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NCC’s Hackathon to Address Adaptable Solutions of Present and Future Impacts of COVID-19  

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The Nigerian Communications Commission [NCC] has reiterated that the Digital Solution Hackathon for COVID-19 sponsored by the Commission would address the impact of the pandemic now and in the future.“The Hackathon is expected to throw up innovative and adaptable solutions that will address the present and future impacts of pandemics and epidemic diseases in Nigeria focusing on five thematic areas of health, community, productivity, economy and education.

The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta spoke at the presentations of grants/prize to the winners of the hackathons. “The challenge to us to find a way to accentuate our local content solution is a blessing. We are pleased with the responses we received on this initiative”, Executive Vice Chairman [EVC] of Nigeria Communications Commission [NCC], The three winners got N9 million with each startup netting N3 million from the NCC.

Prof Danbatta added that “the hackathon is expected to throw up innovative and adaptable solutions that will address the present and future impacts of pandemics and epidemic diseases in Nigeria focusing on five thematic areas of health, community, productivity, economy and education”. The Digital Solution Hackathon for COVID-19 is in tandem with the eight-pillars of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy [NDEPS] 2020-2030. The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami piloted the eight-pillars of the NDEPS 2020.

Prof Danbatta credited the Minister for challenging the Commission, which has led to the search for solutions in ameliorating the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Prof Danbatta said that in its quest to appraise the impact of telecommunications in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Finance Corporation, IFC noted the importance of telecommunications infrastructure to “keep businesses, governments and societies connected and running as the economic and social disruptions caused by the pandemic have made people across the globe rely on technology for information, for social distancing, and working from home”.

Working from home has become a new normal made possible by ICTs. As such, innovations in telecommunications have provided the best link for humanity to share available solutions in navigating the challenges of the pandemic.“It is evident that the entire globe is challenged about how best to tackle this pandemic. Telecommunications and ICT have taken the centre stage in the provision or advancement of solutions. He said that this may have been the reason the number of uptakes in different types of telecommunications services has continued to rise in spite of lockdowns and restrictions occasioned by the pandemic.

Prof Danbatta revealed that this has further led to an increase in the number of active subscribers in the last eight months. The number of subscribers has jumped from 184 million in December 2019 to 199.3 million in May 2020, while internet subscriptions in the same period has grown from 126 million subscribers to 147.1 million. The broadband subscription has improved from 72 million to 80.2 million, while the country has achieved a 42.02% penetration. “These may have given impetus to the possibility of holding virtual meetings and conferences on video technologies that are now providing social distancing solutions. So, in whichever way we look at it, telecommunications has much more greater role to play than many other sectors of economy and the society.

“The Hackathon is expected to throw up innovative and adaptable solutions that will address the present and future impacts of pandemics and epidemic diseases in Nigeria focusing on five thematic areas of health, community, productivity, economy and education. “We have encouraged ICT innovations among the Nigerian youths whom we have regularly sponsored to the various competitions organized by the International Telecommunications Union [ITU]. “We have in the past two years managed similar ICT-based innovations and research competitions among the tertiary institutions with potentials to improving on our local content solutions in the industry”.

Dr-Isa-Patanmi, Hon. Min of Communications & Digital Economy

He reiterated the Commission’s commitment to the promotion of the Nigeria’s digital economy through the establishment of the Department of Digital Economy to coordinate all aspects of its responsibilities and mandate towards realizing the objectives of the initiated programme by the minister. The Minister said since the global pandemic began, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy has strived to support the Federal Government with solutions, based on our areas of expertise and in line with our mission, to build a nation where digital innovation and entrepreneurship create value and prosperity for all. This mission is outlined in the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a Digital Nigeria. The NDEPS is underpinned by 8 pillars that align with the central ideas of the ITU with regard to bridging the digital and innovation divides.

The occasion “marks a modest but significant event in our search for adaptable digital solutions in our clime. Today’s event aligns with two of the 8 – pillars of our Digital Economy’s policy and strategy plan: the development of a vibrant digital ecosystem that supports innovation-driven enterprise and Micro Small and Medium Enterprises and the provision of a policy framework that prioritizes digitally skilled Nigerians for government funded projects. “This is also in line with Executive Orders 003 and 005 of President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration.  The current pandemic makes our discussion of solutions today even more significant, as the world searches for affordable and time saving solutions”, he said.

According to him, “Every sector of the economy stands to benefit from the digital economy.  This is why the programmes of the Ministry target more than just sectors that are traditionally considered to be tech sectors. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), in an increasingly open global economy, achieving competitiveness requires an enabling environment conducive to digital innovation and entrepreneurship across sectors. “Research has also shown that there is now growing digital innovation divide across countries, which challenge the assumption that innovation contributes to inclusive growth. The solution to bridging the innovation divide is in articulating globally comparable frameworks, with areas of emphasis according to the national needs that drive digital innovation.

“We are all aware that innovation is a key driver to the fast growth of the global ICT industry, which in turn drives today’s global economy. The importance of ICT innovation accentuating solutions in the health sector, especially at this time of a global pandemic is becoming evident. Digital solutions may become the difference in making the health sector smarter in addressing the problems of the current pandemic. You may be aware that very smart solutions are evolving within the ICT industry as an important facilitator in contact tracking and tracing. “Several apps are now available to accelerate contact tracking and tracing for COVID-19. It is therefore important and encouraging that this competition is focused on digital solutions against the current pandemic.

“When we talk about the economy, we must always realize that the digital economy and the traditional economy are very interdependent. They catalyze each other. According to Oxford Economics, the global digital economy is currently valued at 11.5 Trillion US Dollars or approximately 16% of the Global Economy.  This value is expected to grow significantly over the coming years. Innovation and local content development are one of the ways we hope to make our launch pad into the global digital economy”, he added. He said his ministry has been able to increase broadband penetration to 42.02% from the 31.4% that we met. We welcome the slashing of Right of Way charges and waivers by State Governors. This has been supportive of the roll-out of such critical national infrastructure and this will correspondingly lower the costs of digital services.

“We hope that more Governors will toe the steps of the digitally smart Governors to ensure that their citizens enjoy the best services that the industry provides. Perhaps, this is yet another good opportunity to invite our State Governors to take advantage of the opportunities the digital world can offer to improve the lives of the citizens in their states”.




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