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Software: ‘Copying is not stealing’

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In a recent chat with the President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) Dr. Yele Okeremi, he said that adopting or copying is not stealing as it were, even in the software industry.

I recall putting the question to him was, ‘Dr. do you envisage a day Nigeria will stop importing software’?

His response was that Nigerians have not fully provided alternative that will warrant the government to slam the door against foreign software, but the journey has started hence our young developers can ‘copy and adapt’ what is available elsewhere and make them relevant to the country.

Dr. Okeremi speaks, “Very good question. It can happen and should happen. But part of the problems I have also seen is the way we present certain things. If I approach the government today and tell them to stop importing software, it is a non-starter. Because I haven’t been able to fully provide the alternatives.

Remember, I talked about capacity. It is a game of capacity, capacity and capacity. Some of our present thoughts are wishful-thinking. In my opinion, it is not the best approach for us to go to government and tell them to stop importation henceforth.

Let them import and we understudy. Then, let us reverse the engineering. Copying is not stealing. Adapting is not stealing, because if you apply for a patent, before it is approved you must disclose whatever you have for the whole world to see.

Why do you think they do that? They expect other people to be able to use it. So, copying cannot be stealing; let’s get that clear. It is when we know we start, from the subsistence level to professional; after a while we go commercial and then global. It is not going to happen overnight.

“Nigeria has lost a lot of time already. We cannot drop from heaven and begin to lead global market. However, and that is why I keep emphasising on capacity building.

“Sometimes the blacks behave as if we are foolish and it is very painful. The Government knows that in five years-time something will happen and they will not build any capacity before the rainy day. On that fifth year they start looking for someone that has experience.

“Where are you going to get him from. What smart nations do is they read the time and prepare ahead. They are not taken unawares; they pick from their ‘stock’. Again, I say, how do politicians measure achievements? Look at all their speeches. ‘We spent so much on this and that’. That is not achievement.

“When you do, it will show on the faces of Nigerians. If you achieve results the impacts will be visible in the streets of Nigeria. The same thing applies to this industry. We have a roadmap, but it is not something you shut the door at once.

“When we have capacity the rule should be, ‘import only where you see skills deficit’. As a nation, our software roadmap should have time lags”.

Now, do you agree with him?

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