User Spotlight: Fred Agbata Discusses the Work and Vision of the Anambra State ICT Agency, Nigeria
5 mins read
Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata, “CFA” for short, believes in the power of technology to transform humanity. He brings this to his work as the CEO of the Anambra State Information and Communication Technology Agency, which implements the state’s eGovernment initiatives and drives the delivery of the Governor’s “Everything Technology and Technology Everywhere” vision.
In this spotlight, CFA shares his thoughts on the importance of open-source tech, government e-services, how the Digital Impact Exchange could accelerate his agency’s work, and other initiatives that are bringing greater accessibility to Nigerians across the state.
How did you come to your current work? What’s your background?
This is one question I will carefully answer because I believe there is always someone my story can inspire. The story is that with passion and commitment, you can be whatever you want to be in life. I make up my mind and go for what I want, believing that I will succeed but of course with the mindset that even if it doesn’t work out, the worst that can happen is someone tells me “NO” or I get disappointed. Either way, it’s a learning experience for me, and I move on.
Put succinctly, I live a life where the quest to succeed has become an integral part of me.
After I left the university, I got employed in a telecommunications firm and after working for a few years, I decided to try something else, so I resigned. I went into oil and gas but lost everything after less than a year of starting off.
That was when my IT journey started and because I could write well and understood tech a little bit, I became a tech writer, started my first blog cfagbata.com – and the rest is history. I was introduced to my boss, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo, CFR., who upon winning the gubernatorial election invited me to join his transition committee and from there gave me the job as MD/CEO of the Anambra State ICT Agency.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your role or that your organization faces as it pursues its mission?
My biggest challenge is lack of skilled manpower, considering the fact that we are competing for the same talent that global tech is paying handsomely for. There is the issue of inadequate financial resources, and this is because the acquisition of tech does not come cheap. Finally, the bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with the public sector is also a challenge that we have to grapple with, but thankfully there is a strong political will to push for some reforms driven by technology.
How does your organization currently work with open source and digital public goods? How important is it for you to leverage open source?
Open source makes it easy for organizations with low budgets to be able to still leverage the power of technology. So, as an Agency, we are utilizing Open Source as much as possible, recognizing the importance of collaboration. We also deploy a variety of software at our disposal. It’s a sure way to ensure we keep up with our mandate especially with the overall finance crunch affecting the development potentials of most African countries.
What results have you achieved?
In the Anambra State ICT Agency, we crafted our vision in line with the vision of Mr Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo and this helped us to achieve many goals. Some of them include revamping the office environment to be a space comparable to the private sector, Collaboration with NITDA to digitally transform the Community Secondary School in Isuofia, Digitization of State Executive Council meeting proceedings and reporting, and initiating a statewide Unified Messaging Service (UMS) using Microsoft office 365, which ensures a more effective communication and collaboration among the MDAs in the state.
We have also undertaken the Provision and distribution of 200 state-of-the-art computers and laptops to civil servants and government employees in the state, as a means of shifting from paper to e-services in the state. We oversaw the launching of the state E-ID card system to strengthen identity management in the state, an internship programme with university undergraduates, and many more initiatives too numerous to mention.
What initially brought you to the Digital Impact Exchange?
My quest is to not reinvent the wheel. I know we are not at par with most of the world when it comes to public innovation and digital transformation and the thought of building from scratch irked me. I am always looking for evidence of what has worked and could work in our unique context of Anambra State and with our very limited resources, where we can find valuable resources that accelerate our efforts. This quest led me to the Exchange.
What have you learned from the Exchange that you didn’t know before?
I have been able to learn about all these organizations and their approach to using technology to address very vital issues. This discovery and understanding brings a new perspective to the work we do. At the moment, we are learning and currently iterating on how to use several of the tools available to drive our goals for the State.
What are you looking towards for the future? What is next?
Quite a handful of things. Currently, at the Agency, we want to completely solve the issue of identity management across all sectors in the state, to address the lack of standardized and secure methods of verifying ID cards and identifying their holders. We believe that with biometrics, we can solve these issues within the health and other sectors. Data privacy is important, as well as cyber security.
We are also exploring and open to more collaborations towards the digitization of as many government agencies as possible.
What is your greatest hope for the future of your organization?
My biggest hope is to see an Anambra state where technology thrives and makes a huge difference in the lives of people, and it is used in solving myriads of problems for citizens. An Anambra, where people can get answers to their inquiries without standing in long queues. Our work at the Agency is critical and keeps us busy and constantly in sync with the Governor’s mandate and on our toes to ensure the delivery of ‘Everything Technology and Technology Everywhere’ in the State.
If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?
That would be Spiderman. The reason would be because I love to make things happen, I see opportunities to create something out of nothing. I have a strong personality and I am committed to doing good. Also, technology wise, to create speedy and seamless solutions to problems.
What is the best book you’ve read recently?
Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone by Satya Nadella.
What music gets you in the zone while you work?
Any final thoughts for us?
All over the world, opportunities abound for people to excel and advance the cause of humanity. Technology is one area where people have the power to utilize these opportunities for good.