The report goes on to say that over 400,000 American users relied on sales through the website as a primary or secondary source of income.
These findings represent an achievable model of small business development for Nigeria, but one that depends vitally on wider access to IT and acquaintance with internet usage. Nigerian entrepreneurs in diverse economic sectors can develop thriving businesses, generating employment and boosting local economies, by accessing international markets online.
Even better inspiration comes from the western hemisphere: from India, where the software industry has outperformed global competition hands down. The industry grew exponentially from $150 million in 1991 to $5.7 billion in 2000, while projected revenue for 2008 stood at a mammoth $87 billion , or 7.5% of GDP. Nigeria can take a cue from this internationally acclaimed success story by vigorously tapping into the IT and knowledge industries.
Nigeria needs to capitalise on its human resource pool to turn out technically proficient workers who can take the economy to higher rates of growth. If anything, the India example is unshakable proof that IT alone can turn around a country’s fortunes.
Although there is hardly any empirical data in support, Nigeria insists proactive policies, especially those taken since 2000, have spiked IT percolation and application in diverse sectors.
That there is some truth in the claim is borne out by a visible spurt in internet accessibility (through a mushrooming of cyber cafes, especially in urban centres) and the increasing popularity of web-based services like e-banking and online advertising. The following are some of the notably encouraging developments for Nigerian IT so far:
“Nigeria signed the Regional African Satellite Communications Organisation for multimedia telecommunications services in 2001, visibly increasing government participation in IT.
“The Nigerian Telecom Company (NITEL) a government-owned monopoly was privatised in 2006 to encourage private-sector participation and innovation in IT and communications.
“Multinational corporations have led the way in introducing online banking operations that have begun to catch on with resident and expatriate Nigerians.
“E-commerce initiatives in the B2B and B2C segments have been running successfully, even if most of the IT content and equipment has had to be entirely imported.
By themselves, these measures are evidently not enough to promote IT as a growth fundamental. Nigeria has to take up a raft of coordinated initiatives in order to meet its IT obligations, and more importantly, to drive and capitalise on the digital revolution. The most pressing requirements in this connection are:
“Improving the telecommunications infrastructure, upgrading communication techniques and improving the reach of mobile and fixed-line telephony services across rural and urban areas.
“Enhancing basic computer skills and advanced IT education through a structured overhaul of the education system; specific focus on tertiary institutions offering engineering programmes.
“Patronising indigenous software over imports, funding research and promoting private and public sector cooperation for innovation and enterprise in the IT sector.
“Developing sound policies that propagate IT as a crucial component of business culture; fostering IT-enabled practices as a means of governance and administrative optimisation.
“Active promotion of procedures that introduce computerisation and IT to the industrial process, through use of advanced digital technologies and office automation systems.
For Nigeria to tap its enterprise potential in time for the 2020 goals requires a massive reinvigoration and rationalisation of its IT development initiatives. Nigeria must realise the importance of developing entrepreneurial capability in the IT sector to ensure inclusive growth and sustainability.
Provided it is suitably adjusted to ground realities, a digital revolution undoubtedly holds the key to poverty eradication by enabling extensive business development and wealth creation. The challenge before Nigeria today is essentially the use of IT and communication technologies in a manner that accords the widest benefits from, and contributions to, the digital world.