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Accelerating Tech Ecosystem Through Renewed Hope Infrastructure Fund

Tech experts have thrown weight behind the Renewed Hope Infrastructure Fund even as they argued that without addressing the fundamental challenges, the initiative may not be feasible.

on March 26, 2024, President Bola Tinubu, approved the establishment of an Infrastructure Development Fund to facilitate effective infrastructure development across the nation’s critical sectors.

Tagged, “Renewed Hope Infrastructure Fund,” the fund is expected to invest in critical national projects, which, according to the presidency, would among other things promote growth; enhance local value-addition, create employment opportunities, and stimulate technological innovation and exports.

In the area of digital economy, the development agenda recognised digital technologies and innovation as the new frontiers of economic development becoming important vehicles of economic growth around the world.

The agenda noted that investing in the ICT sector and the digital economy would stimulate the local industries, enhance competitiveness, increase productivity and provide millions of Nigerians with new skills as well as long-term job and wealth creation opportunities.

Some major digital products and services: Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-enabled outsourcing, innovation and entrepreneurship, e-Commerce, tech manufacturing, government digital services, Broadband by 2025, and Blockchain, were identified as having the greatest potential to bring new jobs and greater diversification to our economy.

Excerpt from the infrastructure fund on tech reform, signed by the president states: “ICT-enabled outsourcing offers the broad seat opportunity to bring new jobs to Nigeria and productively engage young Nigerians in the evolving digital global economy.”

On innovation and entrepreneurship, it states that, “the start-up ecosystem will provide the platforms and Infrastructure to enable the take-off innovation-driven enterprises that utilise ICT for the development of a diverse array of products and services for all sectors of the economy.

“Already in Nigeria, fintech start-ups, emerging from this category, have become attractive targets for significant domestic and international investment.”

Speaking, the federal government’s initiative, the Director of Uleval Technology, Mr. Adebisi Gbenga, hailed Tinubu for his steadfastness and devotion towards development, especially in the area of tech.

He acknowledged that the ICT manufacturing agenda included in the document was a welcome development, noting however that it required a force to drive the patronage of made-in-Nigeria products and technology.

He said Nigeria has the capacity and intellect of software development and phone manufacturing and assembly.

“This agenda by the President is a laudable one. To start with, in the area where the assembling of phones is stated under ICT manufacturing, I will say it is very possible. If Nigerians would be willing to patronise made-in-Nigeria phones, then it’s possible.

“Sighting example with our prepaid meters that are locally made. And considering the kind of infrastructure the manufacturing company has, it’s very commendable. They have a complete production process.

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“If we can have something of such in Nigeria, then having a smartphone production company and not just assemble is very possible. It definitely will need a lot of investment but it’s feasible.

“Gone are the days when we say Nigeria-made products are substandard because local companies are spending more to get their staffs trained outside the country. Private organisations sponsor the engineers to places like China to get trained.”

Speaking further, he said: “Software development in Nigeria is top-notch. You wake up every day and you see different ideas flying around. Nigerians are improving every day.

“Some of our fintech companies are doing a fantastic job. Gone are the days where you experience slow transactions or hanging transactions.” Speaking on the challenges, Gbenga noted the government needed to work more on the issue of bureaucracy, affecting access to data.

He emphasised the need for a marriage between the public and private sectors to pave the way for data access for development. “The only challenge I see here is bureaucracy. Getting access to some information in some government offices is not what comes easy. You have to go through a lot of conditions for information and accreditation. It discourages us.

“The private and public sector needs to come together with a handshake to provide solutions. There are some that the government can’t have access to and vice versa which is why there should be a marriage.” While also praising the government, a software tester, Miss Ajibola Oladokun, spoke on challenges that may hinder the feasibility of the infrastructure fund.

She noted that, for ICT-enabled outsourcing, ICT manufacturing among others, identified in the infrastructure fund, power supply, and improved internet access need to be addressed.

Oladokun, said there was a large number of tech experts who work remotely affected by the poor power supply and untrusted internet access.

“It’s a good thing that the government was able to understand the importance of tech in the world today.

“And the major role tech can play in our economy. For me, the agenda is a good one but I hope the problem won’t be implementation.

“Truly, Nigeria has the capacity for software development but we also have some lazy ones among them. There are vibrant Nigerians who have fantastic ideas and are developing problem-solving software, while there are so some who steal ideas. Changing the narrative of code copying is also very important.

“But it is sad that we don’t have a good atmosphere for tech development. One of the problems is electricity. If the problem of electricity can be solved, then over 50 per cent of the problem has been solved.

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“We have a large number of tech experts like myself who work remotely and we get frustrated and discouraged due to lack of electricity. Another one is the network provision. It’s quite unfortunate that in Nigeria, you can’t bank on one. Working remotely will compel you to have different networks in case one shuts down. And some don’t work in some areas. Access to the internet is another major challenge.”

In his contribution on the aspect of Blockchain technology in the document, the Founder of Pepework International Nig. Ltd., Daniel Akinyemi, noted that adopting Blockchain Technology would foster transparency and eliminate corruption.

“In my opinion, I will say this administration is doing a lot of things right. I have been educated in several forums that this administration has never at any point in time banned crypto.

“In the infrastructure fund document, it is clearly stated that the government will leverage blockchain technology to revamp the economy because of the transparency and the smooth transaction that blockchain has exhibited for the years.

“Through blockchain technology, corruption can be eliminated because every transaction will be seen.

“Blockchain can help us eliminate corruption and it can be replicated in every ministry for accountability.

“Also I will also want to commend the recognition of our e-naira because it’s also pivotal to the development. I feel the current administration has been able to maintain every good initiative from the past administration and they are building on it and they need to do more,” he said.

Speaking on challenges that may pose a threat to the plans of the government, Akinyemi also mentioned the issue of poor power supply and internet frustration.

“I know it takes time to put things together but I will say Nigeria is behind schedule in terms of infrastructure development. Although it’s underway the government needs to speed up. The power supply is also very key.

“They just increased the tariff but what’s important is that the power should be stable and available because they cannot be produced without power. “The industrial revolution is impossible without power. If we can move to the era of one gigabyte in seconds then we can be proud of our internet access.

“There is hope that Nigeria’s economy is going to boom very soon which is why I have been urging Nigerians to get involved especially in the area of blockchain technology,” he said.

Source: Thisday

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