Stakeholders Stress the Importance of E-Government to Elections and Development in Nigeria
Key players in the Nigerian Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry have urged government and all agencies involved in the delivery of ICT services in the country to improve their effectiveness to ensure the integrity of future elections and the success of development programmes in the country.
The Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, and the Executive Director (Business Development) Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems (NIBSS) Plc, Mr. Niyi Ajao, all guest speakers at the 5th Covenant University Conference on E-Governance in Nigeria (CUCEN), were unequivocal about the imperative of the country leveraging on ICT infrastructure for mainstream development and governance.
Speaking at the conference with the theme, ‘E-Government for National Democratic Consolidation and Transformation: Agenda Setting for the 2019 General Elections and Transparency in Governance’, the NITDA Executive Vice-Chairman, represented by Mr. Lukman Lamid, said that at global level, ICT was changing political and democratic processes, enabling transparency and accountability in governance and the IT revolution was enabling new forms of democratic input and participatory governance, and e-Government was enabling a more honest dialogue with the governed.
While acknowledging that ICT has played a big role in the 2011 and 2015 democratic processes, he averred that more could be achieved if there were enabling institutional and political wills. NITDA, he said, was contributing to the success of electoral reforms by organising capacity-building trainings for women, creating enabling environment through regulation, ensuring cyber security awareness in all the geo-political zones, promoting local content as regards electoral equipment, and advising the Independent National Electoral Commission, the National Assembly, and the citizens
In his speech, the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, also represented at the occasion by Dr. Henry Nkemadu, said that in ensuring e-government for national democratic consolidation and transformation, the infrastructure of e-government must be set-up properly to enable the delivery of national or local government information and services via the Internet or other digital means to citizens or businesses or other governmental agencies. He argued that as critical as e-government is, it is of no national benefit if the access does not translate to the provision of an inclusive, efficient democracy, which is where e-governance comes in.
Professor Danbatta posited that in setting the agenda for the 2019 General Elections and Transparency in Governance, the government should amongst others facilitate the deployment of pervasive and ubiquitous ICT infrastructure including backbone infrastructure for transmission backhaul and ensure the development of websites by all Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) on .ng top-level domain.
Also, he suggested that INEC should strive to develop a portal for information requests, electronic/e-voting on its platforms, while other institutional reforms should be addressed like the Nigeria Police, the Judiciary, and the Election Monitoring Management systems such that all information is displayed and can be accessed by the citizens, civil society groups and the public.
The guest speaker further stated that as a government agency responsible for the use of telecommunications and all forms of communications medium to ensure service provision in Nigeria, the Commission will continue to serve in that capacity as the country move towards the 2019 General Elections. The Commission, he said, would hasten the commencement of the INFRACO (Infrastructure Company) Project, which provides pervasive and ubiquitous national and regional backbone infrastructure for transmission backhaul across Nigeria; monitor the operators in the registration of SIMs to prevent SIM related electoral malpractices; and encourage more investment in the area of ICT backbone and backhaul infrastructure development.
Mr. Niyi Ajao, the Executive Director (Business Development) Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems (NIBSS) Plc, stated in his presentation that ICT was well adapted in the Nigerian banking industry, adding that it was a fact acknowledged by those in Europe and beyond. According to him, the NIBSS runs the National Central Switch and ensures seamless transactions between all banks in the country. “The NIBSS is an example of the value computer service could give to the populace. As a firm, we believe e-governance will happen in the country, because advancement is the way to go,” Mr. Ajao enthused.
While giving examples of how the use of ICT has benefitted the banking industry in Nigeria, he said that the NIBSS has a e-learning operation used by bankers; the N5000 token paid by government for poverty alleviation comes through the NIBSS; people do transfers on their mobile telephones, and the Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIBN) election was done through IT among others.
Mr. Ajao rationalized that if e-governance was well-applied by government, it would have a lot of data showing how people live their lives, as government would be able to engage citizens, plan for them, and provide services. On how e-government can benefit the people, he said that government must have a deliberate plan; there must be serious citizens’ engagement, personnel motivation, investment in technology, and the stimulation of medium scale industries.
The 5th CUCEN, held between June 6 – 8, 2018, had in attendance the Vice-Chancellor, Covenant University, Professor AAA. Atayero, other members of Management, members of faculty and staff, and participants from government establishments and business organisations.