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By Emeka Aginam
To achieve digital inclusion in the 21st century knowledge economy, stakeholders from public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy at the end of the just concluded National Information Technology Public and Private Forum (NITPPF), held in Edo State, outlined strategies for a digital Nigeria.

The NITPPF is the premier event where IT public sector administrators, professionals, business leaders, high level public officials and opinion leaders from all parts of Nigeria come together to share and build a vision of a connected knowledge base with access for all.

Based on the theme of the event, 'Effective e-Strategies: Paths to a digital Nigeria', the forum discussed among others, strategies and quick-wins in technology such as cloud computing and m-technologies that could fast-track our march to digital inclusion. For majority of speakers at the event, digital Nigeria is achievable with the right strategies, infrastructure and quality of service. Realizing digital Nigeria, according to the forum requires that Information Communication Technology for Development, (ICT4D) must be embraced by both state and non-state actors to turn around the economy.

However, e-government being one of the World Summit on Information Society, (WSIS) outlines for the Millennium Development Goals, (MDGs), the forum and panel discussion robbed mind on how governments have fared in migrating its processes including payment, procurements, revenue generation, land management, policing among others into e-platform towards a true e-Nigeria. Can success in e-government provide impetus for e-business, e-learning, e-health; e-empowerment, e-environment, e-agriculture and e-science were among questions raised during the panel discussion moderated by two Nigerian IT Journalists, Aaron Ukodie and Bayero Agabi.

While calling on government to abide by the Vision 20-2020 blueprint on the creation of a new ministry and the harmonization of government agencies in the communication and the information technology sector, the forum listed, among others, the following strategies for Nigeria to reap the promise of digital age:

lThere is need to measure progress along the World Summit on Information Society actionlines. Therefore, a yearly stock-taking report should be started by ITAN on the lead to 2015 and 2020 to contain various ICT projects and initiatives by states and Federal government, civil societies, and businesses.

lAll stakeholders should be guided by an appropriate IT Policy framework and the necessary legislation to protect gains achieved

lThere is need to deepen enlightenment and discussion on key issues such as broadband infrastructure, digital spectrum dividend, cloud computing, Cybersecurity, social networking, management of critical Internet resources, localization, cultural identity, among others. Although there was general concern over inadequate IT infrastructures nationwide, majority of the speakers believed that with right policy and funding, Nigeria will not be left out in global competitiveness.

For the Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Simon Imoheme, digital Nigeria is possible with concerted efforts, adding that has made substantial and sustained progress in the application of ICT solutions.

While outlining e-strategies put in place as part of its preparation for a digital Nigeria, he said that the government of the state currently has deployed an Education Management Information Solution in schools. The solution, according to him was designed to capture data pertaining to pupils, teachers and all components of the state educational system. With this solution, it would be much easier to plan for the educational sector and improve the quality of governance of the sector, he said.

'We have commenced the process of fostering ICT awareness and building ICT skills among our young population, by installing ICT laboratories in primary schools. The Edo state geographic information system is in the early stages of implementation. The GIS effects will yield early benefits in streamlining our land information system, ease the validation of our citizen's properties and boost our land use revenues,' he added.

Speaking during one of the panel discussions chaired by Prof. Remond Akwule, President of Digital Bridge Institute, he told the audience that for the country to be part of digital age, every citizen must be involved.

'The country has witnessed more than tenfold the growth in teledensity, significant drops in costs, and increased access to data and other IT enabled services. The sector as a whole has been challenged by a dearth of trained and suitably qualified human resources. We have intervention strategy at DBI,' he assured.

While Nigeria came from behind to become the largest internet user in Africa at the ratio of 35%, ITAN President, Dr. Jimson Olufuye in his address told participants that achieving needs both public and private partnership participation.

'The Federal Government, the states and non-state actors like ITAN must open a new page and engage one another through NITPPF platform or others to create a momentum to spur growth and development through the ICT sector. ITAN would also do its best to forge closer alliance with NITDA, the key IT development agency in Nigeria,' Olufuye said.