DIRECTOR-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Professor Cleopas Angaye, below, enunciates the way forward in terms of indigenous software development, and in fact foresees a time when it will be illegal to source software and hardware except through Nigerian firms certified by NITDA.
AS far back as 2006, barely 12 months I came into office, I was to make sure the MDAs (Ministries, Departments, Agencies) patronize made in Nigerian software products. There were local entrepreneurs who produce software and many a times our people do not appreciate what we produce.
So in 2006 I sent a request to the Federal Executive Council through the ministry to the President and itâ€™s past. The local vendors, local software consumers, MDAâ€™s who consume software were directed to patronize these made in Nigeria software. In patronizing, supposing if you have two things that are equal in value and you are complied with now to use made in Nigerian software, but suppose they are not equal, what happens then the option is you use the one that has better quality and has more value.
The world is now patronizing them because the judgment you see is better and is very subjective. We are still struggling to say they must use made in Nigerian software. The words must, if you have two shirts and you believe one is of higher quality and you have money then, since you are paying for it you can use what you have.
Basically most markets are open, we allow the consumers to select what they want, but it is left for our people to actually have a product of competitive values.
What NITDA has to tried to do over the years is to have software training centers, and I have been talking about this for years because we had a couple of training with the Kano State Government coming out with IT parks where they had a lot of space then, IT training center was set up. In fact before that time Nigerian government had an agreement with Microsoft in 2003, for three years but in 2006 it expired. When we renewed it I told Microsoft that we need them to work with us to provide a software training centre, we can also call it an innovative centre.
That centre is part of the agreement and part of that innovative centre is a software training lab, which is still effective. Microsoft came back and said they needed land. They were given land here in the Abuja software park that has not physically taken off. We now said if we canâ€™t get this in Abuja put it somewhere within Nigeria which is the Kano IT Park.
Last year we had an advert to provide software training centers and software testing labs, it couldnâ€™t come because of certain issues but definitely this year software training labs will be on ground. What is the effect of that? The effect of international software training labs are that software will be produced in Nigeria which will be properly authenticated. It will be the same standards as any international software produced in the world globally. So when that is now in place we now come back and say â€˜any software Nigeria has you can now use itâ€™ because right now we have OEMâ€™s (Original Equipment Manufacturers), e.g. Zinox, Omatek, Speedstar and Balog, which are recognized by the Federal Government through NITDA.
NITDA will now say these are computers assemblers and it will be recognized, which is more or less hardware. A federal government ministry and department get a contract to supply computers the implication is that they have to use any of these four OEMâ€™s to get computers. It will be illegal to use any other computer system expect where these four OEMâ€™s donâ€™t have; they can now use any other such as HP, IBM and whatever, but are not allowed to use these expect government applied in the same vein.
We are now trying to use software that comes in through software training labs which will now pass through authentication of NITDA that will be globally and internationally recognized. So if you are now buying any software, we say, look, use any of these companies who have very good software to supply, since we are trying to promote made in Nigeria software, not only Nigeria but Africa and other countries. This will help to create employment for our own people and those coming out of university will be trained in those areas.