Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has noted that telecommunications have much more greater role to play than many other sectors of economy and the society in this period of global pandemic.

He said for this reason, the challenge to the NCC to find a way to accentuate Nigeria’s local content solution is a blessing, adding that the agency is pleased with the responses that it received on the Gigital Solutions Hackathon for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases initiative.

Prof Danbatta spoke at the occasion of the presentation of grants to winners of Gigital Solutions Hackathon for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases in Abuja, on Tuesday.

“We are delighted that you have joined us today at an occasion designed to reward hard work and innovation in the Nigerian ICT industry,” the EVC began his opening speech.

“Let me first welcome, and extend my sincere regards to the Honorable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami FBCS, FNCS, FIIM, whose ideas and vision, spurred us to engage in what has become a celebration of some sort today.

“It was the Honorable Minister’s challenge to the Commission, to evolve a digital solution to the current Covid-19 pandemic which has continued to terrorize the entire humanity.

“This challenge is not misplaced, given that it is in tandem with the 8-pillars of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy 2020-2030, with the Honorable Minister as the Pilot.

“We considered the challenge to find a local content solution to the pandemic as fillip to our strategic designs as contemplated in our 8-Point Agenda, which, incidentally, aligns with the 8-pillars of the NDEPS 2020.

“It is evident that the entire globe is challenged about how best to tackle this pandemic. Telecommunications/ICTs have taken the centre stage in the provision, or advancement of solutions.

“In the quest of the International Finance Corporation, IFC, to appraise the impact or role that telecommunications/ICTs plays in addressing this COVID-19 pandemic, IFC noted that more than any other event in human history, the critical importance that telecommunications infrastructure plays in keeping businesses, governments, and societies connected and running as the economic and social disruptions caused by the pandemic have made people across the globe to rely on technology for information, for social distancing, and working from home.

“Working from home has become a new normal made possible by ICTs. Innovations in telecommunications has to a large extent, provided the best link for humanity to share available solutions in navigating the challenges of the pandemic.

“This may be the reason why the number of uptakes in different types of telecommunications services has continued to rise in spite of lockdown and restrictions occasioned by the pandemic.

“The number of active subscribers in Nigeria has continued to rise as the figures of the last eight months show increases from 184 Million in December 2019 to 199.3 Million in May 2020.

“Internet subscriptions in the same period has grown from 126 Million subscribers to 147.1 Million, while broadband subscription has improved from 72 Million to 80.2 million, achieving a 42.02% penetration in the country.

“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. Therefore, the challenge to us to find a way to accentuate our local content solution is a blessing. We are pleased with the responses that we received on this initiative.

“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 (5) thematic areas namely Health, Community, Productivity, Economy and Education.

“Today, we hope to unveil the three (3) winning adaptable digital solutions from Startups or Digital SME’s who participated in this competition, aimed at producing homegrown solutions to the global pandemic for local, national or global adoption.

“We had, in inviting submissions for this innovative digital solution to Covid-19 pandemic, sought novel ideas or solution to address the needs of health workers and other frontline health professionals including individuals in isolation centres, or provide help for relevant agencies involved in tracking and tracing the spread of the virus as well as support or facilitation of other preventive measures.

“We will all witness what digital solutions that today’s winners are going to bring to the table. Each of the Startups, or tech-hubs with promising innovative digital solutions against the pandemic will receive a grant of N3M (Three Million Naira Only).

“Today’s event is by no means the first of its kind. We have encouraged ICT innovations among the Nigerian youths whom we have regularly sponsored to the various competitions organized by the International Telecommunications Union.

“The Commission, has in the past two years managed similar ICT-based innovations and research competitions among the tertiary institutions in the country, with potentials to improving on our local content solutions in the industry.

“In this regard, the Honorable Minister, distinguished stakeholders, ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to reiterate our commitment to the promotion of the Nigeria’s digital economy by the establishment of the Department of Digital Economy in the Commission to coordinate all aspects of our responsibilities and mandate towards realizing the objectives of this very important programme initiated and driven by the Honorable Minister for the benefit of our dear nation.

“On this note, let me welcome you all for participating in this event, as we express our openness for support and collaboration in finding practical and adaptable digital solutions to the global pandemic and beyond.”

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