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2023 General Elections: Pantami inaugurates ‘Committee for Cyberspace and ICT Infrastructure Protection’

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The Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Ali Ibrahim Pantami yesterday (23rd Feb) in Abuja, inaugurated a Committee led by the Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Adeolu Akande, to advise the Federal Government on appropriate measures to take in protection of the nation’s cyberspace and ICT infrastructure from potential attacks especially during the 2023 General Elections.

The Minister, who represented President Mohammadu Buhari, announced that constitution of the Committee was on the directive of Mr. President that he puts in place, a committee that will work to coordinate computer security centres in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry in collaboration with other relevant institutions towards intercepting potential cyber-attacks.

He said with the increased role of ICT in online activities, and its crucial role in the conduct of the 2023 General Elections, in line with the Electoral Act, as amended, the job of the Committee will assist the nation in conducting a free, fair and credible elections.

He directed the Committee, to which he also belongs alongside the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, and the Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mr. Kashifu Abdullahi, among other CEOs in the ministry, to work round-the-clock from Friday, February 24, 2023 till the morning of Monday, February 27, 2023.

He said the Committee will also ensure it receives complaints around any attacks to critical infrastructure and ensure such complaints are escalated to relevant institutions, public or private, for necessary remedial actions. The CEO of Galaxy Backbone, Prof. Mohammad Abubakar, and the Special Assistant to the Hon. Minister on Digital Economy, Prof Aminu Ahmad, are members of the Committee, including key directors in the agencies.

“Our main responsibilities in this Committee are more of advisory. Firstly, when it comes to intercepting potential attacks that may come to our cyberspace. The Committee will coordinate the NCC’s Computer Security Incident Response Team at NCC; the Computer Emergency Readiness and Response Team at the National Information Technology development Agency (NITDA) and the Galaxy Backbone’ National Cybersecurity Centre.

“These three centres must work together, complement each other and ensure they intercept any potential attacks on our cyberspace particularly on our Critical Infrastructure during the election so that we could either take action or provide necessary advice to the government,” Pantami said.

He said the Committee will work closely with institutions such as the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), mobile network operators (MNOs), among others, to collectively safeguard the Nigeria’s cyberspace from potential attacks or cases of vandalism and fibre cuts during the election.

“The challenges of protecting our cyberspace is a collective national responsibility; it is a national assignment. As a sector, we would play our own responsibility objectively and professionally. We would work collectively rather than working individually as agencies since we are in the same sector,” he added.

Chairman of the Advisory Committee, Prof. Adeolu Akande, expressed gratitude to the Hon. Minister for finding him and others worthy to be saddled with the very important national assignment, and assured the Hon. Minister of the readiness of the Committee to work hard towards delivering on its mandates of ensuring, in advisory capacity to the Federal Government and other relevant institutions, the protection of the nation’s cyberspace and ICT infrastructure during the elections.

“The committee members will do everything in their capacity to deliver on their Terms of Reference,” he said.

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Africa’s 1bn youths are potential future global workforce – Microsoft

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Microsoft says Africa’s youths will comprise a significant portion of the potential global workforce by the turn of the century.

Chief Technology and Solutions Officer at Microsoft Africa, Ravi Bhat, said this in a webinar on Tuesday.

The webinar was on “AI and the Future of Work in Africa whitepaper,” produced by Microsoft and industry experts from across the continent.

According to Bhat, one billion people in Africa are currently under the age of 35, with the continent projected to host almost half of the world’s youth population.

He highlighted Africa’s unique opportunity to shape the future of work in these formative years, saying large language models (LLMs) evolved and the application environment continued to develop.

The expert said that up to 12 million young Africans enter the job market annually.

He, however, said that more than 20 percent were neither employed, in education, nor trained according to the International LabourOrganisation.

“We envision generative AI playing a pivotal role in transforming work environments and creating opportunities for youth to innovate, drive economic growth, and foster job creation,” Bhat stated.

He emphasised the potential of generative AI (GenAI) to reshape knowledge worker jobs, alter job types, required skills, and output.

“McKinsey research suggests that GenAI could boost annual labour productivity growth by up to 0.6 percent through 2040, contingent upon technology adoption rates and the reallocation of worker time to other tasks,” he added.

The technology and solutions officer, therefore, cautioned that technology alone would not address the challenges facing Africa’s youthful population.

He underscored the importance of developing policies and practices to ensure responsible deployment of GenAI and AI in general, with a focus on valuing AI-related labour and ensuring dignified employment.

Director of Microsoft Research Africa, Jacki O’Neill, spoke on the transformative potential of generative AI in enhancing human capabilities across various sectors.

“As access to GenAI tools expands across Africa through internet-enabled devices and more affordable data, barriers to access are diminishing, presenting increased opportunities for skills development,” O’Neill said.

The director stressed the need to equip youth with the necessary skills to thrive in an AI-disrupted labour market.

This, he noted, included deployment of GenAI tools, development of innovative applications, and proficiency in areas like machine learning, natural language processing and cybersecurity.

“Investing in these skills equips Africans to create dignified jobs, integrate AI sensitively with indigenous knowledge, forge new value chains, and develop AI systems that reflect human-centered and community values.

