REVIEW OF NATIONAL DIGITAL INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP POLICY
March 8, 2021

INTRODUCTION

The National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy was developed as part of a plan to implement the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy to set in motion the strategy for achieving a digital Nigeria. The Policy has as its major justification, the crisis the country has been plunged into due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential mitigation of those effects through digital connectivity.

OBJECTIVES

The Policy has the following objectives:

  1. To create a robust framework that supports the development and growth of a sustainable digital innovation ecosystem,
  2. To promote innovation and entrepreneurship by harnessing the creative capacity of Nigerians for economic and social development,
  3. To leverage digital innovation and entrepreneurship for job creation and youth empowerment in Nigeria,
  4. To promote research, indigenous content development and adoption while protecting the intellectual property of indigenous innovators, and
  5. To increase investment opportunities in innovation and make technology entrepreneurship an enabler for all sectors of the economy in Nigeria.

SCOPE

The scope of the Policy is a mixture of private and public stakeholders such as the government (public institutions), innovation-driven enterprises, consumers of innovation, technology start-ups, innovation hubs and labs, investors, academia, funding agencies, civil society organisations, service providers, and so on.

RELATED LAWS AND POLICIES

1. National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS)
2. Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP)
3. Nigeria ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Vision (NIIEV)
4. Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR)

MAIN FEATURES

The Policy is made up of five priority areas: Advancing Human Capital, Unlocking Access to Capital, Enabling Infrastructure, Boosting Demand, and Promoting Innovative Entrepreneurship.


Figure 1: Priority Areas of the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy (NDIEP)

Priority Area 1: Advancing Human Capital

The Policy recognises the importance of investing in human capital to spur the growth of innovation and entrepreneurship and is committed to doing so by increasing talent in ICT and emerging technologies and promoting the digital and entrepreneurship education of Nigerians for the attainment of relevant soft skills for a digital economy. 

Some of its objectives include:

  1. The incorporation of digital skills into the national education system and curricula to better prepare a critical mass of Nigerians for the future of work, and
  2. The reduction of the digital gender divide by providing incentives for female entrepreneurs.

To fulfil the objectives, the government will work with relevant stakeholders such as Institutions of learning, the Federal Ministry of Education (FME), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST), the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy (FMCDE) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to draft new educational curricula incorporated with digital literacy and critical thinking skills and provide incentives to encourage female entrepreneurs.

Priority Area 2: Unlocking Access to Capital

Due to the importance of the role of capital in accelerating innovation, the Policy states that an enabling environment shall be provided by the government to unlock capital required by start-ups, scaleups and spinoffs for innovation. The government will also facilitate contributions from the public sector and encourage same from the private sector towards Research and Development.

The objectives of this Priority Area include the effective implementation of a National Innovation Fund for technology incubation and incentivising the provision of indigenous capital.

To achieve this, the government working with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) will: 

  1. create, by a gazette, a National Innovation Fund with a private sector tax-deductible participation,
  2. set a target of 1% of GDP for Research,
  3. make local angel, venture capital and private equity investments to be tax deductible. 

Priority Area 3: Enabling Infrastructure

The Policy intends to make use of digital infrastructure such as Open data, .NG CCTLD, Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025  to promote digital innovation and entrepreneurship by improving access to affordable high speed internet and the existing infrastructure. 

Under this Priority Area, the objectives are to increase access to and improve the quality of broadband services to all as envisioned in the National Broadband Plan, and designate  ICT Centres of Excellence for R&D in the academia and research institutions as well as industrial zones, innovation and incubation parks. 

According to the Policy, the government and stakeholders such as the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy (FMCDE), the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and the National Board for Technology Incubation (NBTI) will work to digitalize government data and processes at the federal, state and local government levels, using local solutions and enterprises, and make them accessible to innovators. Government-owned infrastructure would also be conceded to private entrepreneurs to be converted into innovation and incubation parks to strengthen the innovation ecosystem.

Priority Area 4: Boosting Demand

The Policy also intends to improve demand so as to stimulate creativity in the innovation ecosystem. 

The major objective under this Priority Area, is promoting and prioritising the use of indigenous and innovative solutions in public institutions and all sectors of the economy.

The proposed strategies for fulfilling the objectives include criminalizing breaches of Nigerian Content Regulations and Executive Orders and the usage of indigenous business entities and solutions by public institutions to automate their processes and services. The Procurement Act will also be reviewed by the National Assembly to accommodate the procurement of bespoke solutions to encourage new applications for emerging technologies.

Priority Area 5: Promoting Digital Entrepreneurship

The Policy also aims at promoting digital entrepreneurship through ease-of-trade policies designed to simplify cross border trade and digital policies among others and the removal of institutional barriers to entrepreneurship.

The Policy intends, under this Priority Area to ease the process of starting and growing technology enabled businesses and protect indigenous technology-enabled solutions and businesses through regulatory frameworks and retain the accruing Intellectual Property rights locally.

To do this, the government will collaborate with stakeholders like the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Innovation Driven Enterprises (IDEs), the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy (FMCDE), the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Ministry of Trade and Investments to grant tax exemptions and incentives and license entrepreneurs to provide business development services for IDEs such as business registration, IP filing, legal and financial services among others.

The NDIEP also makes mention of the need for strategic collaboration and communication between stakeholders.

COMMENTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

While the Policy is a welcome milestone in the development of Nigeria’s digital economy goal, there are a few gaps in the outlined strategies which can be attributed to a lack of specificity. For there to be effective innovations under the Priority Areas, key, observable performance indicators should be outlined as part of the strategy in line with the SMART blueprint mentioned in the Policy itself, this is particularly important in the area of gender and indigenous entrepreneurship improvement and inclusion.

Also, the Policy’s focus on indigenisation could be executed to devastating effect if there isn’t a similar or greater emphasis on a prior stimulation of quality and supply in the available local services. In order to increase the adoption of local digital services, groundwork has to be laid down to foster the growth and development of these services so as not to create an artificial vacuum or scarcity which could lock out everyday users from taking advantage of them.

by Favour Borokini

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