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NIN SAGA: Can We Truly Have A Digital Nigeria?

January 2, 2021 | Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
Written by Tolu Okunade

When The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on the 15th of December 2020 gave telecommunications operators (MTN, Glo, Airtel, 9Mobile, and others) a two-week window to block all SIM cards not registered with the National Identity Numbers (NIN), many counted it as a joke. 

Did you know? 

The Nigerian Communications Commission confirmed that as of January 2020, the number of active mobile telephone lines stands at 180 million. 

However, this joke wasn’t one to laugh or banter over for too long as as the next day, the offices of the National Identity Management Commission(NIMC), issuers of the National Identity Numbers (NIN) was filled to the brim, with people pouring in and out in a bid to prevent their mobile sims from being blocked.

Practically made no sense because it is the same Government that has ordered people to say home due to the recent outbreak of the second wave of COVID-19.

Now, to put it in a better perspective, only 42 million people (both adults and minors) have a NIN, and assuming that each person has at least 2 SIM cards, that would leave 123 million mobile subscribers at the risk of being blocked. 

This begs the question, why can’t we all have a portal where we all go online and fill out whatever forms are required? Do we all have to cramp ourselves into offices trying to fill out paper? Now more than ever, we need a digital Nigeria. 

A Digital Nigeria would have to cut across all spheres. Government records and databases would have to be moved online. Same with the Governmental agencies.

Have you visited a court registry recently? It would pass for a printing press because papers and files are littered around. Why go through this hassle when you can have these records stored on computers or drives? 

If there’s any sector of the nation that is in dire need of digital intervention, it would have to undoubtedly be the Public Educational System, especially for Tertiary Institutions. If anything, COVID-19 has done a fantastic job in pointing this out.

Privately owned institutions were able to adapt to global standards by successfully having lectures online. But our students in Federal Universities? Nothing. Why? Because our Federal Institutions do not have the facilities for that. This is 2020.

The Internet is a room of endless possibilities. Why do we still conduct examinations on Paper when they can do it seamlessly with the comfort of their PCs? Why do students have to queue endlessly at their Universities Senate Buildings for Transcripts? 

Did you know? 

That is the 2019 Senegalese elections, citizens living outside the shores of the nation were able to cast their votes online? 

Did you know?

In Rwanda, you can renew your ID by just the click of a button on your phone without visiting any office. 

How can the Government push for a Digital Nation? 

To begin, Governments need to be receptive to change, in its various forms. Innovation is one necessary skill to have to compete globally. The era of Paper and Pen has passed and they need to wake up to smell the coffee. 

The government needs to also encourage innovation and technology. A good way to start would be to support startups and Tech Companies.

Nigeria has become a breeding ground for global tech talents. A host of them works in Silicon Valley now. The Rwandan Government launched a 100-million-dollar fund to invest in local ICT entrepreneurs and help them grow and scale.

Why can’t Nigeria, Africa’s ‘Giant’ replicate the same? Just imagine the government throws its weight behind our tech startups. Imagine a Nigeria that has Federal Government Owned incubators or hubs scattered across its states? The benefits this would bring would be endless. 

So to answer, yes, we can have a digital Nigeria. The government just needs to get involved and get intentional. The nation is ready for a new course and the government should lead the march. 

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