NITDA Bill 2021: A Blessing or a Curse

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The Policy Implementation Assisted Forum (PIAFo) held a Discourse on the 13th day of April, 2023 to dissect and distill the impact the provisions of the National Information Technology Development Agency Bill of 2021 would have if passed into Law. Players in the Technology Space shared their views on the implications of the proposed amendments to the NITDA Act. Some of the Discussants include Ayoola Oke, Chief Executive Officer, ICT Derivative Limited; Peculiar Showale, C-Suite Executive Assistant, Paradigm Initiative; Engr Jide Awe, Chief Executive Officer, Jidaw Systems Limited, Mofesomo Tayo-Oyetibo, Tayo Oyetibo LP and Others.

Ayoola Oke noted that the National Information Technology Policy was approved in 2001 to guide the IT industry in Nigeria, followed by the enactment of the National Information Technology Development Agency Act 2007 (the “NITDA Act”), which became the legal framework for the creation of the National Information Technology Development Agency. NITDA contributes to the Nigerian economy through policy development, incubation and innovation, infrastructure development, standards and quality assurance and research and development.

Jide Awe stated that the challenges of the digital economy in Nigeria range from infrastructural limitation, cybersecurity threat, skill gap, evolving regulatory environment, digital illiteracy etc. He added that these challenges brought about the need to address certain developmental issues like Digital Inclusion, Digital Skills and Education, Data Protection and Privacy, Cybersecurity Threat, Technological Advancements, Infrastructure, Regulation and Policy Governance, etc. Hence in August 2021, the National Information Technology Development Agency Bill (the “NITDA Bill”), which proposes to repeal and amend the extant NITDA Act, was released.

While the NITDA Bill seeks to promote and regulate the development of the Nigerian Technology sector, it has been argued that its implementation could potentially create regulatory and compliance hurdles for businesses in the digital economy space, potentially discouraging new entrants and leading to a slowdown in the industry’s growth. Showale Peculiar posits that:
•the increased regulation will provide a breeding ground for abuse of the constitutional rights of citizens.
•the regulatory barrier to entry will create a hurdle for startups.
•the exorbitant non-compliance penalties introduced by the Bill could discourage potential investors and Nigerian businesses operating in the digital economy.
•some of the provisions of the NITDA Bill are not clearly defined, leaving room for misinterpretation and inconsistency in the application of the regulations.

The sustainability of Nigeria’s Digital Economy Drive is crucial as it is a key driver of innovation and sustainable development. Thus, it has been proposed that NITDA should consult with relevant Stakeholders on regulatory issues with a view to promoting growth and development in the technology sector.