By Emeka Aginam
While nations of the world,Â especially India are retooling their software products for global competitiveness, there has beenÂ growing concern in the Nigerian IT industry regarding the countryâ€™sÂ over dependency in foreign software drive herÂ economy,Â a development which experts say,Â Â may derail vision 2020 imperative
Sadly enough, despite the struggle by the other economies of the world to dominate in software development, Nigeria continues to remain one of the highest importer of software products in Sub-Saharan African continent, making it a dumping ground for all manners of software productsÂ originating from India, China, Brazil among others.
For many observers,Â Nigeria couldÂ earn billions of dollarsÂ in foreign exchange annually from the software industry if priority attention is paid to local software makers whose products can compete favorably in the international.
Although past government has mandated its establishments to patronize local software applications to drive its day to day operations, recent finding by Vanguard CyberLIFE has revealed thatÂ financial sector in Nigeria is the biggest consumer of foreign software, consumingÂ nearly 100% of foreign software to drive its operations.
The ugly trendÂ whichÂ hasÂ continued to worry both the government and the IT experts in the Nigerian economy, keen observers say,Â may make Nigeria a software consuming nation instead of software producing nation in the 21st century knowledge economy.
By all indications according to industry watchers,Â software technology can become a very feasible alternative to theÂ national oil revenue generation, as the keyÂ benefit of a vibrant software industry is in producing more knowledgeable and better-skilled human capital for Nigeria said to be lagging behind in software development.
Worried by this development,Â theÂ Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Alhasan Baku Zako had inÂ a forum on software Licensing and development in Nigeria held in Lagos raised alarm saying that if nothing is done to reverse the ugly trend, Nigeria will continue to aÂ digitalÂ slave to nations of the world especially India whose software products are currently used by Nigeria banks.
â€œIt is sad to note that while countries of the world are occupying key positions as global players in software development, Nigeria is yet to appreciate the huge potentials that exist in the software market and has continued to depend on foreign software.
â€œIf Nigeria is to realize her dream of being among 2020, then Nigeria should realize that itÂ cannot continue to remain insulated from global requirement to be a software development nation and should take note of these realities and recognize that software development is an important key to national economic development.
â€œSuch realization should be a critical concern not only to policy makers but stakeholders as well and they should focus all their energy and resources towards the attainment of that goalâ€ the Minister said.
Similarly, while warning on the implication of over-dependency, the President of Institute ofÂ Software Practitioners of Nigeria, (ISPON)Â Chris UwajeÂ Â believes that software has therefore becomeÂ and will remain for a long timeÂ one of the fastest growing industries with the power to enrich and sustain national economies.
Uwaje who is apostle of capacity building noted that unless Nigerians begin to appreciate indigenous software application, Nigeria may lose out global competitiveness
â€œUnfortunately, 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 fundsâ€ he said.
According to the Oracle of the Nigerian IT industry, ISPON hasÂ originated plans to enthrone the establishment of a National Policy and strategies for Software Development, adding that ISPON beliefs that the Nigerian software market potential is currently worth about $5.2billion US Dollars and can grow to more than $15 billion annually, provided that an exclusive, independent and professionally constituted framework is established to harness its immense potential.
For Emmanuel Amos, Chief Executive Officer, Programos Software Limited, the indigenous software has the state of the art technology to do well both in the local and international market.
â€œNigerian local software makers have the skills and technology knowledge to produce software products that can compete with foreign brands.
We have the capacity. We have the market. It is sad that locals are still being neglected by both private and public sectors of the Nigerian economy. The government needs to create enabling environment for these products to grow. Over dependency on foreign software is killing the local market. Something has to be done to reverse the ugly trend otherwise our economic development will be grossly affected,â€ he said.