By Adekunle Adekoya
LAST Thursday, something very good happened to Nigeria and Nigerians, though many of us may not immediately capture the import of the development.
The Federal Ministry of Communications Technology, through the National Information technology Development Agency, NITDA, launched a Student PC Ownership Scheme. Details of the scheme are available on the page preceding the one you are reading.
What makes the development a good one is that if implemented with patriotic zeal, that initiative alone is capable of triggering transformations that can rapidly take this nation to heights that had remained at the levels of rhetoric for more than half a century.
Five indigenous device makers — Zinox, Omatek, Brian Systems, Veda Computers, and Beta Computers, working in tandem with Intel Corporation which is expected to supply processors and Microsoft which will supply software — have been provided with a golden opportunity to compete with global computer brands through the scheme.
Every year, some 1.5 million students apply through JAMB for placement into the higher institutions, though there are admission spaces for only one third of that number. That means there is potential to sell that many computers every year to individual students.
The implication of this scheme is more employment generation in the IT sub-sector, and given the flexible payment structure, a guaranteed market. So far, so good.
However, the journey is still long, in fact several miles ahead. For me, the goal, the aim, and the objective should be the all-Nigerian computer. Great will be the day when everything needed to make a computer function well is made here in Nigeria, globalization or not. If, for now, we can’t make processors here, I do not think we completely lack capacity in terms of software.
The Minister of Communications Technology was at the recently concluded ISPON conference and software competition, and surely is aware of developments in that direction.
To quote Mrs Johnson: “As you well know, our youth tend to be most critical, vocal and demanding of goods and services they procure. Once they are sold however they will be the greatest advocates of the brand and will demonstrate loyalty well beyond their student years. Providing them with computers that are built to exacting world class standards, designed with Nigeria in mind and aesthetically pleasing will go a long way to earning this loyalty.”
As the scheme is being implemented, I think it is in our best national interest to be futuristic and begin to see how the students’ PCs will run on local software, for as the minister remarked last Thursday quoted above, that will be a very good way to build brand loyalty.
Overall, it is a commendable initiative, seeing that telcos are expected to connect the PCs with bandwidth, processors from Intel, software from Microsoft, credit from the banks. Obviously a lot of work has gone into preparing the scheme. The minister and her team are to be commended.
One thing, though. The price range (the first level is from N48,500; the second level is N70,500 and the third level is N85,000- N100,000) grossly underestimates the level of poverty in this country. I think Mr President ought to look at the scheme personally and see how the Federal Government can subsidize the scheme by at least fifty per cent. That will be five-star national service.