By Chris Uwaje
If the nation is still searching for the alibi of the audacity and professional ability of Software Nigeria, to effectively deliver world class solutions for the economic advancement, constructive development, national security and global competitiveness of Nigeria, the search stops here with Treasury single account, TSA.
The one year old Treasury Single Account (TSA) national project initiative is a digital knowledge infrastructure powered by developed by Systemspec developers and solutions provider of the Remita IT Infrastructure. Remita is a distinct technology know-how statement and signature of the potentials of Software Nigeria. After one year of its deployment – in line with global quality standards and best practice, the TSA initiative has now been acknowledged around the world, as a monumental success. There are many similar Software Nigeria solutions yet to be discovered.
According to the recent pronouncement by the Accountant General of the Federal – Mallam Idris Ahmed in Abuja, the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has N5.224 trillion as at February 2017 – after its successful deployment in September, 2015. Therefore, it is safe within the context of evaluating development methods for national Software, to state that the Remita Solutions is a Super Financial Banking Consolidation Application.
This success clearly validates the long-held and recognized fact, evidence and professional perception of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), that Software Nigeria Applications comply with major characteristics of global software trustworthiness. Also, the advent of TSA represents a quality index to measure the capability, functionality and eminence of software Nigeria in general. Then, what is responsible for the continued myopic crazy for foreign software in Nigeria? Policy Makers must understand the is acute danger (leading to digital enslavement) in allowing the unregulated deployment of foreign software in key Federal Government institutions, functions and operations domain to foreign applications software. The goal of this write-up is to encourage and promote the establishment of a National Software Development Strategies as a Policy Framework and encourage the mandatory inclusion of the patronage and protection of indigenous software empowered by concrete legislation –IT Bill to enact a National Software adoption Act.
This will serve to improve the level of the nation’s computer knowledge maturity levels, innovation, creative content competitiveness, as well as promote and spread the development, relevance and use of indigenous applications software and services in governance, education, health, business and industry, agriculture, transportation, public administration, law and justice, entertainment and national security. Recognizing Software Development as a new productive knowledge frontier and potential instrument for economic empowerment and creation of wealth, Government in 2005, decided to launch a nation-wide awareness campaign – based on the technical report submitted to it by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on National Software Development Initiative (NSDI) with Jim Ovia as Chairman. Currently, our knowledge-base and technology environment of the “new economy” is greatly influenced, undermined and controlled by foreign information system, Application Software and Databases. Software plays a fundamental roll and globally viewed as the backbone and ultimate currency for modern wealth creation, national prosperity and security.
Setting a national software development strategy, policy and awareness agenda therefore, is also against the backdrop that consciously building and systematically developing huge software capacities presents immense economic opportunities for sustainable nation building. Suffice to state that Nigeria can earn a minimum of $10billion USD in foreign exchange annually from the local content-centric software industry. Indeed, a strategic national software strategic policy and related legislation should ensure that within the next 3 years, a major knowledge and wealth creation movement should happen by compelling all the Banks in Nigeria to migrate to indigenous banking application software. Before that line of thought is crucified and for the records, Indigenous Banking Application Software in the 90s had an installed base of over 80 Bank branches before the Bank mergers policy by Professor Chukwuma Soludo – former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria.
This policy, as much as it is commendable, grossly overlooked the local content technology maturity implications. The aftermath is that it virtually killed indigenous software companies who were getting ready to deepen innovation of their solutions. The resultant effect is that is created a floodgate to the ubiquitous spread of foreign banking application software in Nigeria banking system. To date, there is still no level playing field for indigenous application software to fairly compete in the Banking and Finance Ecosystem.
What indeed is Indigenous Software? Indigenous Software (Software Nigeria) is hereby defined as “All Types and versions of Software developed in Nigeria by a company(ies) and its Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) owned by Nigerians, in Nigeria, where funds repatriation out of Nigeria is not required” Why Indigenous Software? First, the secret and future of all national development progress lies in the mastery of information systems, where software is the heart and oxygen! However, with a very poor Research, Design and Development (RD&D) platform and un-structured technology incubation and development culture, Nigeria is at best, described as light years away from mastering heavy industries, as experiences in the Industrial Revolution has portrayed – making us currently incapable of manufacturing such common technology products as an automobile, Airplane/ or even a simple motorbike or bicycle! Above all, importation of foreign software currently costs Nigeria more than $5billion USD (five billion dollars) in foreign exchange, some of which constitute a colossal waste and national security issues.
Today, the range of ICT-related concerns facing policy makers has increased dramatically in recent years: communications infrastructure, procurement for government automation and e-government programs, intellectual property, government-sponsored research programs, incubators and technology parks, engineering education, foreign investment and, of course, the potential for export revenue. Software is a relatively low-investment, environmentally friendly, high-growth global industry – a good target growth industry for many countries. But it has also become the most critical and expensive element of the government and business systems that every nation must build for itself. As Stanford Professor Edward Feigenbaum put it while serving as Chief Scientist for the US Air Force, we now live in a “software-first world” (Clark et al., 1998). The increase in global demand that makes software exports a growth industry is driven by the continued consumption of software at home and then by other countries and business enterprises.
What Nigeria Must Do? Good strategic planning about government automation projects and investment incentives to domestic Software Developers can have a positive impact on the growth of a country’s software exports compared to relying on market forces alone. Establishment of massive Software-Knowledge Academies requires urgent attention. Above all, retooling of the national workforce is imperative. Creation of a National Software Board and establishment of Regional Software Engineering Institutes as well as Software Development Bank are now mandatory.
Furthermore, creating certain types of software exports requires coherent long-term planning and investment strategies to complement and augment market-driven activity. Every country software-development Ecosystem has evolved a unique industry, shaped by its own resources and situation and by the particular local opportunities presented at the time. That indeed was the case of Microsoft.
The current shape and dynamics of the software industry should, therefore, inform ICT strategy, planning and policy, no matter the country’s stage of economic development. With TSA, the Software Case for Nigeria dictates that Nigerians are very capable in engineering and developing global standard software. The Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) has over the years advocated for the need to establish a progressive national strategy and responsive policy for software acquisition, development, application and use, due to its very complex nature. Systemspec is a dignified member of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) and deserves a national honour for its technology assiduousness and leadership through Remita.