Dr Isa Ali Pantami’s reputation precedes him. He is the new minister of Communications.The immediate past director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA); to his admirers, he is IT sector’s anti-corruption Czar. To them, Pantami has redefined public service elevating NITDA as one of the most respected agencies in Nigeria.
But to others, he is meddlesome interloper, seeking to influence and change things that do not concern him.There is however in denying that he appears undaunted by criticisms and the litany of problems facing the Nigerian ICT industry.
Prior to his appointment as the DG/CEO of NITDA, he worked as an academic in various capacities. Armed with relevant education and training, he needs to prove his critics wrong by mustering enough political that will to cheetah-pole-vault Nigeria into the knowledge age.To do this, he should focus his energy on establishing the much awaited ICT Development Bank.
This is because the ICT sector has been a pillar of Nigeria’s economy and a key driver of job creation over the past decade.With the ICT Development bank, funding can be provided for the industry in order to promote and encourage young entrepreneurs in ICT and reduce the dependence on commercial banks for funding; offer lower interest rates; and grow the ICT industry.
The culture with commercial banks, is responsible for the delay or abandonment of great innovative ICT projects in Nigeria.Apart from the ICT Development bank, he has a long list of “to dos” including urgent rejig of ICT curriculum to make young school leavers productive and IT compliant.
He should also pursue a more robust integration of local content in the communication industry; and ubiquitous access to IT services for Nigerians.
But if his performance at NITDA is anything to go by; it may be all talks.In NITDA, despite the promises, that agency is still behaving like the typical government bureaucracy. Pantanmi must show his ministry has all it takes to build a new nation underpinned by technology and innovation.This is one chance to prove he is worth all the hypes.