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TOP 20 CEOS DR. ISA PANTAMI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, NITDA Our law does not allow MDAs to host data outside Nigeria, it is illegal

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Dr. Isa Pantami, Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency [NITDA], explained why it is illegal for ministries, departments and agencies of government to host data outside of Nigeria. Excerpt.

You have regulations on cyber security, digital job creation and inclusion, local content development, capacity building and government’s digital service promotion. These are on your table as the Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). Where do you start?

This is a question that even if answered superficially, requires like 11 hours. As we all know that NITDA is an IT developer and regulator. NITDA is the government agency that is mandated by the Act of National Assembly to develop IT in Nigeria and also to regulate it. So, in summary, if you ask me about the mandate of NITDA, I can simply bring it under these two headings: The development of IT and the regulation of IT. We are to develop and regulate and our regulation is not to in anyway jeopardize or frustrate but rather to teach, motivate and guide in order to develop IT.

However, as you asked me that question, when I came on board, I have the support of my management team on one hand and stakeholders on the other. We came up with what we called Seven Strategic Pillars – Strategic roadmap pillars for developing and regulating IT in Nigeria. IT regulation is the first. Under this NITDA has done well. During EU-Nigeria Summit, President Muhmmadu Buhari was there and he commended the efforts of the agency when it comes to regulation.

Also, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also presented a certificate to the agency in commendation for what we have been doing so far. However, we consider the recommendation not to discourage us from doing anything we are doing; we feel it is a motivation to do more. What we have been doing, we are not in any way trying to reduce the tempo. Our effort is to ensure that we improve. That is about area of regulation.

What is the awareness level on cyber security?

We have been regulating the IT sector more than ever before. That is why you can see even Director of IT, seeking for IT clearance. It is clear indication that MDAs are compliant. On the area of cyber security, we have created public awareness because you cannot secure your cyberspace without creating awareness. The best way for you to ensure that people avoid cyber-crimes is to create awareness within the citizens and make sure they know the implication; to make sure they know what they should do online for them to be well protected.

kWe have taken proactive measures. For instance, during Wanacry, NITDA was the first agency, not in Nigeria alone but in the entire Africa to alert the region of attack. That is a clear indication that the agency has been well in that regard. Furthermore, we have also been organizing cyber security training MDAs now. We did one in South-West, and we are organizing the second one in South-South. We want to visit each and every of the geo-political zones to train employees at MDAs, federal and state governments and local government levels when it comes to these issues on cyber security. We are also on track to ensure that our public infrastructure is up to date. We are working on that daily.

How have you tackled cyber security?

We have sponsored young Nigerians to other countries to acquire knowledge about cyber security in the US, UK and many other countries to acquire certificate on IT, information security, computer engineering, computer science, and many more. We have also been building capacity. We are organizing training for the youth, women, people with disability and many more. And these young Nigerians are graduating, returning to Nigeria and they are adding value to the sector which is a clear indication that the agency has been supporting them and make sure that they are received and appreciated as they return to Nigeria to continue to support the Nigerian ICT sector.

Did you consider employment for some of the youths?

Under our job creation centre, in 2017 we have established around 80 centres all over the country. They are small centre where people can be trained on digital job. We have it all over the country and the process has been ongoing. Under capacity building last year, the agency established about 86 capacity centres. The wisdom behind establishing the centres is to make sure we train young Nigerians on ICT to build their capacity and now we are even negotiating with some international bodies that are willing to come and partner with us so that all these centres all over the country can be utilized and train young Nigerians so that they can get certifications of like six schools or even any other certificates which can even add value to their career.

How digital is government service?

NITDA is promoting government digital services such as e-government. More than ever before, this is the first time that even the Federal Executive Council has approved our e-governance master plan. And what it remains now is to try to see how relevant agencies will come on board and implement it. As part of government digital services, we have been encouraging all MDAs to go online and operate online.

Even if they cannot do it 100 per cent, there are other activities that we should digitalize to them. That is why we have been commending the efforts of the MDAs that comply like the FIAS, JAMB, like the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) that have been doing wonderfully well now. And that is why during E-Nigeria event, the agency awarded the MDAs because based on what we have directed the MDAs to do, they have been complying significantly. And because of this, they deserve the commendation.

What are your views on local content?

On area of local content promotion and development, that is indigenous content; I think the agency also in this area has been intensifying its efforts to ensure that indigenous content is being patronized. Firstly, our data centre. Our law does not allow any MDA to host our data outside the country as this is illegal because if you keep the data of Nigeria in another nation, it means that the laws and policies of Nigeria will not be used upon that data. That country that keeps that data, their laws are binding on our data and we have no control over our data in another country.

That is why based on our policy; our data must be kept in Nigeria. If you have an exceptional case where you feel that data cannot be kept here, NITDA is ready to listen to your complaints and give you a waiver where necessary but you need to convince us. And that is why even the data centres all over the country are so much happy that the level of patronage is more than ever before; that the MDAs are coming to transfer their data from abroad to Nigeria. And that is why the patronage has reached its peak now more than ever before. And when it comes to hardware and software, the same development has been recorded.

We are monitoring all the MDAs – their projects in IT, we always direct them to patronize local content as long as that IT solution is locally available. And you are not the one to determine whether the solution is locally available or not, NITDA is the body that can verify and say whether we have the capacity to produce the needed hardware or software locally.

If yes, we cannot allow you to import, but if no, they can be imported. But some MDAs will always come to you and say we don’t have the capacity. No! It’s not in your power. This is the power of the regulatory body to ensure and decide whether there is capacity or not. And this is what the agency has been doing.

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