Executive Secretary, Nigeria Computer Society, NCS, Marcus Iyiola Ayoola is an experienced Software Developer with high skill of software engineering, with a demonstrated history of Public relations working in the non-profit organization management industry.
Skilled in Research, Strategic planning and Excellent Managerial Skill, Strong business development professional with a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from University of Lagos Akoka, Yaba-Lagos Nigeria, Ayoola is a member of many professional bodies and social organisations.
In this interview with TechEconomy.ng, he speaks on post-40th year anniversary of the Society, especially how the Body is setting a new road map for the next decade; among other sundry issues in the industry.
What are the specific areas that NCS will focus attention in the next decade?
We are not stopping on our oars to ensure the country IT space gets the best attention it requires. As rightly pointed out, our advocacies berthed the establishment of key government agencies today; such as the Ministry of Communication (which was initially called the Ministry of Communication Technology), NITDA, and even the NCC as the case may be and the latest case been the Local Contents.
The local content is a major breakthrough in the advocacies for our government to look inward with regards IT applications acquisition. Though, some people in some quarters are acting as if nobody had fought for the local content adoption. I can tell you that this fight started over 20 years ago. I recall that in 1995 NCS said, ‘look, we have to adopt indigenous technology and give our people the opportunity to add value to the economy’. At that point, we said, though it may not be applicable to all facets of the economy, we should start with the oil and gas sector. We opened conversation with the Shell company.
Thank God, government saw reasons why these things should be done and set up a Local Content Development Board with the headquarters in Bayelsa. Since then the drive has aggravated to other sectors of the economy such as in agriculture, manufacturing, and now ICT has queued in. The current administration has issued a Fiat (order 003 & 004) at the national level. We are not stopping there; the next move is to ensure the enforcement of those Executive Orders.
This is germane because every society that wants to have a safer internet and internet security must adopt proactive approach. Do not forget the fact that Safer Internet is different from Internet Security. The Internet Security deals with securing the hardware and the software. It entails ensuring the firewalls are protected; your password is not compromised and all the apparatuses that will not allow intruders to break into your network.
On the other hands, Safer Internet has to do with user’s character; the act of safety you engage in while surfing the internet. Therefore, safer internet has to do with some commandments or laws. There are ten outstanding rules to maintain safer internet. In fact, copyright law must be there.
These things must be obeyed. It will do our society good if we start to inculcate these laws on our secondary school pupils. Safer Internet deals with personal-behavioural pattern of accessing the web. You must not tamper with other people’s intellectual property.
The lessons are important in this era of social media. Yes, those who invented the social media did not take these into cognizance. That is why Fake News has gained more ground. They should consider safer internet as integral part of the business plan.
Thus, safer internet has to do with data privacy. That is the key.
Are you saying Nigeria requires regulations to keep the social media companies in check to ensure safer internet and/or data privacy?
We must have regulations. The Nigeria Computer Society, NCS, wants to commence the process through the convocation of stakeholders’ meeting to discuss and present our views on the subject. NITDA recently released her roadmap.
The Ministry of Justice also has a roadmap. However, we are pushing for harmonised document that will give us all encompassing law and state the ethics that will guide everybody across sectors. We have also noticed, over time, when laws are made the enforcement agents tend to abuse them. So, out thinking is that all practitioners should abide by the ethics data privacy. The awareness has to start from the grassroots.
The number of internet users in this country is about 90million. We are almost the largest internet users in the Sub-Saharan region.
So, the critical stakeholders here include the NCS, the Office of the National Security Adviser, the Judiciary, NITDA, NCC, CPN, ISPAN, telecom operators, banks and other service providers.
e-voting, is Nigeria ripe?
NCS has been advocating for e-voting that is well articulated and executed. But, you will realise that e-voting is a process. For it to succeed, that process must be duly followed. Same time, we need to ask ourselves: what are the infrastructures on ground to support e-voting. Therefore, if the infrastructures are not on ground e-voting is not visible…
..what are the infrastructures you are referring to?
