By Emeka Aginam & Emma Elebeke

Henceforth, it may not be business as usual for government agencies patronizing foreign computer brands as the Federal Government has said that non-patronage of approved local original equipment manufacturers by its ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) will be an offence, even as new guidelines will soon be issued.

Director General of National IT Development Agency, NITDA, Prof. Cleopas Angaye, stated this at a two-day retreat for the National Technical Committee (NTC) on Development of Standards for Information Technology Hardware in Lagos.

It was also disclosed that after the retreat and issuance of the guidelines it would be regarded as economic sabotage if MDAs do not patronize Nigeria IT products, and that violators of this directive are liable to imprisonment and fine or both. “Indeed,it will be an offence punishable by a prison term and fine under the NITDA Act,” said Prof. Angaye.

Accredited OEMs
It would be recalled that between 2002 and 2007 several OEMs including Beta Computers, Brian Integrated Systems, Zinox and Omateck.were accredited to operate in the Nigerian IT manufacturing spectrum but owing to the expediency of the time, no strict guidelines or standards were prescribed.

Recall also that shortly after the 2011 general elections, President Goodluck Jonathan directed that made in Nigeria goods should have priority whenver MFAs are making procurements.

New guidelines
Accordingly, by the time the new guidelines are issued, according to NITDA, the use of non made-in-Nigeria computers in public schools nationwide, would be seen as anti-local OEMs, adding that accreditation of schools and renewal would depend partly on the establishment of IT labs equipped with locally manufactured IT products.

The National Technical Committee (NTC) on Development of Standards for Information Technology through the office of Director-General, National IT Development Agency (NITDA), Prof. Cleopas Angaye, at the just concluded IT Hardware Standards Development Retreat held in Lagos disclosed new guidelines on patronage of Nigerian IT products and services local OEMs were coming soon.

Prof. Cleopas Angaye, DG, NITDA

Sanctions loom
Without mincing words, Angaye who was represented by the Director,  Standards, Inye Kemabonta,  warned that any MDAs who violate the directive are liable to imprisonment and fine respectively. “A monitoring unit has been created within NITDA to undertake regular checks to ensure that this regulation is complied with throughout the Federal Public Service” he added.

According to Angaye under NITDA Act, public procurement of non made-in-Nigeria computers and IT products where certified local brands exist is against the law. Public funds should only be expended on locally manufactured products. To benefit from this policy, the NITDA boss stated clearly that multinational companies were invited to set up production or assembly plants in Nigeria.

“With more than half the population of West Africa Nigeria has a large enough market to justify foreign direct investment in Information Technology. Instead, one finds that all the multinational firms operate only marketing and sales promotion offices. The transformation of Nigeria into a developed economy cannot be achieved by being a consumer nation”

NTC is a broad-based, stakeholder organ in IT governance established by NITDA, which was inaugurated last November by the Hon. Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson.

NITDA sets up IXPs
In a related development, as part of its plan to fast-track the speed of internet penetration in the country, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) said it has commenced the establishment of various Internet Exchange Points across the country. According to the agency, work is ongoing on the Lagos Internet Exchange Point with the University of Lagos to have the Lagos Higher Education Connectivity Project (LHECP).

This followed the establishment of the first of such points which was commissioned in Abuja and the second commissioned in Port Harcourt recently. The LHECP consists of about five educational institutions already connected to the exchange point as well as the Google University Access Program (GUAP), which comprises of five Universities, is also active at the exchange point.

NITDA said it is its resolve to establish IXPs in all the six geopolitical zones of the country. The series of Internet Exchange Points according to NITDA is being put in place by the agency in collaboration with the private sector and is in a bid to enhance internet penetration in Nigeria at a cheap and affordable rate to all.

While commissioning the Port Harcourt Internet Exchange Point, the NITDA Director-General, Professor, Cleopas Angaye said the Internet Exchange Points will leveraged on to promote educational related ICT initiatives such as the National Research and Educational Network (NREN) cluster within Port Harcourt and its environs.

He said the success of NITDA’s bid will be dependent on the adequate partnership and collaboration amongst all stakeholders in addressing some challenges that may inhibit the modest progress already made.

High broadband costs
Angaye listed one of the major challenge facing successful deployment of IXPs in the country as that of the cost of fiber transmission lines between the exchanges as well as inadequate connectivity by Internet Service Providers. The creation of the IXPs he said is part of the fulfilment of multi-stakeholder collaboration in terms of creating National Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) as recognised by the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS).

He said despite the obvious fact of the enormous benefits in the use of the Internet, the poor state of local Internet traffic routing in Nigeria constitutes a very significant problem of competitiveness for the nation’s economy within the globalized world.

“The major factors inhibiting a more rapid adoption and use of the internet in Nigeria are the high cost of access and low quality of service. Therefore to speed up the spread of the Internet in Nigeria, the cost of Internet connectivity and bandwidth must be reduced and the quality of service improved. One of the most effective mechanisms of achieving these is the Internet Exchange Point (IXP),” said Angaye.

”An IXP interconnects Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in a region or country, Angaye said allows them to exchange domestic Internet traffic locally without having to send those messages across multiple international hops to reach their destination.

“IXPs are crucial for the development of the internet in any country, as not only do they reduce the cost of internet traffic by keeping local traffic local, but more importantly, they enable additional applications, which have a considerable multiplier effect on the economy,” he further noted.

According to him a major focus of NITDA is the development of ICT local content in Nigeria in order to enable consumers of ICT services and products and also for the country to earn foreign exchange.

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