2014 witnessed increased presence of IT in various sectors of the economy and society. However, a significant challenge is the persisting climate of unproductive consumption and digital exclusion (rural/urban, gender, etc). In this light, Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), the nation’s foremost network of IT practitioners and stakeholders will be organizing its 12th international conference in July, 2015 based on the theme “Information Technology for Inclusive Development”.
Using IT to address Nigeria’s developmental challenges and strengthening the local IT sector are strategic initiatives for global competitiveness. 2015 is the year of Innovative and Inclusive Development, in line with NCS’s advocacy role of ensuring that the nation receives the very best in processes, technologies and people.
- The telecommunications industry still witnessed tremendous growth, while attracting investment in 2014. However, while teledensity has improved significantly, quality of service, affordability, broadband penetration and last mile connectivity to the consumer are barriers that need to be addressed in 2015. The National Broadband Plan, if faithfully implemented, appears promising. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in particular has a major role to play and needs to speed up process of licensing of Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) that will rollout broadband infrastructure nationwide. Also there must be bite in the Smart States initiative.
- A solid foundation in education is required to lead the IT revolution. Just as in previous years, quite a few private, social and governmental initiatives in capacity building for IT were undertaken in 2014 to close the IT skills gap. However, human capital in IT is still massively below requirements, especially in research. Though there is improved access in education, there is an urgent need to ensure the entire education system embraces the 21st century knowledge culture that promotes and supports innovation.
- The online sphere is home to considerable progress – online stores, business and social networks. Most outstanding in terms of investments attracted, jobs created and societal changes have been the e-payment/e-commerce landscape. In 2015, the space should be widened for existing players and new entrants. In addition, support issues as well as growth in mobile money uptake need to addressed.
- Policy and advocacy has been an area of growth through the efforts of professional and industry groups such as NCS, ATCON, ISPON, etc. NCS has been extremely fortunate to have members and partners who understand that advocacy efforts require resources. They supported the IT Research workshops, Scholarship awards, the NCS 2014 conference and the 2014 National IT Merit Award (NITMA) and advocacy organization. In 2015 their continued support will further advance IT development in Nigeria.
- The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology (FMCT) has been coordinating national IT activities, and needs to keep providing visionary leadership in 2015. Multistakeholder policy review and development are essential to ensure policies are relevant and effective. FMCT and NITDA should also as a matter of urgency work with stakeholders to fast track the enactment of draft bills that will accelerate IT development in Nigeria.
- Greater availability of computing and internet facilities (laptops, PCs, mobile and wireless devices) drives up cyber threats and increased the need for information security. Indeed because of the impact of cyberspace on the nation’s social and economic life, national security now encompasses the digital environment. It is imperative that stakeholders such as NITDA, the Information Technology Systems and Security Professionals (ITSSP) group of NCS, security agencies and other Infosecurity entities work together to put information security strategies, policies, legislation and culture in place.
Improved overall cybersecurity awareness and capacity should be a national strategic goal in 2015. Better application of IT to fight terrorism and other national security threats, as well as the resolution of the National database issue should also be priority targets in 2015.
- Though quite a number of government agencies are now IT driven, it is disturbing to note that IT professionals are not actively involved at the board level in top level decision making and policy formulation/evaluation for most of such organizations. The absence of IT professionals on the boards of MDAs questions the nation’s desire to be part of the 21st century. It is pertinent to note that the IT industry and profession was not represented at the 2014 National conference.
- Even with improved access to IT and the Internet, activity in the IT space is largely foreign driven and dominated. The prevailing funding and patronage scenario puts the local industry at an extreme disadvantage. The birth of the IT innovation fund is a good start requiring sustainability. Addressing local content development and IT research and development is a strategic imperative for 2015.
- There has been appreciation of knowledge, merit and IT enabled innovation through the national honours platform for IT achievers –the annual National Information Technology Merit Awards (NITMA) and the NITDA e-governance awards held during the 2014 e-Nigeria conference. However, it is quite amazing that despite the manner in which IT is radically reshaping Nigerian society, the yearly composition of the National honours list does not recognize or appreciate the impact IT is making in the country.
- Software development, entrepreneurship and research initiatives addressing issues of funding and patronage should be encouraged and promoted. FMCT and NITDA must be commended for initiating some remarkable projects with such a focus. Scaling up of promising interventions require strategic partnerships for faster, sustainable results. Nigerian content development in ICT, youth empowerment, digital gender mainstreaming and research are all top agenda items. Critical to Nigeria’s digital future is support of innovative ideas in IT and harnessing the potential of Nigeria’s youth. However, in order to better serve the purpose and yield the benefit for which they were established, it is absolutely essential that FMCT, NITDA and NCC do more to support stakeholder driven initiatives in an inclusive manner. A much needed, in fact overdue, area of critical focus for these government bodies is to work with stakeholders such as NCS to establish IT parks that will facilitate the achievement of identified priorities.
- Mobile technology should be embraced at all levels to leverage on Nigeria’s improving teledensity for strong growth, financial and digital inclusion and to address Nigeria’s developmental issues. The mainstreaming of mobile into development will reflect through the development of feasible and sustainable mobile initiatives relating to mobile money, mEducation, mHealth, mAgriculture, etc.
- The Independent National Election Commission (INEC) employed information technologies to conduct to conduct governorship elections last year. INEC is expected to continue in this vein in the conduct of national elections in 2015. It is imperative that the electoral body works more closely with stakeholders such as NCS to enhance IT adoption in election management and processes in Nigeria. It is about building a prosperous, modern and democratic nation that meets the aspirations of the Nigerian people.
- IT development is a national matter and priority that has immense impact on the future of Nigeria. The vision, leadership and commitment of key actors in the social, political and economic spheres are desired. Though there are exceptions, the political class as a whole still appears to underestimate the potential of the IT sector. In view of upcoming elections in 2015, it is absolutely essential that Nigerians support and encourage credible politicians at all levels (local, state and national) that have an appreciation of the glaring need to incorporate and prioritize the role of the ICT sector in all sectors. Those who must lead at this time must be those who are committed to ensuring the game changing nature and ability of IT is used to drive development.
Chairman, Publicity and Events Committee
Nigeria Computer Society