U.S. firm, Microsoft on Friday joined other global technology giants to strengthen the digital transformation pillar of the Federal Government’s Economic Sustainability Plan.
The offer of support was made the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo by the Microsoft Corporation team led by its President, Brad Smith, on Thursday during a virtual meeting.
The offer was in continuation of the company’s earlier investment in Nigeria after the establishment of an African Technology Development Centre in 2020.
This follows similar gestures by other global technology companies like Google Inc., HUAWEI, and top social networking company, Facebook, that have unfolded plans to partner with the Nigerian government to develop a technology system for the benefit of the people, especially the young.
VP Osinbajo said Microsoft’s latest offering was in affirmation of the efforts of the Buhari administration create a viable technology ecosystem in the country.
He said the company’s interest in supporting the Federal Government was a welcome development as it could be leveraged to address issues affecting the youth, especially in engaging them productive enterprises.
The VP recalled that in July 2020, Google Inc. announced plans to establish its first Google Launchpad Space outside the United States in Lagos, while Facebook, in September of the same year, made public its decision to open an office in Lagos as part of its planned expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Similarly, HUAWEI last November 2020 promised the Vice President that the company would position Nigeria as a technology hub for the African continent.
Speaking on the need to constantly engage with the youths, the Vice President said that Nigeria’s case was peculiar given that the youths constitute a larger percentage of the country’s population, therefore the need for all stakeholders to pay more attention to that demography.
“It seems to me that there is just a wave of general anger around the world, and people are generally impatient with government, and with practically all of the formal structures there are,” he said.
However, the VP said he was open and pleased to hear what views there might be on trying to engage and engage even more with young people which constitute about 70% of the country’s population.
Therefore, he said the government was really talking not just about the youth population, but the Nigerian populace as a whole, which is the majority.
“Whatever it is that the government is able to deploy to be more inclusive, to engage, even more, was really a solution for the entire populace as opposed to a solution for just a segment of our population, especially given the fact that young people constitute 70% or even more,” he said.
ON the government efforts in developing the technology space, especially in boosting viable sectors of the economy, Mr Osinbajo noted, adding “we have a digital innovation initiative which we hope will be the foundation for doing far more in the digital space than we are doing at the moment.”
Continuing, Mr Osinbajo emphasized that “just looking at agriculture, this is obviously something that the government spent quite a bit of time and resources on, especially in the past few years. #
He said the government has also seen the development of a good number of agric-tech type companies and fin-techs that are also working in the agricultural sector.
So, he said it’s a whole load of innovation around the agric tech space, especially in the past few years. So, I think we really are up for programmes that will support these sorts of agric-tech initiatives”.
On the partnership with Microsoft, especially the establishment of the development centre, the Vice President said the government has always wondered how Microsoft could be a much more effective partner with Nigeria as a country.
“Beginning with the African Development Centre, which I think is excellent, I think it shows the commitment of Microsoft in developing the digital centre here in Nigeria.
“It also shows the company’s confidence in the sort of talents that we have and the commitment of the government to ensuring that we develop that talent in the best possible ways that we can.”
Assuring investors in the Nigerian economy of the commitment of the Buhari administration in creating the right environment for businesses to thrive, the Vice President said “we are all working to create the right environment for innovation and creativity.
That remains an issue that we are dealing with on a daily basis, and I think that the challenges are the challenges of the sort that we are going to have to be dealing with (in my view) even in the coming years.”
On his part, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ali Isa Pantami, said the Federal Government has already put in place the necessary structures to partner with Microsoft and other tech companies in developing Nigeria’s technology ecosystem.
He said the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy, the National Policy on E-governance, among others, have been adopted by the Buhari administration to support the growth of technology and innovation in the country.
Earlier, Mr. Smith noted that his company’s vision for investment in Nigeria was one that would lead to the creation of Africa’s most viable technology ecosystem.
Mr Smith said the company’s investment in Nigeria is a demonstration of its enthusiasm about the ongoing digital transformation in Nigeria under the Buhari administration.
He proposed a 90-day timeline for stakeholders on the government side and from Microsoft, to iron out details of the various areas of collaboration.