“The whitepaper underscores the importance of proactive governance, inclusive design, education investment, and commitment to regulatory and ethical standards for ensuring positive outcomes with GenAI.

“This is a collective responsibility involving policymakers, technologists, and citizens alike,” O’Neill emphasised.

He highlighted that the AI revolution in Africa was not merely a possibility but already underway, with Microsoft committed to collaborating with individuals, governments, partners, and stakeholders across the continent.

Microsoft, as a technology company, creates AI-powered platforms and tools to deliver innovative solutions meeting the evolving needs of customers.

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PIAFo: Stakeholders to X-ray Nigeria’s renewed digital economy agenda, July 10

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Key stakeholders in the country’s digital economy sector are set to converge at the forthcoming Policy Implementation Assisted Forum (PIAFo) to dissect and stimulate effective implementation of Nigeria’s renewed agenda for digital economy.

PIAFo, now in its sixth edition, is slated for Wednesday, July 10 at Radisson Blu Hotels, GRA Ikeja, Lagos, with a thematic focus of: “Accelerating Collective Prosperity through Technical Efficiency.”

According to the organisers, the strategic plan of the Federal Ministry of Communications, Innovation Digital Economy (FMCIDE) released recently by the federal government is the anchor policy for the forum as the strategic plan embodies Nigeria’s digital aspirations.

They noted that the current digital economy footprint puts Nigeria on track to attain many targets in years to come; adding that since PIAFo is an initiative designed to drive policies to fruition, the forthcoming conference underscores the need to leverage effective dialogue among relevant stakeholders to achieve the targets.

As such, the Honourable Minister of FMCIDE, Dr. Bosun Tijani is billed to deliver the keynote address while the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Aminu Maida and the Chief Executive Officer of Galaxy Backbone Limited, Prof. Ibrahim Adeyanju would make paper presentations.

Various other captains of industry are also prepared to champion dialogue at the forum by speaking to different topics and participating in panel sessions, according to the organisers.

Speaking on the forthcoming event, the Lead Executive at PIAFo, Mr. Omobayo Azeez, emphasised the need to ensure that the targets spelt out in the various digital economy policy documents do not just remain on the pages of the papers.

According to him, “There are many targets before us and achieving them within the stipulated timelines is central to the aspiration of Nigeria to unleash a digital ecosystem essential for efficient modern economies, enhanced business operations, smart public services, and job creation.

“This is why we have devoted this year’s edition of PIAFo to this course to create a midpoint dialogue platform for digital economy policymakers, private sector players and relevant local and international bodies to cultivate coordinated efforts towards achieving the targets.”

Currently, Nigeria has standing targets of 70 percent broadband penetration rate by 2025; 80 percent population coverage by 2027; up to 500 percent increase in broadband investment by 2027; 22 percent increase in net GDP contribution; 100 percent surge in telecoms revenue to the coffers of the federal government by 2027; 50 percent improvement on Quality of Service by 2024 ending; and reduction in unserved population in rural areas to 20 percent by 2027.

Other targets include 100 percent increase in the number of startups that have access to incentives in Nigeria; 100 percent increase in the number of tech-enabled startups with access to procurement opportunities in Nigeria; ranking among top 50 countries in AI and creating over 50,000 jobs in Nigeria’s AI industry by 2030; attaining 70 percent digital literacy for youths and adults by 2027 and up to 40% women participation across all training initiatives; among others.

Powered by BusinessMetrics Limited, PIAFo has remained a platform that receives massive participation from players within the public and private sectors, international community, interest groups and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) at every edition dedicated to creating a conducive policy environment in Nigeria.

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NITDA DG calls for curriculum overhaul

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The Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Malam Kashifu Inuwa, on Friday called for an overhaul of curriculums across all levels to meet the 21st Century digital skills.

Inuwa made the call during a meeting with the management team of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), led by its Executive Secretary, Prof. Ismail Junaidu, in Abuja.

The D-G said the review would be in line with President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda, to create millions of jobs by leveraging on digital technologies and achieving a digital literacy rate of 70 per cent by 2027.

“Digital technology has an important role to play in the design of the curriculum, content and processes due to evolution of technology.

“Disruptive technology has substituted the way of doing things worldwide, of which Nigeria as a country is not to be left behind.

“We must lead in developing a competency-based, outcome-focused curriculum that addresses the demands of the 21st century.

“This will enable us to produce a skilled workforce capable of meeting the needs of the Nigerian market and attracting investment from other countries,” he said.

According to him, integrating digital skills into the curriculum is crucial for national development and economic growth.

He further said that government policies and objectives, especially as relating to sustainable development, 21st century skills, digital economy, creative arts and digital technology, would create a pathway for nation building.

Earlier, Junaidu, the NERDC Executive Secretary, stated that they were charged with the primary responsibility of curriculum development for the country at all levels.

He, however, said it required inclusion of digital literacy as a critical area for the development of any country.

The ES noted that the visit was to scale up the existing partnership and to explore potential areas that both organisations would join forces for national development.

Junaidu added that the institution was also responsible for undertaking and promoting book development.

He further said that the institution was also responsible for local authorship for quality assurance, conducting educational research for public policies formulation and implementation and developing Nigerian languages.

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