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Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy: What’s in a name change?

October 28, 2019 · 3 min read
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From 1999 to 2010, Nigeria’s ICT sector was under the umbrella of the Ministry of Information and Communications. In 2011, it was split and the Ministry of Communications Technology was birthed. In 2015, it was simply renamed the Ministry of Communications.

On the back of entreaties by the Minister of Communications, Isa Pantami, on Wednesday, the Nigerian Federal Executive Council renamed the ministry Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, representing another evolution in the ICT ministry.

Seemingly gunning for a share of the $11.5 trillion global digital economy fund, earlier mentioned by the minister, the supposed wisdom behind renaming the ministry was to, “improve revenue generation for Nigeria and create many digital jobs.”

According to the minister, the old name was limiting in scope and had become obsolete in light of contemporary trends.

He also cited countries like Scotland, Thailand, Tunisia, and Benin Republic that have created ministries of digital economy in line with global best practices.

Principle vs Practice

To find out what impact the name change had, we turned to some of the countries mentioned by the minister.

Created in 2004, Tunisia’s ICT ministry was referred to as Le ministère des Technologies de l’information et des Communications (Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications) but in 2016, it was named Le ministère des Technologies de l’information et de l’Économie numérique (Ministry of Information Technologies and Digital Economy).

In a discussion with Kyane Kassiri, a Tunisian citizen and venture capitalist, he pointed out that it’s always been the same ministry and the name change did not mean anything.

“Honestly, I don’t believe the name change affected the economy, it’s just a sign that the country is more aware that such a term exists,” Kyane avers.

While the Tunisian digital ecosystem has witnessed a lot of progress in recent years and made significant regulatory strides with the introduction of the Tunisian Startup Act 2020, Kyane does not believe this is due to the name change. In fact, he describes it as ‘political marketing’ because the digital projects began long before the change.


Suggested Read: The Tunisian Startup Act: Showing us how to support Nigerian Startups


He also claims that apart from this ‘political marketing’ every other noteworthy thing is either done when the tech community lobbies the ministry for changes or by Tunisians in the diaspora who return to join the ministry with fresh ideas that will aid the nation’s digital transformation process.

However, in principle, Kyane insists in the most optimistic sense, that the only use for the name change could occur when matters related to the digital economy but unrelated to ICT can be thrown at the ministry.

The ICT ministry in the Republic of Benin was named the Ministere de l’Économie Numérique et de la Communication (Ministry of Digital Economy and Communication) until two months ago when it was changed to Ministere du Numérique et de la Digitalisation du Bénin (Ministry of Digital and Digitalization of Benin).

A source with knowledge of the situation in the Republic of Benin pointed out that for the 10 years it was named the ministry of the digital economy, it had little impact on anything in the ecosystem.

Nevertheless, the change to Ministry of Digital and Digitalisation of Benin, which our source admits is pretty weird when literally translated, represents a move to e-governance and more efficient use of the Internet by policymakers.

In light of these, we have to ask ourselves, was a name change necessary for the ministry to contribute its quota to the digital economy in Nigeria?

Emmanuel Paul

Emmanuel Paul

Author

Writer and Narrator.  Tech, business and policy analysis is my daily bread. Looking to chat? Catch up with me, @eruskkii, on Twitter or send a mail to emmanuel@techpoint.africa

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