By the time Chris Uwaje’s book launch last Tuesday was drawing to a close, stakeholders in the Nigerian IT industryÂ at the event were worried over digital colonization of Nigeria and the rest of Africa by the developed nations, saying that except something is done urgently, the nation may be completely digitally colonized by the foreignÂ nations, especially the Asian countries.
The book, â€˜E-knowledge â€“Time is running out!â€™ was launched last Tuesday at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Lagos, and it is a compendium of articles written by the man fondly called the Oracle of the Nigerian IT industry, Chris Uwaje.
However, speaker after speakerÂ at the event that attracted capacity audience noted that Nigeria may beÂ heading for digital suicideÂ if she continues to consume foreign IT products and services in the knowledge society. Time, the participants noted, may be running out for theÂ future generations who will live in the digital colony of the developed nations, a situation whichÂ experts say may result in digitalÂ tragedy.
At the event which was a wake up call for Nigeria and African governments to fight for their digital independence, IT experts asked many fundamental questions as to where the continent is heading to. For how long can we continue to be under the digital colonies of the developed economies? Can we ever take the bull by the horn and prepare for the challenges ahead in the 21st century knowledge economy?
For the majority of the speakers, time may be running out if Nigeria and the rest of the African nations fail to prepare the way to emerge in the global information society stage.
Uwaje himself had predicted that the digital colonization issue will one day become the critical heart of the matter in the emerging information society, warning that sooner or later, the entire life, culture and sovereignty of a nation and her citizenry may be unwittingly traded off and taken over by IT-smart, powerful and knowledge-centered information forces around the globe. This, according to him, will complete the process of the fearful knowledge lock-in syndrome.
Expressing further worriesÂ on the future of Africa in the information society, the DirectorÂ General of the Advance Information Technology Institute (AITI), Accra Ghana,Â Dorothy Gordon told the participants that Africa is in a new kind of technology colony.
â€œWe need to take control of technology. We cannot remain consumers of foreign technology. It is not good for the economic development of the continent. We must be careful. The destiny of AfricanÂ technology lies in her hand. This is the time. This is a wake up call,â€ she said.
On the state of IT in the nation, former Minister of Science and Technology, Chief Ebitimi Banigo who was also chairman of occasionÂ told the gathering that unless Nigeria and the rest of Africa resist digital colonization by the developed nations, the quest for global competitiveness may be far fetched.â€œThe war is on. We cannot relent. If the country fails to carve a space for IT in the general scheme of things, particularly electoral reforms, things will keep on retrogressing. We still need to make a mark in ICT before thisÂ generation is wastedâ€ he said.
TheÂ Minister who lamented poor IT consciousness among youths, noted thatÂ unless political will is brought into IT, Nigeria will remain consumers of foreign products in the 21st century knowledge economy.
â€œWe are still behind in technology. We have failed to address the fundamentals. We should not be enslaved by IT produced by other countries otherwise we will remain aÂ digital colony of these nations. Today is a good beginning as time is running out. We need to be IT conscious in the national polity. It is a model forÂ sustainable nation building and global competitiveness,â€ he said.
In his own reaction, the former Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos, Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe noted that for Nigeria to be among 20 top economies of the world, IT must be give a priority attention in the scheme of things.
â€œForeign IT products and services have been my major concern. But we cannot continue like this. Something has to be done otherwise we will continue to be a digital colony of the west. This is the time work out somethingâ€ he said.
For the President of the Nigerian Computer Society, Prof. Charles Uwadia,Â the Vision 20-2020 imperative may not be realized unless Nigeria begins to appreciate software products developed locally by Nigerians.
â€œWhy does the country keep on importing software products developed by other nations, especially India when we have robust products here that can support the market? We are still living under digital clony of other nations. This has to stop if the nation must make a mark in global competitiveness,â€ he said.