By Chimezie Godfrey
In a bid to unlock the full potential of Nigeria’s digital economy and promote greater social and economic development for all Nigerians, the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa, has revealed that the NITDA is currently prioritizing the development of a Gender Digital Inclusion Strategy (DGIS).
Inuwa who was represented by his Special Assistant on Strategy and Innovation Mrs Iklima Musa Salihu, made this statement at the United Nations International Women’s Day celebration organised by FGN Women Ambassadors Network (FWAN-NET) in Abuja. The theme for this year’s celebration is “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality.”
According to him, the strategy is to address the existing barriers that prevent women from fully participating in the IT sector and reaping the benefits of digital inclusion.
He said through the DGIS, NITDA plans to outline specific steps that will be taken to bridge this gap and ensure greater gender parity in Nigeria’s digital economy, by creating a more inclusive and diverse tech industry.
He noted that the Agency has identified innovation as a critical tool for implementing the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), adding that it has the advantageous objective of bridging the digital gender gap by ensuring that the digital literacy and skills pillar incorporates children, women, internally displaced persons, and the physically challenged and aligns with the Agency’s mandate of empowering all Nigerian citizens with digital skills.
“In fulfilment of this strategy, we have taken many steps to drive our nation’s prosperity by boosting digital innovation for women, creating an enabling environment that maximises the potential of all Nigerian women, promoting their ability to contribute to the economy, and ensuring their improved quality of life and well-being,” he said.
While noting NITDA’s belief that technology can bridge these gaps as women have unequal access to the same economic opportunities as men, Inuwa said it was not surprising that Nigeria, as Africa’s most vibrant ecosystem, was making waves both within and outside the continent, attracting 22% (1.2B USD) of Africa’s total investment inflow in 2022.
Inuwa also celebrated Nigerian female talents such as Kemisola Bolarinwa, founder of Next Wear Technology, a wearable/fashion technology company that designs and develops technology including the Smart Bra for breast cancer detection which uses embedded programmable electronics and sensors on clothing to solve health, security, and communication problems.
He added that through the Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI), the Agency has worked with its foreign-based collaborators to support 753 female and male-led start-ups through grants and sponsorships to local and global conferences and exhibitions, acceleration and incubation programmes.
“At NITDA, we have identified innovation as a critical tool for implementing the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS). Launched in 2019, the NDEPS provides a holistic and sustainable approach towards the development of Nigeria’s digital economy,” he stated.
He added that “NITDA’s deep commitment to fostering digital innovation among Nigerians is evident in several programmes and initiatives aimed at boosting the innovative capacity of our youths and women to ensure they receive the support they require.
“Through hackathons and innovation challenges, we have seen the conceptualisation of innovative ideas in an ecosystem that is primarily dominated by men, thus giving female innovators an equal opportunity. We also conducted capacity-building programmes on ICT and entrepreneurship for 360 women in various geopolitical zones,” he said.
Speaking on the Nigeria Startup Act, Inuwa said Nigeria’s tech ecosystem, the Presidency, and the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy come up with the idea of Nigeria Startup Bill, which was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, that will serve as the means in harnessing the potential of digital economy by providing an enabling environment that can foster the growth and development of innovation for local startups.
He said the regulation will put Nigeria in a position to take advantage of the African Digital Economy estimated to be worth 300B USD by 2025, as reported by McKinsey.
Inuwa expressed his deep concern that despite the remarkable progress made in the digital arena, there remains a striking absence of women’s representation.
He lamented the fact that women are still significantly underrepresented in digital spaces, despite their undeniable competence and potential to contribute immensely to the field.
He said there is need for concerted efforts to promote gender equality and inclusivity in the digital world, where all individuals, regardless of gender, can thrive and excel.