Aminat Isah, Abuja
The federal government has given a marching order on Covid-19 pandemic digital research as a way of enhancing contact tracing and physical distancing in the war against the virus.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, gave the order to agencies under his purview at the virtual Final Demo and Prize Giving Day of the Nigeria COVID-19 Innovation Challenge organized by the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA), in Abuja yesterday, and directed the agencies affected to provide research grants for promising innovative solutions, incubate the proposed solutions, transfer, and deploy the solutions to relevant government agencies.
According to the Minister, there is a need to fast-track the implementation of the National Digital Economic Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), in the implementation of the research order for there to be a quick economic recovery from the effect of the pandemic on the economy.
“With COVID-19, there is a need to fast-track the implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria, adding that “ICT will play a great role in supporting contact tracing and physical distancing in the war against the virus.
The Minister further explained the the present administration is determined to leverage on opportunities inherent in digital platforms for the betterment of the economy in the post Covid-19 era, and advised that half of the fund be invested in translating the proposed ideas into solutions.
The concerned agencies include the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerian Communications Satellite Systems, Galaxy Backbone and Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST).
The Director General, NITDA, Mr. Inuwa Abdullahi in his address said, with the unprecedented dual nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, necessitated the initiation of the programme which is aimed at using indigenous digital technology to contain the virus and cushion the economic impact.
“The virus is causing health crisis, and the lockdown needed to keep the virus in check is causing economic crisis. What was normal just few weeks ago such as going to school, attending religious congregation, and socializing with family and friends, is now a huge risk.
” Year 2019 ended in a pretty solid shape. Our economy had stabilized, growth rate had increased from -1.62% in 2016 to 2.29% in 2019. Our budget cycle has changed to January to December. We celebrated 2020 with high hope and we were optimistic at the beginning of the year that it will be a great year and a great decade. Soon after the celebration things started falling apart. Coronavirus that started as an outbreak in the Wuhan City of China spreads to other parts of the world. And on 13th March, WHO declared the virus as pandemic,” Abdullahi said.
He noted that the agency is prioritizing digital solution due to its importance in accelerating technology trends, and shaping the future of and economy of the world.
“Imagine being in this crisis without digital technology. Our life would have been miserable, therefore our recovery and exit strategy should be based on what is working now. As a nation we can have all the technologies and talent but to extract value we need clear objectives and mechanism.
“Our broader objective is fast recovery to normal and our mechanism is our National Digital Economy Strategy and plan. Which highlights initiatives for Digital Nigeria.
“Our objective is to mitigate the health and social impacts of COVID-19 in Nigeria using innovative technologies. And we hope the challenge will deliver on the following: Showcase relevant innovative technologies developed by Nigerians towards COVID-19 and the future pandemics.
“This initiative, the Nigeria COVID-19 innovation challenge is aimed at identifying innovative ideas from our talented youth, incubate, prototype and develop the ideas into a digital solutions that can help us contain the virus and prepare us for post covid era.
“Facilitate and enhance processes along the prevention-detection-treatment value chain of COVID-19. Cushion the financial and social impact of COVID-19 during and after the pandemic in Nigeria and possibly beyond,” he said.
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