The on-going reforms in the oil and gas industry â€“ with particular reference to the Local Content Bill will become strategically ineffective unless the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) component is made the strategic focus. This is because every other thing â€“ from products, service to work-force â€” revolves around ICT.
The fundamental objective of â€œLocal Contentâ€ is principally focused and should translate to the empowerment of indigenous entrepreneurs to spur corporate investment, advance the development of human capital, provide sustainable employment and deliver goods and services for nation building and global competitiveness.
Today, the oil industry constitutes over 96.5% of Nigeria annual revenue yield â€“ essentially powered by Information and Communication Technologies(ICT). However, the impact of the oil and gas industry on our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) remains grossly insignificant â€” due to abandoned patronage of indigenous Information and Communications Technology products and services.
This invisible impact of the oil industry on the national economy which has remained a permanent mirage has negatively affected the indigenous employment index â€“ informed by the fact that more than 84.9 percent of the core IT skill-sets, products and services delivered to the sector is foreign based.
Available records shows that Venezuela, Iran, North Sea Oil Group, and other oil-rich countries have designed and implemented a â€œCountry-Firstâ€ strategic approach for the delivery of core and essential services to their oil sector.
Today, most of those countries ensure that about 60% of the products and services supplied and delivered to the sector are controlled by indigenous entrepreneurs. This has not only improved domestic employment, reduced capital flight, but improved local skill enhancement and also contributed significantly to the GDP. The case of Nigeria vividly shows that apart from Total Nigeria, all the other players have abandoned Nigeria ICT Product and services â€“ which would have considerably improve the employment demand in the Niger Delta Region where theÂ bulk of the crude oil is explored and extracted.
At 50, Nigeria is a great nation with abundant potentials and national resources, however, none of all our current National Economic and Citizensâ€™ empowerment policies, plans and development programs can be fully realized nor sustained successfully, without accelerated â€œInformation and Communications Technologyâ€ (ICT) deployment – as the prime enabler for our national development and nation building and creation of wealth at all levels.
To advance and sustain this, there is an urgent need to establish an Information Technology (IT) Committee in the National Assembly – as a significant policy and legislative operational instrument.Â Many countries have already established a â€œKnowledge Commissionâ€ in response to the emerging knowledge society.
Recognizing information technology and particularly its software main component as a new productive knowledge frontier and potential instrument for economic empowerment and creation of wealth, it has now become imperative for government to launch a nation-wide awareness campaign to realize the objectives and meet the set target of MDGs, based on UN Resolutions A/Res/53/25 and 53/243, and informed by technical reports submitted to government by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on National Software Development Initiative (NSDI) in 2005.
Setting a national campaign on IT awareness agenda therefore, is also against the backdrop that building knowledge capacities presents immense economic opportunities for nation building. Suffice to state that Nigeria can earn over $10billion in foreign exchange annually from the IT Application software industry and the Hardware sector â€“ especially if the patronage of its products and services are made mandatory and enshrined in the local content bill.
This advocacy will stimulate and improve the national campaign to improve the level of the nationâ€™s computer literacy index and also promote and spread the use of indigenous content such as software applications, hardware delivery and services in the oil and gas sector, governance, education, health, industry, agriculture, transportation, public administration and national security â€“ no mention but a few.
NITDA ACT 2007 – Funding IT development in Nigeria: Professionals have observed and continue to question the rationale of exempting the Oil and Gas sector from the contribution to the National Information Development Fund (NITDEF)! It remains a national puzzle that the Oil and Gas industry where the bulk of the nationâ€™s revenue is harboured was exempted from the National Information Technology Development Fund (NITDEF).
In other Oil exporting countries of the world, it is the Oil and Gas industry that contributes more than 50% of the nations ICT Development fund. Henceforth, NITDA ACT 2007 should be reviewed to include the Oil and Gas sector as the major contributors to national IT Development. Initiatives to ensure that the future of Nigeria is secured.
In conclusion, some of the key objectives of this special national Information Technology campaign include, but are not limited to the following:
lEmpowering indigenous IT entrepreneurs and improving the e-Readiness and IT skill-sets status of Nigeria and the Computer literacy of her Citizens and thereby contribution immensely to the GDP index.
lEmpowering Nigerians with the knowledge and skills of Software Development as a fundamental response to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and special agenda for bridging our Digital Divide and promoting World Peace.
lProviding critical employment through Outsourcing and other Digital opportunity windows, to create wealth and prosperity for the Nation by earning foreign exchange.
lPerforming Government functions effectively and electronically (e-GOV)lHarnessing the critical mass of economics intelligence resources applying electronic governance control and management models.
lFulfilling the expectations for community and market demand, competitiveness and engendering peace and prosperity.
lBuilding the economics knowledge support systems for improved governance and increased market share for commerce.
lDelivering the ultimate solutions for high yield productivity lHelp to optimize business growth and sustainability
lFulfilling the challenges for citizens satisfaction lEffective Data mining technique for Research in Governance
lCreates wealth for the Communities and sustain executive success.
lEstablishing and sustaining Peace, political stability and national security. Therefore, before Nigeria becomes a Digital a 21st Century digital colony, it is a strategic imperative to recommend as follows:
lInformation Technology education and access should be enshrined as a fundamental human rights in the Nigerian Constitution â€“ currently under the amendment process.
lThe Local content Law should focus on empowering the Nigerian IT Industry to ensure her future survivability.
lThe Oil and Gas Industry should be included as a significant contributor to the National Information Technology Development Fund (NITDEF), based on NITDA ACT 2007.
lThere should be special minority Bid for Local IT professional, practitioners and entrepreneurs in the Tendering Oil and Gas.
lEnsure that an â€œAnti-Trustâ€ ACT is embedded as a significant part of the Local Content Bill.
lNigerian IT Professionals in the Diaspora should become a significant part of the Outsourcing services commissioned by all Oil and Gas companies operational in Nigeria.
lEnsure that the IT Capacity Building framework and Research and Development Platform in the Oil and Gas Industry are domiciled and domesticated in Nigeria.
â€” Concerned IT Professionals