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Nigeria ICT future: Why Building Local Capacity, Internet Inclusion Vital

*This country must build indigenous capacity if its people wish to be successful and relevant in global technology value chain

Isaiah Onwuanumba:

The gathering of Nigeria’s largest technology forum, Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), in Ibadan were unanimous that the time is now for Government to come up with right policies to entrench local capacities in Information and communications Technology (ICT) for job and wealth creation among young population in the land.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics’ national youth survey report, there are nearly 70 million people in the 15 to 35 age bracket in 2016. Yet, over half of these these ICT enthusiasts are unemployed while majority are underemployed. And this massive young population offers the nation a rare human capital and Government could use ICT to empower them for create jobs and generate revenue for the country.
Nigeria, report says, loses approximately $2.8bn annually from the importation of ICT goods and services, including massive $1bn spent annually on software imports. Locally manufactured or assembled computers represent less than eight per cent of all the computers used in the country.

This underscores the need for Nigeria to stop this massive wealth repartriation and come up with local solution to local problems through well crafted policy for idea generation and innovation, and Nigeria apex technology agency said it is doing alot to reverse the trend.
Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said the nation must build local capacity to solve problems to be relevant and successful in IT.
NITDA DG, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami was speaking on day two of the ongoing 27th National Conference organised by Nigeria Computer Society at International Conference at University of Ibadan, in Oyo State.
“if you want to be successful in IT you must build capacity locally. Use local innovations to solve local problems.”
According to him, this way the country could create a technology value change, a formidable tech ecosystem with many suppliers and consumers, with many innovators for national growth development.

“Nigeria loses a significant amount of foreign exchange annually from the importation of ICT goods and services. A large proportion of this is spent on software imports. We are working hard to reverse this trend and indigenous ICT businesses, including the many who are members of CPN, stand to benefit greatly from a local content policy that encourages the development of local ICT products and services’, adding, this must change.”
He explained that to this end the Agency has trained over 740 persons in digital technology and deployed 86 digital learning centres across the federation.
NITDA embarks on Regulation, Capacity Building, Local Content Development, Digital Job Creation, E-Governance, Cyber Security, and Digital Inclusion as pillars of its 4-year Roadmap.

 

NITDA’s vision, he said, is to be Nigeria’s prime Agency and catalyst for transforming Nigeria into a knowledge-based and IT-driven economy. Strategic partnerships with leading institutions like NCS are necessary to ensure sustainable development in the sector.
“The process of developing an ICT sector as diverse and complex as ours is quite daunting. However, the potential benefits of developing such a critical sector would result in benefits that far outweigh the challenges. A well-developed ICT sector will significantly improve any economy. It will reduce capital flight, create jobs, generate revenue and help to position Africa as a producer of world-class ICT products and not just consumer of such products.”

However, NCS has advised tGovernment to urgently come up with new national ICT policy that would include large population of the country into the global internet ecosystem.
President of the NCS, Prof. Adesola Aderounmu Nigeria stands to benefit in many ways if her approximately 200 million people are internet included.

“I would like to advise Federal Government to quickly formulate a new national Information and Communication Technology ( ICT) policy that will incorporate digital new inclusion as a pivotal factor for driving our socio-economic and political development,” he said.
According to him, the new policy should cover ICT infrastructure, broadband Internet, Fibre optic communication and local content prioritization.
Aderoumu explained that to bridge digital divide, access, affordability and application are three key areas of action require quick attention.
He said, “Access has to do with speed, Internet access being available to all members of society such that people who cannot afford the digital technologies can do so for free in public places. Application implies that digital technologies and services are usable by people with varying levels of digital skills and abilities, including people with disabilities. For overall sustainable national development, nobody should be left behind.

 

Our Correspondent gathered that Local Content Development and Promotion was chosen as one of the pillars of NITDA’s Roadmap because of the importance of indigenous entrepreneurs to the growth of the sector. We al,sothat the Federal Government issued Executive Orders #3 and #5 to support the development of local content in the country and we are supporting the Federal Government in the enforcement of these orders. On the one hand, we are creating a market for our local OEMs by ensuring that government institutions give a preference to local products in their procurement process. On the other hand, we have also increased the level of regulation of these OEMs to ensure that they meet global best practice standards and provide readily accessible after-sales support for their customers.

Government, according to NITDA, is currently developing an Enterprise Architecture for the Nigerian government and have a draft Nigerian Interoperability Framework (NeGIF). We are reviewing the .gov.ng process and have significantly shortened the registration turnaround time from 2 weeks to 24hrs. E-government is an enabler for productivity and efficiency in government and we know that an IT-enabled public service will provide better service for the citizens.

 

The need for effective capacity building efforts cannot be over emphasized. We have enabled thousands of our youth to improve their capacity in leading areas of ICT and have helped them to develop their entrepreneurial skills using ICT. We have supported the development of the startup and innovation ecosystem through our subsidiary, the Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

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