BARRISTER ABDUR-RAHEEM ADEBAYO SHITTU
HONOURABLE MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS
2017 DIGITAL AFRICA CONFERENCE & EXHIBITION
SHEHU MUSA YAR’ADUA CENTRE, ABUJA
6-7 JUNE, 2017
I am delighted to be attending this year’s edition of Digital Africa Conference & Exhibition aimed at igniting passion for Africa’s development through the use of Information and Communications Technology tools, solutions and applications.
I am particularly delighted by the choice of the theme of this year’s event- “Fourth Industrial Revolution: Getting Africa Ready.” It couldn’t have come at a better time than now that the Federal Government of Nigeria under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari is providing the enabling environment for investment in the nation’s ICT sector.
In the First Industrial Revolution, we shifted from reliance on animals, human effort and biomass as primary sources of energy to the use of fossil fuels and the mechanical power that this enabled. In the Second Industrial Revolution, we had major breakthroughs in the form of electricity distribution, both wireless and wired communication, and new forms of power generation. The Third Industrial Revolution began with the development of digital and communication systems, bringing about advances in computing power, which have enhanced new ways of generating, processing and sharing information.
It is evident everywhere that technologies are rapidly emerging and affecting our lives in ways that show that we are at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, a brand new era that builds and extends the impact of digitization in new and unanticipated ways. This is notwithstanding the fact that in so many parts of the world, some aspects of the Second and Third Industrial Revolutions are yet to be experienced.
There is the need to understand why all these advances matter and what to do about them. It has been suggested that the resulting shifts and disruptions in systems mean that we now live in a time of great promise and great peril. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will enhance further connection of billions of people to digital networks, improve the efficiency of organizations and manage assets in ways that can help regenerate the natural environment.
Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, in his book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, observed that “we are at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to one another. It is characterized by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.”
But Schwab also expressed grave concerns about the Fourth Industrial Revolution. According to him, “organizations might be unable to adapt; governments could fail to employ and regulate new technologies to capture their benefits; shifting power will create important new security concerns; inequality may grow; and societies fragment.”
I strongly agree with those who say that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is within the control of all of us as long as we are able to collaborate across geographies, sectors and disciplines to grasp the opportunities it presents. We should be able to know the place of man in all of this, empower him and always remind ourselves that the new technologies are tools made by people for people.
The Ministry of Communications has the mandate of the Federal Government to promote and facilitate the development of the ICT industry and increase its contribution to GDP; .Utilize ICT to drive transparency in governance and improve the quality and cost effectiveness of public service delivery in Nigeria, among others. We therefore, share the same vision with the organizers of this Conference.
We are committed to supporting Digital Africa Conference & Exhibition in its laudable endeavor and vision to bridge the gap between Africa and the rest of the world in Information and Communications Technology. We extend our goodwill to Digital Africa Conference and Exhibition 2017.
Let me reiterate that Nigeria should no longer be a dumping ground for ICT products and services. Therefore, the Ministry will support the establishment of companies or organizations in the areas of hardware and software by ensuring that they are protected through regulations or other means. We will assist them to grow. We have accepted that Nigeria must take the leadership role in Africa’s ICT ecosystem. Therefore, we are amenable to PPP relationships to drive the Ministry’s projects; 2017 must be a year of action.
It was part of government’s preparation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is predicted to happen globally in the very near future, that the Federal Government had conceived a national ICT Park and Exhibition Centre in the Federal Capital Territory. The establishment of the centre will encourage investment in the ICT sector and complement the proposed University of ICT which will also produce the required skilled manpower for Africa to partake in the inevitable Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The ministry is committed to creating a platform – through Digital Africa, where organizations and startups can pitch their innovative ideas. These ideas will be passed through a structured selection process to come up with marketable innovations for implementation by the Federal Government.
I therefore, solicit the active participation of all stakeholders, and ask this Conference to rally round the Federal Government for the actualization of these laudable objectives. Already, proposals have been made to name campuses of the University after benevolent and supportive companies. My ministry is ready to encourage and support any organization that has good and durable blueprint that would move Nigeria forward in the ICT Sector.
Let me reiterate here that the Federal Government through the Ministry of Communications is collaborating with the European Union Commission to create a Digital Single Market in Nigeria. The size of Nigeria makes it the most lucrative investment destination in sub-Sahara Africa with a high return on investment and an emerging market that made it one of the new frontiers for investment and Digital Market consideration. This collaboration is timely and coming at a time the ministry is making concerted efforts to implement its ICT strategic roadmap, e-Government and Mobile Broadband Plan.
Let me also state here that the Ministry of Communications is determined to diversify the economy by leveraging on ICT as its benefits cannot be over-emphasized. Towards this end, I have instructed that a committee be raised comprising the ministry’s agencies and the Nigerian Computer Society on the new Digital Single Market paradigm ahead of the EU/Africa Summit holding November 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In a bid to enhance business in the ICT sector, the Nigerian government is contemplating on the need to establish a Communications Bank which will be a development bank that will assist in the financing of ICT companies based in Nigeria.
The recent inauguration of the reconstituted Nigerian National Broadband Council and the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Smart City Project is aimed at assisting the government in providing diverse and global input in developing a comprehensive framework to help public and private stakeholders to make informed decisions about Smart City investment strategies. The goal is to accelerate economic diversification, boost technology tourism, generate the much needed revenue for government, and create employment for the teeming youthful population.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as you deliberate on how to get our continent ready for the imminent Fourth Industrial Revolution, I wish you fruitful deliberations and assure you that the Federal Government of Nigeria will welcome the recommendations that will emanate from this Conference especially as they affect the Nigerian nation.
Thank you and God bless.