By Adekunle Adekoya
This column last week focused giant strides in IT made by India, a colonial sibling of Nigeria, which launched the world’s cheapest tablet PC at $35, branded Aakash, a fortnight ago.
In that take of this column, I asked whether it was the 12-year difference in independence dates between Nigeria and India that is responsible for the industrialization and advancement gaps between the two nations. This question becomes pertinent because at the pace we are going, and with the leadership we have, we might well need one whole century to get to where India is, assuming the Indians will be sleeping while we play catch-up.
It is this same issue that is making me revisit the presentation on the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Industry in Nigeria Roadmap by Mrs Omobola Johnson, Honourable Minister of Communication Technology at ICT Stakeholders Engagement and Round Table Discussion on the Digital Economy and Information Society in Nigeria about a month ago on 22nd September, 2011 in Lagos.
After the minister’s presentation, there was an interactive session during which many of the stakeholders present contributed and gave suggestions on what further can be done to lift our country onto its rightful plane of participation in the 21st century knowledge society we are in.
Without prejudice or bias, I will refer to contributions made by just three of the stakeholders. Mrs. Florence Seriki, MD Omatek Computers at the forum noted that ICT does not appear to be major in the economic agenda of government, and advocated the need for local content and manufacturing policies that will enable and encourage manufacturers to thrive.
Mr Kayode Shobajo, CEO of Hiit, observed that just as other countries are building brands and exporting such brands to the world, nothing stops the Communications and Technology Ministry from pushing Nigerian brands internationally.
The third person I will refer to is Dr. Emmanuel Ekwuem, CEO of Teledom group who averred that there is no software that cannot be produced in Nigeria. Further, he questioned whether Nigerian governments — federal, state and local — use made in Nigeria software.
For me, there is a patriotic streak running through the comments made by these three ICT operators. From my part of the country, there is a saying that the man clamouring for a good society does so not because he alone will benefit. The way things stand, all we get are stories from those who manage our affairs, and if care is not taken, in 2020, we’ll still get more stories why Vision 20-2020 didn’t happen.
What we need
What we need, and urgently too, is action that will enable our OEMs fulfil their desire for this country, which chiefly is that we should stop being a mass consumer of IT products from other lands but producers as well. From production, we protect these local brands by patronising them.
India’s Aakash was the outcome of a conscious, deliberate programme that began two years ago. Since government does not have such in mind, as of now, the least it can do is make things as easy as possible for the private sector investors.
Here the CT Ministry has a pedestal to spring from: just before the elections, President Jonathan issued a buy-Nigeria directive. If the CT Ministry and NITDA can give teeth to that directive in the ICT sector, we’ll all see just how fast things can move, economically speaking, in various sectors of our economy.