President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has expressed his administration’s readiness to create one million new digital jobs for the economy.
Tinubu, in his inaugural address on Monday, in Abuja, stated this with an assurance that his administration must create meaningful opportunities for the teeming youths.
Digital jobs are created through the application of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to a new or existing activity or process.
Getting this one million jobs, Tinubu said the new government shall work with the National Assembly to fashion an omnibus Jobs and Prosperity bill.
He said this bill would give the administration the policy space to embark on labour-intensive infrastructural improvements, encourage light industry and provide improved social services for the poor, elderly and vulnerable.
Recall that the immediate past Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, disclosed earlier in the year that the digital economy sector created 2.2 million jobs in Nigeria between Q1 2020 and Q3 2022. Indeed, the rise in digital jobs in the country can be attributed to COVID-19, which triggered several online activities.
Nonetheless, stakeholders in the sector have also rated the outgone administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. While some applauded the performance of the sector, others castigated what they described as the overbearing influence of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
The achievements of the sector under Buhari include the huge contributions of the ICT sector to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As of 2015, ICT contribution to the economy was somewhere around 11 per cent, but as of Q1 2023, the sector’s contribution increased to 17.47 per cent.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the ICT sector is composed of the four activities of telecommunications and information services – publishing, motion picture, sound recording, and music production; and broadcasting.
While the ICT sector recorded a growth rate of 10.32 per cent in real terms year on year in the quarter under review, the growth was driven largely by activities in the telecommunications sub-sector, which contributed 14.13 per cent to the GDP in real terms.
Also, the doggedness of Pantami saw the issuance of the National Identification Number (NIN) increase to 100 million within two years.
Specifically, under Pantami’s supervision from October 2020 to May 2023, more than 61 million citizens were successfully registered, leading to the current database of 100 million individuals with NIN.
However, the perceived regulatory capture of the NCC and other agencies by the Minister didn’t sit well with stakeholders.
Commenting, a telecoms lawyer, Ayoola Oke, described the sector under Buhari as a disaster, “particularly because of the last minister.”
Oke said there was “too much interference with regulatory powers of NCC, especially the last minute desperate effort to reassign and duplicate regulatory duties to NITDA through the Executive NITDA Bill.”
To the chairman, Mobile Software Nigeria, Chris Uwaje, the ICT ecosystem suffered a traumatic setback – centrally governed by the quest to deliver individual interests and benefits at the altar of greed where national interests were slaughtered and consumed with ferocious intensity and gross impunity.
Uwaje said these non-inclusive features of stakeholders consequently derailed all positive expectations for constructive and sustainable development of digital transformation.
“Evidence of the above is visible from the rate of ICT startup companies, which died before the cab scale. And in particular the national unemployment of (23.7 million) and underemployed (42.1 million) rate of youths.
“All in all, my deepest regret is that the nation experienced a gross deficit in software development growth. Inflamed capital flights and human resources (IP Japa syndrome).
“It is fair to state that the minister of Communications & Digital Economy established some landscape policies that will take decades to mature, it should equally be noted that with all due respect, my contribution was instrumental to the change of name of the ministry,” he stated.
According to him, an analytical post-mortem shows that the ICT response failed to lift Nigeria out of chronic economic inflation and stagflation, “for this and other reasons there is a need to establish ‘A National Software Commission’ and the Office of the ICT General of the Federation.”
From his perspective, the founder, Jidaw Systems, Jide Awe, said despite some improvements in ICT infrastructure, Nigeria still faces infrastructure deficiencies that hinder the growth of online businesses, services, and the digital economy.
Awe said limited access to reliable electricity and the Internet remains a major concern, especially in rural areas and disadvantaged communities with poor network coverage and insufficient broadband connectivity.
He said addressing issues such as multiple taxation, right-of-way, bureaucratic bottlenecks, and regulatory challenges are crucial to promoting telecoms infrastructure development.
According to him, another challenge is the shortage of skilled professionals in the ICT sector. He said the demand for industry-relevant skills surpasses the workforce’s current capabilities, which is exacerbated by the migration of skilled ICT experts due to the “Japa syndrome” phenomenon.
For the country to remain globally competitive, the education system, industry, and government must prioritise reskilling and upskilling programmes to equip students and citizens with the necessary technological and innovative skills.
He said the implementation of the Startup Act is vital for supporting youth innovation and ensuring the growth and sustainability of ICT startups, adding that access to funding and investment opportunities should be given priority.
“Additionally, increased commitment and investment in local technology research and development are essential for fostering innovation and growth,” he stated.