By Emeka Aginam
To engage the monumental challenge of recovering from the national disaster of abandoning software development for so long,Â theÂ Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) is shopping forÂ aboutÂ N500m .
The President of ISPON, Chris Uwaje, who disclosed thisÂ on Monday during a courtesy visit by the officials ISPONÂ to Vanguard Media Limited Corporate officeÂ while lamenting on the over dependent of Nigerian economy onÂ foreign software application told the editorial members of Vanguard Newspapers thatÂ there was need to retool local software applicationsÂ Â for global competitiveness, adding that anything short of that will make Nigeria to still remain in digital colony.
The fund ifÂ raised, according to Uwaje who pioneered the Nigerian IT policy years back would be for the establishment of sustainable framework, structures, policies and strategies for the enthronement of a robust software industry for the nation.
According to Uwaje whoÂ raised alarm over what he called absence ofÂ legislation online transaction,Â Â said that this is in furtherance of ISPONâ€™s national advocacy to foster and promote the Software profession and industry as perhaps the most critical initiative,Â and indeed the Nigerians r last hope for sustainable national development and global competitiveness.
â€œNigerians are doing businesses online without legislation.. We are playing without a legislative framework. We cannot continue like. We need to package our localÂ software for globalÂ market. That is the only way the country can have alternative to oil regarding foreign earningâ€ he said.
Recognizing the development of a national software industry as a monumental challenge, he said thatÂ ISPON has evolved an annual â€œISPON Presidentâ€™s Dinnerâ€ as a veritable platform to address critical national software issues and initiatives.
Meanwhile,Â a source has revealed that the Presidentâ€™s Dinner event is exclusive for ISPON CEOs and special guests and packaged as special invitation only, is scheduled to take place in the new wing of the Federal Palace Hotel on Monday 14th December 2009.
However, to retool the local software products for the challenges ahead, Uwaje who was the former President of Information Technology Association of Nigeria, (ITAN) informed that ISPON has solicited and won the support of core IT Champions and Stakeholder in the Nigerian IT industry includingÂ Engr. E. Ndukwe of NCC, Sam Amuka,Â Publisher Vanguard, Jim Ovia a passionate IT promoted and Founder of Visafone Networks, Sen. Slyvester Anyanwun, Prof. C. Angaye DG NITDA, Prof. Charles Uwadia, President, Nigeria Computer Society, President of CPN, Dr. Emmanuel Ekunwem,Â ATCON President, the Diaspora and a host of othersÂ to commence with the plans and program to raise N500million for the establishment of sustainable framework, structures, policies and strategies for the enthronement of a robust Software Industry for the nation.
For one thing, he said that ISPON believes that the Software Industry can become an alternative to Oil â€“ with respect to revenue generation and wealth creation.
â€œ However, we are concerned about the current alarming rate of national techno phobia and in particular, the visible ignorance about the critical and significance role of Software in 21st Century National global development.
â€œBy all indications, Software Technology can become a very feasible alternative to our national Oil revenue generation _ currently put at about $12billion a year.
â€œThe key benefit of a vibrant Software Industry is in producing more knowledgeable and better_skilled human capital for nation building. Indeed, the data for the fiscal year ended March 31 2008 includes revenue from both domestic and export markets of India, vividly demonstrates thatÂ Software in maybe our last hope and bridge to development.
â€œ Indiaâ€™s Revenue from exports grew 29 percent to $40.4 billion during this period, while revenue from the domestic market grew by 26 percent to $11.6 billion.
â€œAccording to Indiaâ€™s National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), this brings the total Software revenue generation to US$52 billion in 2008. This is more than 400% of what Nigeria generates from Oil.
â€œToday, the development, application and use of Software has boosted productivity, created new jobs, enabled more efficient businesses, produced higher quality of goods and services, and led to greater global innovation, standards and best practices.
â€œThe emergence of the Software revolution has enhanced the quality of life from improving health care, agriculture, communication, education, Art and Culture, to promoting greater transparency, to making it easier for government, business and humanity to interact with one another and above all, to promoting world peace.
â€œSoftware has therefore become â€“ and will remain for a long time _ one of the fastest growing industries with the power to enrich and sustain national economies.Â Global projection and current assessment reveals that IT spending will exceed four trillion US dollars in 2009
While calling for the government to support local software makers, he said that ISPON would continueÂ to assert todayÂ that software technology and the internet, with characteristically low physical entry barriers and high local value_added, offer newly industrialising countries a chance to quantum leapfrog.
