “I had the privilege of speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2022, alongside the WEF Chairman Kalus Schwab and one recurring theme in the different sessions was the importance of the digital economy in every aspect of our lives. This realisation became more apparent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the same vein, as the Chairman of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) 2022, I am leading efforts to promote the importance of the digital economy in addressing the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
“The Digital Economy has also proven to be a veritable platform for the creation of jobs. For example, in 2017 alone, the digital economy contributed 5.1million jobs to the economy of the United States.
“An official report in China also noted that digital economy created 191 million jobs in the country in 2018 and this was about 25% of the total employment generated that year.
“In Nigeria, the digital economy has played a key part in developing the different sectors of our digital economy. One key example is how the digital economy helped us to exit recession as a nation. The ICT sector was the fastest growing sector in both the fourth quarter of 2020 and the entire year 2020, based on the Report by the National Bureau of Statistics.
He stressed that the sector’s 14.70% double digit growth rate played a principal role in supporting Nigeria to exit the recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic a year faster than experts predicted. The growth rate of the sector exceeded 4 times the next fastest growing sector of Q4 2020, which had a growth rate of 3.42%. I am also very pleased to let you know that the ICT sector recorded an unprecedented contribution of 18.44% to Nigeria’s GDP in Q2 ‘2022, and this is the highest ever contribution.
“I urge you to take advantage of digital ID programmes and solutions to significantly enhance Abia State’s commercial and industrial output,” he concluded
On his part, the Executive Governor Abia, represented by his deputy, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, appreciated the minister for the support he provided to help the state achieved a lot within the short period of time.
He said the Ministry has assisted Abia in the development of data collection, as Data enabled the state necessary information that provide access to the knowledge of number of people irrespective of their gender and age difference.
“When were searching for means to develop various types of data, it was the result of what the ministry was doing that made us keyed into this programme. We know whatever the Ministry was trying to do would be comprehensive.
“I thank the Minister for the support he is giving to us, and also congratulate him for receiving this deserving award from Abia people,” he added.
Umar, a staff of NITDA, writes from Abuja.