By Omobayo Azeez
Agencies under Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy (FMoCDE) have been directed to institute ‘research grants’ for Nigerian startups towards sustained digital transformation of the country.
Isa Pantami, the minister in charge of the ministry disclosed this while appearing as a special guest during Nigeria COVID-19 innovation challenge, virtual demo day and prize-giving ceremony organized by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
Pantami said that all agencies under the supervision of the ministry should work on providing research grants for promising innovative solutions that will help in the fight against COVID-19.
Aside that, he said they are to incubate the proposed solutions; transfer or deploy solutions to relevant government agencies.
The concerned agencies include National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited, Galaxy Backbone Limited and Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST).
Pantami said “with COVID19, there is a need to fast-track the implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria, adding that “ICT will play a great role in supporting contact tracing and physical distancing in the war against the virus”.
Three promising Nigerian startups that participated in the innovation challenge were the highpoint of the activities as they were presented with research grants to the tune of N2.2 million.
The minister further directed that half of the fund be invested in translating the proposed ideas into solutions.
Meanwhile, the organiser of the challenge, NITDA, has said it initiated the COVID-19 innovation challenge to use indigenous technology to contain the pandemic and cushion the economic impact.
Kashifu Inuwa Abudullahi, the director general of the NITDA, stated initiative was conceptualized, implemented and opened call for application under the lockdown.
Reflecting on how year 2020 had brought high hopes for the economy, the NITDA boss said, “2019 ended in a pretty solid shape. Our economy had stabilized, growth rate had increased from -1.62 per cent in 2016 to 2.29 per cent in 2019. Our budget cycle has changed to January to December.
“We celebrated 2020 with high hope and we were optimistic at the beginning of the year that it will be a great year and a great decade.
“Soon after the celebration things started falling apart. Coronavirus that started as an outbreak in the Wuhan City of China spreads to other parts of the world. And on 13th March, WHO declared the virus as pandemic.
“Today, we are confronted with a crisis like no other. A dual crisis, Health and economic crisis. What is going on is unprecedented that you and I have not seen in living memory.
“The virus is causing health crisis, and the lockdown needed to keep the virus in check is causing economic crisis. What was normal just few weeks ago such as going to school, attending religious congregation, and socializing with family and friends, is now a huge risk.
“This is not the first time humanity is tested with a crisis, of recent we have seen Tsunami and Global financial meltdown and we heard about great depression, black plague and Spanish flu.
“I believe we will overcome this crisis the same way humanity defeated the previous crises but the timing is not under our control. What is under our control is how we keep the virus under control and prepare for the post-pandemic.
“Therefore, this initiative, the Nigeria COVID-19 innovation challenge is aimed at identifying innovative ideas from our talented youth, incubate, prototype and develop the ideas into digital solutions that can help us contain the virus and prepare us for post covid era.”
He said NITDA is prioritizing digital solution because that is the only thing working during this pandemic.
Frontpage February 27, 2018