By Chris Uwaje
Thou shall not live by bread alone! With the advent of the Knowledge economy, it has become a strategic imperative and mandatory obligation for Nigeria to reconsider the centric mission of living by Telecommunication alone! History of Telecommunications reveals that many thousand years ago, the art of Telecommunication began with the use of smoke signals and drums in Africa, then to the Americas and later parts of Asia – particularly in China. It must be emphasized that this write-up is not intend to understate the significance, value and power of Telecommunication in human endeavor and for Nigeria.
Simply defined, Telecommunication is communication at a distance by technological means and in particular, through electrical signals or electromagnetic waves. Science and technology of communication at a distance by electronic transmission of impulses such as telegraph, cable, telephone, radio, or television has no doubt redefined the art of living and the humanity enterprise. It is significant to inform that in the 1790s, the first fixed semaphore or telegraphy system emerged in Europe – built by Claude Chappe, a French Engineer. It took another century when in 1830s the electrical telecommunication systems appeared.
Today, the dominance and eminence of our telecommunications mindset, philosophy, mission and implementation model/s as a centralized and omnipotent national development policy as well as core direction for our national development strategy, remains a complex ambiguity, worrisome monumental miracle and by extension a global development misnomer.
This in any way does not rob the Minister of ComTech her pass mark on efforts of the past 2 years. Meanwhile, while Telecommunications – a subset of communication and a significant segment of Information Technology – is more or less a treated as normal and galvanized by ITU in many countries of the world, its role and place may have been grossly misunderstood and misrepresented in Nigeria.
This is because it is and remains the only and central focus of our national technology development vision and agenda! This flawed vision has begun to hunt us as a people with a visible embarrassing position at the score sheet of Global ICT e-Readiness Development Lifecycle and performance Index.
The positioning and superlative prominence of Telecommunication as the strategic development Domain of Nigeria is in fairness, questionable – in the context of its current and emerging impact on our Youth and generations yet unborn. How do we compete with other nations in the Information Society? Are existing Frameworks, strategies and models responsive and intelligent enough to mitigate the emerging negative impact of the future?
How do we revise the sporadically downwards syndrome of the position of our national e-readiness status? Does Nigeria’s competitive edge lie in Heavy Technology Industry or in innovative “Mind-to-Wealth” national development model?
In order words, what percentage of national policy and resources commitment and allocation is adequate and due to Telecommunication and what amount is due to Information Technology – with particular reference to innovative Software Engineering creativity and development life cycle? Indeed, how do we compete with other nations of the world – in Hardware or in Software knowledge and services? Why do we lack behind in e-Readiness performance index of the Information Society – in-spite of our robust intellectual Muse and octopus population advantage in Africa and the world?
The challenge here is that we cannot ague against existing global statistics of Nigeria’s position on the global e-readiness index – which clearly demonstrates that something is deadly off-beam somewhere. The country ranked 113 out of 144 countries surveyed in the Networked Readiness Index (NRI). It seems that our ICT strategy is developing without growth.
Based on the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) report on Global Information Technology Report (GITR) 2013 as published measuring the extent to which 144 countries took advantage of ICT and other new technologies to increase their growth and well-being – Nigeria’s ICT competitiveness Domain remained in the lowest quartile of countries sampled in both reports. The lesson here is: ‘Though the glass is important, but when we need water, we ask for water and NOT necessarily the glass container.’ Telecoms are significant and very important, but it may not rescue us from emerging digital knowledge colonalization of the near future.
In conclusion, convinced by the glaring fact of our current inability to compete in the Heavy-Technology Industry – perhaps in the next fifty (50) years – conventional wisdom dictates that our current (90-10 formula) of 90% Telecoms centric focus against 10% Creative Technology and IT/Software innovation, will result to development jeopardy in the midstream of Information Society (IS). Therefore, at best, what we need is a technology equilibrium innovative strategy (TEIS), where equivalent resources is strategically deployed simultaneously to both critical sectors and observe their GDP value-add to our nation building and national development on a five yearly basis.
In evaluating the survivability of Nigeria in the context of global ICT development, it is my professional opinion that, 25 years down-the-line (which in Internet Time is few nanoseconds away – in the context of current time-rating to orbit to Mars!) TEIS will significantly reduce the awaiting catastrophe of a digital colony impact on future Nigeria, while our current Telecoms takes-it-all vision will grossly impact negatively on future Nigeria.
The above is informed by the ‘Outliners’ models of innovative technology excellence earned through self-sustenance and practice ad-infinitum – both at individual, family and national levels. In other words, our technology survivability models of conspicuous consumption and exclusive implementation Framework will lead nowhere than drain our national resources. Where will we be and what can we do without crude oil revenue, now that time is running out?
According to reliable sources, ‘Traditional software and internet companies are becoming value-added orchestrators in support of business transformation in all industries. This business model evolution is driven by several key trends which include: an increased focus on the end user experience, maturing business models, gains through operational performance, and growth through M&A’.
To remain focused and competitive, software Nigeria, Academia, government & internet companies need to urgently address several critical macro issues such enabling technologies, technological capabilities, new use cases and business models – all in the context of mobile social media, security & privacy, Data & Analytics and above all, Capacity-Capacity-Capacity of Innovative talent. To understand the enormity of the colossal technology challenges before us in the Software Engineering realm is the beginning of wisdom. Nevertheless, there is a great hope for IT-Nigeria.
Chris Uwaje – President of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) –writes from Lagos.