The internet, electricity, education/public awareness, data accuracy – those things are not on ground. Internet penetration has not reached every nooks and crannies of Nigeria. What is the percentage fibre optic coverage in Nigeria. Thanks to MainOne, Glo, MTN, WACC and others that are pushing the bar; but we are not there yet to support credible e-voting system.
Even if you have fibre optic cables or satellite wave coverage of the whole country, how about power? The infrastructure is not there! Even if you want to deploy solar, do you know how much that will cost. Solar energy is still expensive. In my village there is no electricity, but who would build solar energy solution there. Except we get it right, e-voting will remain elusive.
Education is also a factor; we are not matured as it were to adopt full scale e-voting. See the politicians trying to buy votes, because the human nature is there. Who said they wouldn’t even ‘invade’ peoples’ homes to bribe them or buy their votes.
You also need to ask: is out internet secured? Where do we warehouse our data: is it Nigeria or Venezuela? Those things are not there. I also say that we will get there, but we need to get serious and start now to build the infrastructure. One thing I know Nigeria for is that once we are determined to do something we take it to another level…
…You mentioned ‘accurate data’; NIMC has been working on harmonising data gathered across agencies. Are you saying the data can’t be trusted?
When the issue of harmonization of the data was raised by the Federal Government, NCS bought into that idea, because it would entrench decorum in the system. So, we wrote to then Secretary General of the Federation (SGF). The key note in our proposal was to engage the government and the supervising Commission to decentralise the process with our manpower. NCS has the manpower, the skill and the way-withal to bring that project to fruition. Nevertheless and so far so good, that proposal could not be looked into before the SGF was removed from office. We learnt the project was transferred to the office of the Vice President, but we have not heard from them again.
Nevertheless, early this year, NIMC began the implementation of mandatory use of NIN that is a step in the right direction. It also tells me that they understand how valuable that project is to Nigeria’s economy.
Even if you do not have card with NIN you can transact business. Such action will give credence to data accuracy I referred to. It is like a social security number. I want to believe that by the end of 2023 NIN adoption would have been 100%. That will help us to know, accurately, how many we are as a population which is a prelude to e-voting.
NIMC should be commended for their collaboration with the banks and other government agencies. I think banks have most accurate data about account holders through the Biometric Verification Number (BVN).
Failure of IT/ICT projects in government circle: any improvement?
Emphatically, there has been an improvement on government ICT project execution. The other time, NITDA came up with a particular policy saying they are going to register (IT) contractors executing projects for the government. We kicked against it. Our argument remains that the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria, CPN, reserves the right to carry out function.
Something good came out of that fuse. NITDA, CPN and NCS came up with Sub-Committee to address the issues. The effect of the committee’s work gave rise to a policy statement by NITDA that if you want get any IT contract from the Government you must be a registered member of CPN. And when you are given such contract there is a committee to scrutinise the implementation. Through that due process failed IT/ICT contracts in government would have been checkmate…
…don’t you think there is need for a regulatory backup, particularly now the country is seemingly serious about local content?
You see, for everything to reach a positive conclusion in this economy it has to be backed by law. Unfortunately, there is a particular area that government agencies are getting it wrong. They tend to pursue areas of jurisdiction without convergence of views to achieve collective goal of good governance. They must be a clearing ground for good ideas in government to bear must fruits. For us in NCS, we are collaborating with every stakeholder that has relevance to what we are pursuing.
Sometime, in 2018 the House of Representative planned a stakeholders’ forum in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, but it couldn’t hold.
We saw it as window of opportunity to get the Lawmakers up to date on what we are doing in IT and why we are doing such. It could have given us the opportunity for a joint approach on what to legislate on and doing it quick. Whatever we do, to be on the right path, will require legal backing.
For NCS, this is an election year. What are the plans?
Yes, every election year we have our international conference and this year is going to be great. We are trusting that the theme for this year’s conference: Smart Nation…Digital Economy and Meaningful Life will set the economy on the right path to smart cities projects and execution, amongst other digital economic indices we want to bring to fore. There about 15 sub-themes to be discussed.
We are not looking at ‘talk-show’ rather showcasing physical and implementable solutions on ground. We are yet to pick the host State.