How It All Began

The Story of How Nigeria Commenced Movement from Analog to Digital Technology

The foregoing is a detailed account of how Nigeria commenced movement from analogue to digital technology, as written by President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, in his book entitled ‘’ My Watch’’ ; Volume Two, Chapter 45, pages 590 591, 593, 594 and 595; published in Nigeria in 2014 by Kachifo Limited, under its Prestige Imprint, 253 Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria. url: www.kachifo.com; Copyright @olusegun obasanjo 2014.

The account details all the preparatory works, that led to the landmark decision which has now become one of President Obasanjo administration’s flagship achievements, namely:

 

  • Definition and adoption of national policies and programs on ICT.
  • Launch of remote sensing and communications satellites.
  • Adoption of national policies on communications.
  • Creation of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
  • Creation of National eGovernment Strategies Limited (NeGSt).
  • Promotion of cyber security policies to protect data privacy
  • Launch of national eGovernment programs to mainstream efficiency, transparency, accountability and discipline into government businesses.

Two of the three (3) new institutions created as backroom engines to run good governance in Nigeria in line with the provisions of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) were NITDA and NeGSt.

NITDA, a wholly owned government agency was assigned the mandate to serve as the clearing house and regulator for ICT in Nigeria. NeGSt on the other hand, a private sectordriven Special Purpose Vehicle, was created as a Joint Venture between the Federal Government and technical experts led by Dr. Felix Babatunde Obada and Dr. Olu Agunloye and registered under the Companies Act of Nigeria, and assigned the role of operator and change agent.

Galaxy backbone, the third outfit owned by government was later created to ensure rapid broadband penetration for Government-to-Government businesses across the nation.

The journey to digitize has seen the nation’s telephony system increase exponentially from 300,000 land -based lines to more than 150 million cellular lines. Every imaginable human transaction in banking, commerce, entertainment, broadcasting, agriculture, tourism, security and even warfare is now conducted over the world wide web.

President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, has even gone a step further to reposition and strengthen NITDA with a view to helping her build capacity for sustaining her ability to provide leadership to impact the entire digital ecosystem. This is now happening through deliberate efforts to co-operate and collaborate with key players in the sector.

NeGSt on her part, will continue to make herself available to support all the efforts being vigorously pursued by Buhari’s administration, to expand the frontiers of knowledge and workmanship in the areas of transparency, accountability and zero tolerance to corruption.

The appropriate section of President Obasanjo’s book which validates the above claim is reproduced below:

E-Government

“With advancement in electronics and information and communication technology (ICT), and with the advent of the internet, it became crystal clear that governance would have to take advantage of the new opportunities and technologies. I strongly believe that serious pursuit of the use of computers and ICT will eventually lead to paperless government. To do otherwise can only amount to the height of folly.

But how could we get maximum benefits and ensure best practices in all businesses of ministries and departments of government? What infrastructure and superstructure did we need? What training and retraining must we embark upon? How should we proceed? These questions and more needed to be answered.

I, therefore, decided that we should have ‘stakeholders’ conference on e-government strategies and implementation in Nigeria – another reform, another innovation. I found that my speech on 8 March 2004 at that conference fully captured my views, aims, objectives, mission, and vision in the area of e-government. The speech is reproduced here:

Right from the beginning of this Administration in 1999, I made it clear that “it will no longer be business as usual. The Administration has since consistently propagated new ways for good governance. The emphasis, style and programmes of this Administration have always centred on reorientation of civil servants and public officers towards a change in the ways of doing government business in a transparent manner.

This was to be done through the eradication of corruption and enhancing efficiency and productivity through a synergy of private and public sector participation. We have taken major steps, namely, privatisation, deregulation and monetisation, towards accomplishing the goal of a compact, accountable and productive government. There is no going back to the old ways.

However, the backroom engine, which will run good governance through due diligence, due process and transparency, actually needs to be formally strengthened and institutionalised for widespread effectiveness through computer assisted modern processes now commonly known as eGovernment.

In simple terms, we may set the definition of eGovernment as follows:

The use of information and communication technologies to improve efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability of governance through implementing data warehousing and integrated decision support system to manage modern economy for the benefit of the governed.

This Administration has laid the foundation for eGovernment in Nigeria by carefully thought-out programmes, some of which include:

 

  • adoption of a national policy on Information and Communication Technologies and plans to integrate ICT applications to agriculture, health, education, military and other sectors;
  • enactment of National Telecommunications Act and appointment of an independent regulatory body;
  • the launching of a data and research satellite in 2003 and plans to launch a communications satellite in 2006;
  • setting up an agency, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), as a clearing house for ICT-related applications and mandating it to implement related national policy as well as making it the custodian of the nation’s Top Level Domain (.ng);
  • active promotion of cyber specific laws to ensure security in the use of email and other operations originating from electronic or Internet-related facilities, Cyber cafés, ISPs or personal mobile or fixed telephones, etc.

