Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Pantami, has highlighted why access to and use of print/electronic information and artificial intelligence (AI) within government across all levels is important to citizens, businesses and sustainable national development.
He spoke at the commemoration of 2022 Universal Access to Information Day organised by the National Committee on Information for all Programme in Nigeria (IFAP) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
“On the 28 of September 2022, the event took place in Pakistan which is not more than a week today, the United Nations through UNESCO on the 15th of November 2015 which is almost 7years designated every September of each year to be marked to create more awareness and also advocate for free access for information and work towards educating the global citizens,” said the minister.
He described this year’s theme, ‘e-Governance and Access to Information’ as crucial to the objectives of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria (NDEPS) even as he stressed the importance of taking a position on international policies and guidelines for action on access to information in the global knowledge society.
The theme for the year is well expressed in some of the eight pillars of the NDEPS towards achieving a Digital Nigeria.
His words: “In other to be very proactive in Artificial Intelligence (AI), and as the Minister in charge of our communications and digital economy, I developed a Policy which I directed the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to implement by establishing the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR)”.
“Initially, while I was at NITDA, I started building the centre but the name was NITDA Academy, but when I became Minister, I discovered that the interest and priority were not just about academy, rather, trying to provide some key elements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, particularly under emerging technologies and to focus more on the eight pillars.”
According to the minister, “software is dominating the world in the last few decades and there is a high probability that AI would consume software and dominate the world in the same manner and this is what the training is showing today,”
He further highlighted the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011 which he maintained allows free sharing of information except for some restrictions like personal information.
Prof. Pantami assured the Committee that the Federal Government thought the Ministry is working tirelessly towards achieving it’s ambitious target of going paperless at least at the Federal level by 2030.
“We have been training different categories of Nigerians, particularly in the public space; we will ensure that we train and retrain Civil and Public Servants on government digital services until we e-Government is Implemented 100% in Nigeria,” Pantami stated.
He said lack of funding was one of the challenges plaguing the implementation process of the e-Government but expressed confidence that Nigeria’s digital drive will succeed.
“You need to be funded before you would be able to upskill your Civil Servants; On the other hand, some of the civil servants are still struggling to be digital natives but we are trying to get them onboard,” said Pantami.