The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), in its efforts to ensure that Nigeria benefits maximally from the global digital economy, draws the attention of Information Technology sector stakeholders and the general public on its commencement of the process of repealing and re-enacting the NITDA Act, 2007.
The need to repeal the existing Act became necessary with the launch of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), which effectively replaced the Nigerian National IT Policy, 2000.
You may recall that the vision of the National IT Policy was to make Nigeria an IT capable country by 2005. We can all attest that Nigeria has gone beyond the vision of using IT but aiming to become the digital economy capital of Africa.
Furthermore, since the enactment of the NITDA Act 2007, NITDA has operated as the catalytic Government Agency for developing and regulating the Information Technology sector.
However, in light of recent advancements in Information Technology and the shift in the global economy paradigm, the NDEPS was envisioned to “transform Nigeria into a leading digital economy, providing quality life and digital economies for all”.
This current reality has necessitated the reimagination for the establishment of NITDA. It is a known fact that digital technologies have created new forms of economic activities that have been beneficial to the global economy.
However, these digital technologies comes with their promises and perils such as cybercrimes, privacy invasion and other social problems. This necessitates the need to proactively manage their adoption through the development of a stakeholder-led robust regulatory architecture to enable Nigeria to maximise the benefits of such technologies and mitigate the negative consequences.
Therefore, the need for a more agile and practical approach to regulations, standards-setting, and guidelines development for the country, with a focus on digital and emerging technologies, cannot be overemphasised.
Based on the foregoing, we identified the need to update NITDA’s legal framework for regulating and developing a digital economy for Nigeria. The Agency’s current establishment law is outdated. It cannot meet the needs and requirements for supporting a digital economy as well as effectively protect the rights and interests of stakeholders in the digital world.
The review of the NITDA Act 2007 aims to address contemporary digital issues, revamp Nigeria’s economy, build trust and protect the rights and interests of players in the ecosystem.
Furthermore, the review of the NITDA Act 2007 would serve as an enabler for the growth and development of Nigeria’s digital economy. Some of the highlights of the repeal include the following, amongst others, creating a framework for:
• promoting the startup ecosystem;
promoting indigenous products and services through standardisation;
• collaborating with the requisite public and private sector partners to carry out activities that will assist in electronic waste disposal;
• fostering collaboration to facilitate the implementation of robust cybersecurity measures aimed at building trust in Nigeria’s digital economy;
• facilitating capacity building through the digital literacy and skills initiative;
• entrenching stakeholder participation in developing regulations through the rule-making process; and
• promoting the safe use of digital technologies, including social media, for the attainment of national objectives.
The IT sector and general public will attest to the fact that NITDA has recorded unprecedented achievements in the past few years despite the limitations of the current establishment law. Some of these include:
• facilitating the substantial contribution of the ICT sector to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), contributing 17.92% in the second quarter of 2021, catalysing job creation and igniting innovative activities in the tech ecosystem;
• the implementation of the IT Project Clearance initiative that supported the Federal Government’s fight against corruption. This has resulted in over 22.45 Billion Naira saving and has significantly increased local content consumptions by over 300% in 4 years. NITDA currently registered 1573 indigenous companies to enforce local content through IT Clearance;
• the introduction and implementation of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), subsidiary legislation enshrined to ensure data protection and privacy of Nigerian citizens. The NDPR is the first of its kind in Africa, serving as a source of reference for other African countries. It also facilitated the creation of a new industry valued at around 3.4 Billion Naira, stimulated new business models, and empowered thousands of Nigerians through capacity building and skills development. It also facilitated the creation of over 2,818 new jobs in the industry;
• executing strategic global initiatives in the innovation ecosystem such as MIT-Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration programme (MIT REAP), Bridge to MassChallenge and Clayton Christensen’s Framework of Disruptive Innovation to foster the growth and success of startup enterprises, facilitate key strategies to compliment innovation initiatives and accelerate economic growth and job creation through Innovation Driven Enterprises; and
• strategic deployment of digital literacy, skills and entrepreneurship initiatives resulting in building capacities of millions of Nigerians and the emergence of new economic sectors like Fintech, e-Commerce, Venture Capital Investment, Business Process Outsourcing, and robust software industry.
The proposed NITDA Bill aims to create a regulatory framework to accelerate Nigeria into the digital economy and substantially catalyse prosperity. This will include promoting and implementing policies that support indigenous content, access to digital services, investments in the sector, adoption of emerging technologies, innovation, research and development, with a particular focus on the rights of citizens and national interest.
NITDA, as the apex regulator of the IT sector, will leverage the proposed NITDAs Bill to extensively engage with crucial IT stakeholders and protect its stakeholders’ interests in the best possible way. However, this can only be achieved through more excellent connectivity and collaboration by registration and licensing processes.
Considering the importance of the NITDA proposed Bill. The Bill will be presented to the National Assembly as an Executive Bill. The process of Executive Bill is as follows:
• the Agency initiated the process by sending the initial draft to its supervisory Ministry, the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, for policy review;
• the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy perform the policy review;
upon completion of the policy review, the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy conveys the initial draft Bill to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Office for legal drafting and statutory review;
• the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Office will revert with their legal opinion to the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy;
• NITDA will engage all IT stakeholders in line with the Rulemaking Process of the Agency;
NITDA will send the updated draft Bill to its supervisory Ministry, the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy;
• the Bill will be presented to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and upon approval, the President will transmit the Bill to the National Assembly for the enactment process, which will include public hearings and more stakeholder engagements; and
• upon passage by the National Assembly, it will be transmitted to the President for assent.
As an accountable Agency, NITDA assures Information Technology sector stakeholders as well as the general public that the process will be transparent and subjected to comprehensive stakeholder engagements. We, therefore, count on the support of Nigerians towards the successful passage of the Bill and eventual signing into law. This will undoubtedly help towards ensuring that Nigeria harnesses the potentials of the ever-expanding digital economy.