On Kashifu’s Strides and NITDA’s Impacts
By Dahiru M. Lawal
AREWA AGENDA – President Muhammadu Buhari recently conferred the prestigious “National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) Award” on Nigeria’s National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in recognition of the Agency’s high productivity, hard work and excellence in service delivery through its impressive and commendable achievements that have led to the facilitation of the development of the country into a sustainable digital economy.
This award couldn’t have come at a better time than when the dire need for public service delivery remains crucial to dispensing dividends of democracy to the Nation’s populace and NITDA has without any shred of doubt stood out amidst Nigeria’s Ministries, Departments and Agency’s (MDAs).
The institution has singlehandedly transformed Nigeria’s economy enormously to the extent of contributing the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the history of Nigeria under the supervision of the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy able led by Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi and Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, respectively.
In the past three to four years, no Nigerian public institution can rival NITDA’s performance.
As the apex regulator of Information Technology (IT) in Nigeria under the supervision of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Ali Pantami, NITDA has solely entrenched digitization in the country’s ecosystem including public institutions, it has contributed tremendously to incubating and nurturing digital startups that a globally competitive, it has promoted the use of local content and has performed wonderfully well in the area of data protection.
Created in April 2001 to implement the Nigerian Information Technology Policy and co-ordinate general IT development in the country, the agency derives its mandate from the NITDA Development Act (2007).
On August 20, 2019, President Buhari appointed Mallam Kashifu NITDA DG after his boss, Prof Pantami was nominated as a member of the Federal Executive Council and assigned the portfolio of Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
As the fifth DG of NITDA, Kashifu has been steadily building upon the foundation laid by the previous occupants of that office, driving the agency to fulfil its core mandates in consonance with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) of the federal government.
In this position, Kashifu is responsible for leading NITDA’s implementation of policy guidelines for driving ICT and developing programmes that advance IT related operations within the public and private sectors.
Kashifu is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) trained strategist and the first Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) in Nigeria’s public sector. He also undertook leadership and management courses at Harvard University in the USA, University of Cambridge in the U.K. and IMD Business School in Switzerland.
Prior to joining NITDA, he assumed various positions in technology engineering at the Galaxy Backbone and later went on to work as Technology Architect at the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2014. While working in the CBN, Kashifu also doubled as Technical Assistant to the then DG at NITDA, Dr Isa Pantami.
Another programme initiated towards actualisation of the federal government Digital Nigeria project is the commencement of the National Public Key Infrastructure (NPKI) for Root Certification Authority (RCA) for Country Signing Certification Authority (CSCA) and Country Verification Certification Authority (CVCA) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The agency has launched several programmes, such as the Nigeria Digital Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Startup Policy (NDIESP), NITDA Digital Innovation Entrepreneurship Centre, and the state-of-the-art Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR).
The NCAIR is a special facility for the promotion of research and development on emerging technologies and their practical application by providing solutions to Nigeria’s domestic problems.
The state-of-the-art facility, along with its modern digital fabrication laboratory, is a digital innovation and research facility focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics and Drones, Internet of Things (IoT), and other emerging technologies, targeted at transforming the Nigerian digital economy, in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS).
Under Kashifu, NITDA also held capacity building programmes for over thousands of artisans, IT centres managers and even journalists across across the country apart from organising periodic innovation contests such as Future-Hack, where participants receive funding and mentorship to develop marketable products and services.
The agency also set up a Virtual Startup Clinic, mostly for young people to meet with mentors, successful entrepreneurs, investors, industry specialists, business consultants and hub operators to solve problems and challenges they were facing during the pandemic.
Under the leadership and direction of Kashifu, NITDA floated the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA) initiative designed by the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy to take small scale farmers to commercial level using a performance-based approach.
It is therefore not surprising that NITDA under Kashifu Inuwa bagged the prestigious NPOM Award. We are very optimistic that as the Agency has demonstrated leadership and quality public service delivery, this recognition will spur other MDAs to rise to the challenge of their responsibilities.
For NITDA, this is a confirmation of its brave strides and noble impacts and we remain optimistic that this award is the first of many more, going by the outstanding technology-driven innovations of the Agency. It’s worthy, deserving and rewarding.
Dahiru M Lawal is the Coordinator,
The Network of Advocates for Digital Reporting (NADIR)
Kofar Famfo Kano City