Experts and stakeholders in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector have urged the federal government to involve them when making budgetary decisions in the sector in order to ensure effectiveness.

The professionals also called for improved digital infrastructure to adequately drive digital literacy in the country.

The stakeholders who spoke at the “GSM at 20 Awards and Gala celebration”, held at NAF Conference Centre Abuja further decried the poor level of digital literacy and sensitization in Nigeria despite its huge potentials that the teaming unemployed population can mine from.

The event themed, “20 Years Digital Revolution Powered by GSM,” organised by DIGIVATION awarded both public and private institutions for their contributions to the growth and expansion of the GSM revolution as the country moves to the Fifth Generation (5G) technologies.

Speaking at the event in a panel session, President, High Tech for Women and Youths, Dr Wunmi Hassan appealed to the government to always carry the ICT stakeholders along when drafting their budgets. She said this would ensure that what is being budgeted for is adequately analysed and monitored to execution.

She said telecommunications technology has brought significant changes to the country and made a case for more achievements.

She also called for the study of the impact of GSM on women in Nigeria.

According to her, If every woman has mobile phones, they can also acquire digital literacy and bring their businesses to the digital world.

“It is really important that we the stakeholders are carried along when the budget is being planned. I remember one time someone called me from one of the government agencies and said “We are doing a budget, we want to know how much it will cost us to train some girls” and I said, that is not how it works. We have other international donors and what they do is that they tell us the total number of women or people that they want us to train in ICT and the duration and also the specific skills in ICT so that we can do proper costing and at the end of the day you can be able to tell if your goal has been achieved and you can now say we have trained this or this number of people in a particular aspect of ICT. And we can also provide our expert opinions and recommendations in the process. If not, the funds will continue to be spent on the wrong things.”

Another panellist, Dr Niran Oyekale, stated that Nigeria was still very much lagging behind in terms of ICT even 20 years after the introduction of GSM.

He said “Although we have evolved, we still have a long way to go. I want to see the human development in Nigeria align with the world to bridge the digital gap.

“It is critical for us to demystify the digital space between women and men in STEM as technologists.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), National Information Technology Development Agency(NITDA), and other agencies in the ICT sector bagged awards for outstanding public service performance at the event.

Speaking on behalf of awardees, EVC NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta who was represented by Head Online Media and Special Publications NCC, Dr Omoniyi Ibietan thanked the stakeholders in the sector and the organiser of the event and assured that more efforts will be geared towards digital literacy and sensitization .

He said “These awards will only spur us to more. As we have received these awards, we will continue to sensitize the public on digital literacy and the potential it holds for the advancement of of the country”

Notable amongst the awardees were Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Integrated Internet Solutions, HD Technologies Ltd., amongst others.

NCC received the award of the Premier African Regulator; the Commission’s EVC, Prof Umar Danbatta received Regulatory Excellence award, while NCC’s Executive Commissioner Stakeholder Management, Barr Adeleke Adewolu received the Outstanding Digital Impact Personality award.

Also, NITDA, Head Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs Hadiza Umar received outstanding public service award.