In addition to these, we have restructured the technological landscape by increasing land-based telephone capacity from some 300,000 lines to about 720,000 or by 120%; mobile telephone capacity from some 300,000 lines to about 720,000 or by 120%; mobile telephones from 50,000 to over 2,500,000 or by 5,000% and electric power generation from 1,400 MW to 4,800 MW or 250%, all within the first four years of this administration.

It is with pride that I wish to acknowledge that the institutions, programmes and projects which we have set up for the development of ICT applications are providing positive and encouraging results. My presence here at this conference on eGovernment Strategies is yet an evidence for this claim.

Our vision for ICT and the development of a virile Information Society matches that of the Africa Information Society Initiative (AISI), and the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). We are committed to the development programmes arising from the challenges to Africa on Globalisation and the Information Age.

My personal participation at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva in December 2003 with other Heads of Government and Heads of State is yet an attestation of my government’s commitment to translate digital divide to digital opportunities.

The overall thrust of our mission is to generate internal effectiveness and efficiency to provide better services for the governed while remaining transparent, accountable and compact.

This Administration is set to conclude reforms and reorientation in Civil Service and to inject ICT to drive economic transformation in all the sectors, from primary education, to primary healthcare to agriculture, solid minerals development, tourism and virtual libraries. Government, through NITDA, will streamline and standardise all issues related to ICT and eGovernment applications at the Federal level, including minimum standards to be met by each Ministry or agency.

Nigeria is determined, this time around, not to be just a user but a driver and developer. The Federal Government will invest time, resources and funds in the development of Information and Communication Technologies, building of a National Information Infrastructure and the applications for all facets of government activities and commerce in order to “promote eLearning, eBusiness and ensure eDemocracy.

All tiers of Government are urged to join this campaign, not only by setting up their own State Information Technology Agency or its equivalent but also by developing all encompassing programmes involving the State Assemblies, Local Government Councils, Judiciary and citizens.

All tiers of Government are enjoined to develop and implement online and offline computer assisted solutions to facilitate basic and people centred operations like payroll, pension administration, accounting and Geographical Information System (GIS)-based applications for primary education, healthcare delivery and two-way citizens’ interaction with Government.

Perhaps the most potent aspect of the plans and programmes of Government to actualise its mission on ICT applications is the promotion of private sector investment and participation. This Administration will actively encourage Public Private Partnership for the development of ICT and related applications, customization, commissioning and maintenance of software, hardware and networks as may be necessary.

In this regard, we have set the pace by consigning development and implementation of eGovernment programmes to a special purpose vehicle. This is a joint venture between Government, technical experts and financial partners wherein the Government has only nominal shares and the bulk of the equity, loans and other costs are generated through private sector sources, put into practice through the National eGovernment Strategies Limited, which is registered under the Company’s Act.

Implementing eGovernment offers an opportunity for improving the way government businesses are carried out, how services are delivered and how avenues are created for the citizens to interact with government.

It draws from the openness of the ICT “world and impacts on government activities and operations, breaking barriers of hierarchical traditions, secrecy, and bureaucracies that are naturally not compliant with 21st century aspirations and practice. It is an umbrella for institutionalising due diligence, due process and hence transparency.

Apart from being the vehicle for developing and strengthening the National Information and Communication Infrastructure and its Architecture, e-Government permeates seamlessly through activities involving Government-to-Government, Government-to-Business and Government-to-Citizens.

This is ensured through eTourism, eJudiciary, eAgriculture, eTaxation, eRevenue, ePricing, eProcurement, eMonitoring, eLearning and so on; all of which together make government more compact, effective and efficient.”

I should not conclude this address without mentioning the revenue generation aspect of eGovernment programmes. It is, however, not a main product of eGovernment. It is a side-effect. Revenue is generated because of the increase in efficiency, blocking of waste pipes and generally more transparent nature which reduces corrupt practices.

Take for instance, estimated tax collection would improve by 300% nationwide when eTaxation modules are deployed at Federal, State and Local Government levels. Another form of revenue comes from service charges, when, for instance, a citizen pays a token fee for renewal of licence online, checking of examination results, establishment posting or for buying of application forms from ekiosks or eBuka at local or remote areas without travelling to urban centres.

As a matter of emphasis, I wish to reiterate my full personal support, and that of government, for eGovernment and related applications as these are inherently dedicated to transparency, accountability and good governance.

We received the report of the conference, which was very comprehensive and realistic, and started implementation in earnest. The administration that succeeded mine reversed the trend and the policy – another reversal to set us back as a nation.

But what we needed for real transformation and equitable progress and development was not sloganeering or renovation but clear, solid innovation to which the majority of our people subscribe. This was the basis for all of my administration’s efforts in government, and indeed the foundation of all our reforms.

Take a tour of the photo story of some of the events.