By Prince Osuagwu
The year 2015 has a lot of statistics, Information and Communications Technology, ICT industry practitioners can bandy about with pride; particularly in terms of telephony access and data penetration. Active telephone lines are well over 150 million; close to 100 million Nigerians are having access to the Internet, the country’s teledensity rose quite above 108 per cent and Investment in the sector is being put at over $32 billion.
Volume of jobs
Besides, the impact of telecoms sector on other sectors such as banking, e-commerce, agriculture, education, oil and gas and the volume of jobs the sector is creating can only be described as unprecedented.
However, whatever swag those statistics could give the country in global rating was quickly deflated with the poor and miserably low ICT development index ranking the country got just as the year winds down.
The country was poorly ranked 134 out of 167, leaving almost all the countries in Africa, including South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt, among others soaring away with better global ICT development index rankings.
This single misfortune threw all genuine ICT professionals in the country almost into mourning. This also, is considering that the IDI is a standard tool that governments, operators, development agencies, researchers and others can use to measure the digital divide and compare ICT performance within and across countries.
The index is published by the United Nations International Telecommunication Union, ITU, based on internationally agreed information and communication technologies (ICT) indicators. This makes it a valuable tool for benchmarking the most important indicators for measuring the information society. The ICT Development Index is based on eleven ICT indicators, grouped in three clusters: access, use and skills.
Meanwhile, a certain group of ICT professionals, have gone beyond wearing pensive moods about the news to rallying ideas that could lift the country from such abysmal rating.
The group spearheaded by former president of Indigenous Software Practitioners of Nigeria, ISPON , Chris Uwaje and former President of Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria, ATCON Engr. Titi Omo-Ettu, comprised of notable security experts, software practitioners, copyright lawyers, IT professionals, computer students and Technology editors of major Nigerian newspapers including Vanguard.
In a round table organised to evaluate the country’s level of authority in cyber security, intellectual property and local content activities, the group discovered some holes that must have led to the country’s poor outing on the index ranking and proffered solutions that would steady the ship from 2016.
Part of the holes was what it considered as poor handling of the Treasury Single Account, TSA contract saga by the National Assembly, saying what actually played out was basically the manifestation of Senate’s limited knowledge of Software and their ignorance of the immense capability of Nigerians to develop world-class Application Software.
They also unanimously agreed that the future could be bright if the government effectively rally all stakeholders to adequately plug all the loopholes that put miserable, bleak patches on 2015.
The round table resolved that to effectively promote national Interest in the emerging knowledge society and new economy, there is need for constructive policy framework and strategies for the development and growth of local content in Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
They canvassed for Intellectual Property in Science, technology Federal Government and promotion of indigenous Research to be encouraged as fundamental to the development, progress, wealth creation and Communication survivability of the nation.
Other solutions it proffered included that:
*ICT in the Nigerian education system should be radically transformed – ensuring that innovative IT Curriculum is deployed at all levels of education – with special focus on the training and retraining of teachers of IT at all levels.
*The National Broadband Plan should be implemented without further delay and ensure universal access, availability and affordability at all levels.
*Government should view the Infrastructure and Content of ICT delivery as very critical and ensure that National Type Approval is established and rigorously applied– especially for Software domain.
*For Nigeria to compete globally in the Information and Communications Technology domain, Government should encourage and support the establishment of indigenous large scale IT companies in Nigeria – through incentive strategies to form corporate partnerships.
Senate goofed: Experts at the roundtable also believed that there was a case of high- handedness on the part of the Senate with respect to indigenous application Software development and delivery in Nigeria and faults the handling of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) fall out, saying it was as a result of the National assembly’s limited knowledge of Software and ignorance of the immense capability of Nigerians to develop world-class Application Software.
The group argued that Development of local software will encourage the processing of National Intellectual Property (IP) registration and classification data base and charged the Government to ensure that the national sensitive data is hosted with all the data residing in the country.
It also demanded that people with special IT skills and abilities be appointed or promoted into leadership positions such as Government Boards at all levels.
It also charged media managers to allow and encourage their respective media to report positive developments and promote good stories chronicling successes attained by both government, Nigerian ICT Practitioners and all stakeholders.
Some other critical discoveries it made were that: •Apparently, lack of attacks on the government system has made light of the gravity of the threat of cyber security, but this is the time to understand this before it’s too late
- There is a fundamental need to domicile Software Escrow accounts for foreign software imported and sold in Nigeria – due to the colossal implications of Cyber Espionage, Cyber Terrorism and Cyber Crime.
- There should be sync between the physical security and cyber security practitioners.
- To further encourage the Nigerian team who won the Global Cyberlympics – Africa 2015, Government should establish standard National Cybersecurity Laboratories and encourage all the State governors to build Same at the Tertiary, Secondary and Primary school levels.
The group also discovered that “The IT industry needs a strong voice for advocacy to accelerate required legislation for constructive development and growth” adding that “there is need to establish a National ICT think tank as an active platform to forge co- operation between Government, the ICT industry and Community Stake holders”.