Stakeholders Present a Strong Case for Digital Inclusion

digital inclusion

Stakeholders from the private and public sectors, recently converged in Lagos for the second edition of the Stakeholders’ Formative Dialogue for Digital Transformation Programme hosted by the Policy Innovation Centre (PIC), an initiative of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG).

The event provided a platform for all the relevant industry experts to brainstorm and dialogue on issues bordering on special focused areas, such as inclusive digital transformation, ensuring sustainability in the digital ecosystem, access to broadband and infrastructure, local and foreign investments, developing effective policies, Nigerian Startup Bill, etc.

Stakeholders Suggestions

In ensuring that Nigeria continues to build a digital economy that is sustainable and inclusive, stakeholders at the gathering suggested the following:

  • An integrated global economy driven by technology.
  • Collaboration between the government and operators to deepen Internet access,
  • Reducing Dollar dependency.
  • Providing the right policies and regulations to attract both local and foreign investors,
  • Sensitization of communities where broadband is deployed,
  • Single digit interest rate.
  • Reducing bureaucracies
  • More participation of tech-driven youths in the public sector
  • Ensuring the ease of doing business
  • Growing the economy
  • A strong legal framework to encourage foreign investors.
  • Lowering the barriers to entry.
  • Democratizing investments.
  • And a plethora of other solutions.

With all the ideas and suggestions at the event, the goal of the PlC would be to collaborate with the government to ensure a synchronized design and implementation of policies that will aid digital inclusion.

The Digital Access Programme

Dr. Osasuyi Dirisu, Deputy Director, PIC said the Digital Access Programme is the UK government’s flagship initiative, led by the FCDO, an integrated partnership in designing digital culture, media, and sports.

She said the idea was to support sustainable digital inclusion and transformation in partnership with key stakeholders.

“We cannot achieve digital inclusion and transformation if we do not come and put our heads together, gather the resources and collaborate effectively to ensure that we do this.”

PIC is the first public policy institution in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa tasked with applying behavioral theory and other innovative policy tools to inform policy design and implementation in Africa.

The Digital Access Programme’ is an FCDO-led partnership that aims to catalyze more inclusive, affordable, safe and secure digital access for excluded and underserved communities in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, and Indonesia.

Increased digital inclusion in the programme countries will form the basis for more thriving digital ecosystems that generate high-skilled jobs, opportunities for local digital entrepreneurship focused on country-specific development challenges, as well as potential partnerships with international and UK businesses aimed at mutual prosperity. 

On the UK Government’s Support for Nigeria’s Digital Economy, Guy Harrison, Economic Counselor to the UK Government, who represented the FCDO, said ICT contributes significantly to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and has grown to become a sustainable source of employment generation and foreign exchange for the Nigerian economy.

According to him, Africa’s largest economy has benefited from the UK government through the UK-Nigeria tech hub that provides support for the tech ecosystem; the Security Exchange Commission, with tech financial regulation, and the energy regulator to encourage the rollout of digital solutions.

“We’ve seen very exciting developments in the last few years and lots of investment, that’s the positive side, we’ve seen the expansion of the existing cable network, which arrived at the shore of Lagos.”

He said it was important to create a sense of support and partnership between the public and private sectors to create a framework that can provide the right regulations and provide safeguards that encourage the private sectors to contribute more to the Nigerian economy.

Remarks

According to Oladiwura Oladepo, Co-founder and Executive Director, Tech4DeV, building the future of Africa’s digital economy must be inclusive regardless of gender, disability, race, or religion.

Oladiwura who is actively involved in empowering women with digital skills through different initiatives, presented a keynote address on ‘Leveraging Gender and Inclusion for Digital Economic Growth in Nigeria’.

She explained that Nigeria must unravel the challenge of building a prosperous, digital Nigeria and Africa.

“We have what it takes and we have been doing it over the years, we begin to see the making of a beautiful picture.

“But it’s impossible to solve a puzzle when you are missing its most important pieces; this is why as we sit and deliberate today, the how, the what, and when for Nigeria’s Digital future, we must make sure we include every ‘who’ – Nobody should be left behind,” she added.

Faisal Naru, Executive Director, PIC, said in driving a sustainable and inclusive digital economy, it was evident that there was a need to have such a gathering where everybody from both private and public sectors could figure out the necessary actions, initiatives, and policies.

“We are breaking down some of the silos in these conversations, have the different actors that are here in the room come together, and to be able to start to discuss what is really going on and also start to explain themselves around what are some of the needs to have a better enabling environment for digital services and digital enterprises.”

According to Naru, given the pace at which Nigeria’s digital economy is growing and expanding, there is quite a huge opportunity, adding that digital opportunity goes beyond structuring all actions, plans, and policies into technology.

“This is not only just for Nigeria but also for Africa as well. Nigeria is quite uniquely positioned in lots of different ways. But within that opportunity, there are lots of other things as well. One of those things is so not simply building everything that you normally do into the ICT. That’s not the digital opportunity.”

Naru explained that digital opportunities are to make things better, and more efficient, do things that were ordinarily not possible to do, and overall digital transformation.

Further, he said, beyond the need to have conversations and the opportunities therein, there is a responsibility for everybody from all the sectors to achieve the goal of a sustainable digital transformation and inclusion, not just the government.

“There are lots of conversations that have happened and lots of things around the responsibility for making the digital economy happen, for making it so access happens to make digital inclusion happen. That responsibility is not online.

“So, it’s not only for the government to make the right policies and laws. It’s also for the private sector, to develop the right services, and to have the recruitment, where you are genuinely inclusive.”

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