Unfortunately, the industry has been unsuccessful in attracting the attention of policy makers /government and the financial services sector largely because of the ease with which the players in those sector could return in some cases 400% value on investment through financial engineering and trading in government funds.
By all indications, Software Technology, he notedÂ can become a very feasible alternative to our national Oil revenue generation _ currently put at about $12billion a year.
The key benefit of a vibrant Software Industry, according to the OracleÂ is in producing more knowledgeable and better_skilled human capital for nation building.
To face the challenges ahead, he said that ISPON has therefore originated plans to enthrone the establishment of a National Policy and strategies for Software Development.
Setting a national software development policy and awareness agenda, he saidÂ is against the backdrop that building software capacities presents immense economic opportunities for nation building. Suffice to state that Nigeria can earn more than $10billion in foreign exchange annually from the software industry.
Based on ISPONâ€™s professional assessment, the critical pathways to achieving greatness in software engineering development include but not limited to the following strategies:
* The establishment of a national software policy and strategies â€“ incorporating an exclusive, distinct and special Institutional Framework to harness and develop the software knowledge potentials of the nation. *Â Due to its very special characteristics and colossal challenges embedded within the process of â€œSoftware Conceptualisation â€“ Design â€“ Development â€“ Production â€“ Packaging â€“ Marketing â€“ ImplementationÂ Technical_Support _ Maintenance and Research and Development cycle, its institutional framework should be an exclusive and independent machinery to yield maximum result.
*Â This exclusive and independent existence and operational characteristic is omnipresent in the all the structure of Software based institutional policy decisions of Nations and private corporate entities which, have succeeded in developing economically viable Software culture.Â A case in point is India, Ireland, China, Malaysia and new entrants such as Chile, Ghana.
* There is therefore the national need to establish an exclusive â€œNational Software Commissionâ€ to engage, drive and deliver world_class solutions to the software vision and aspiration of Nigeria.Â Examples of this foresight models and focused development strategy abound:
*Indiaâ€™s Software mission is currently exclusively driven by its â€œMinistry of Electronics and Software Engineeringâ€
* Malaysia has established a Ministry of Information Technology and its national Software agenda is executed through a â€œNational Software Boardâ€ and have gone along to establish a National Multi_media University as a fundamental economic strategy for her 21st Century Development Agenda.
* National Software Development Parks and Corridors have become sustainable models for national development for many countries â€“ such as Ireland, Chile, USA, UK, among others.
*Â Brazil, Singapore and Pakistan have Software exclusive model framework as strategic imperative for global competitiveness.
ISPONâ€™s recommendation to the Federal GovernmentÂ includes, but not limited to the following:
*Â Establish a National Commission for Software Development, empowered with a professional, specialized, exclusive and executive mandate to facilitate the development of Software Policy, Best Practice Standards Regulation, Market Promotion, Capacity Building and Research, Design and Development (RD&D)
*Â Establish Software Knowledge Parks (SKPs)
*Â Establish Software Engineering Development Corridors at close proximity to all Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning Nationwide.
* Set aside 10% of the ETF (Education Trust Fund) facilities for the establishment of a National Software Development Grant _ to Software Companies and Software Start_up Firms â€“ with particular reference to Train_the_ trainer program of Software Lecturers
* Encourage Investors in the Software sector â€“through 5year Income Tax Free Holidays â€“ as incentives for Software Development promotion.
*Â Encourage Banks to set aside 50% of the SME fund for Software Engineering Development â€“ based on the fact that sooner than later, ALL SMEs will be fully automated/computerized and therefore need intelligent software to be globally competitive.
*Â Establish secured National IT Infrastructure Backbone to accelerate national Software engineering development and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
*Â Review the National Education Curriculum and Upgrade the requirement for Computer Science Education â€“ particularly for the creation of a full Software Engineering Department and Information Systems.
* Establish National Software Coding competition and set_up incentive award programs for our primary, secondary schools and universities.
*Â Establish Institutes of Software Engineering, Centres of Excellence and Retrain all SoftwareÂ and Computer Science Lecturers Nationwide
* Promote the establishment of institutional platforms for Regional collaboration in Software Development for West Africa.
*Â Establish a National Software Development Policy Bill and enact ACTs to be passed into Law within the next 12 months.