A critical look at Information Technology as a field of endeavor reveals that the most important ingredient for a successful (IT) industry is intellectual capital or knowledge and training of the population in the IT field.
Moreover, there are several ways a nation could catalyze its IT ecosystem to achieve success and become self-reliant and ultimately be a net contributor to the IT economy of the world.
To this end, the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) believes that there is need for deliberate policy to boost the morale of indigenous software developers and grow the IT sector in general.
Speakers at the Institute’s Presidential Dinner held in Lagos on Friday, April 26, 2019, unanimously agree that IT ecosystem should be for the country, the ingredients to having viable IT economy and how to create sustainable IT Ecosystem
The former Minister of Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson, who delivered the keynote paper at the dinner with the theme: “Having An Inclusive IT Ecosystem”, said many have questioned at international fora whether the African Digital Transformation drive was a hype or a reality, but insisted that the drive remained a reality for African countries, especially for Nigeria.
She however urged the federal government of Nigeria to come up with better policy and regulatory framework that will not stifle technology growth in the country.
According to Johnson, “Nigerian government must focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education to drive Information and Communications Technology (ICT) education that will boost digital transformation in Nigeria.
“Software stakeholders must collaborate with government to design specific training on ICT for young Nigerian startups and government must do everything possible to grow the country’s infrastructure in order to facilitate national development.”
Citing China and India that have become strong forces for global technology development, Johnson challenged ISPON to form a formidable force that would promote inclusive IT ecosystem for the country.
The President of ISPON, Dr. Yele Okeremi, decried that since the days of the oil boom, the fate of the Nigerian economy became tied to the international price of crude oil: The economy became buoyant when international oil prices rose and went into slowdown and even recessions once the international price of crude fell or Nigeria became unable to meet up with its production quota.
“The petroleum industry itself became overly focused on the mere extraction of crude without any value added.
“The country has become over-dependent on trading in primary goods with consequent implications on employment, wealth creation and wealth distribution. It is a known fact in scholarly circles that economies that operate in such manner end up exporting its prosperity and in turn import poverty from other countries”.
Where We Should Be
From the aforementioned facts, Okeremi suggested that it is now necessary for Nigeria to take a second look at its economic recovery strategy if it is to achieve results and sustain such results.
“It is considered prudent for societies and economies to encourage the creation of complex businesses, which create an environment for its citizens to get engaged in meaningful work.
“It is in the light of this that I seek to present an inclusive Information Technology ecosystem as a potential to lift the country out of its current economic challenges”.
He said that a critical look at Information Technology as a field of endeavor reveals that the most important ingredient for a successful Information Technology industry is intellectual capital or knowledge and training of the population in the IT field.
“IT, particularly the software field can be pursued effectively by countries that have a favorable age demographics, with a good youth population and a sound education”, the ISPON president said.
He further proposed what the IT ecosystem should be for the country, the ingredients to having viable IT economy and how to create sustainable IT Ecosystem using the success of the Silicon Valley as a bench mark.
“As the name implies, an ecosystem is a self-sustaining system where all its participants create some form of value that is consumed by some other members and all the players operate in a symbiotic manner.
“Scholars in the IT field agree that a sound IT ecosystem typically comprises of;
- Tertiary Institutions. A viable system of tertiary education that feeds the ecosystem with fresh graduates with innovative and inventive ideas;
- Established IT Firms. These are the ecosystem’s mentors;
- Incubators and accelerators that provide support services, co-working space and other facilities for emerging startup companies
- Individuals and nascent firms with entrepreneurial ideas and viable business models;
- Angel Investors who provide initial seed funding for startups when they are still at their early stages occasioned by high risk and are unattractive to venture capitalists and banks
- Venture Capitalists who are able to fund startups that have moved from incubation stage to acceleration stage;
- Private Equity Firms;
- Capital Market where the public and other investors can take equity positions in IT firms that become public
Inclusiveness – the Weapon
“There are several ways that a nation could catalyze its IT ecosystem to achieve success and become self-reliant and ultimately be a net contributor to the IT economy of the world. For a country like Nigeria that has a high propensity for technology consumption and a suitable age demographics, Nigeria can borrow a leaf from countries like China that catalyzed their industry on the premises of local consumption. In other words, the country needs to come up with a deliberate policy to encourage the mantra of producing what it consumes and consume what it produces.
“The ability to achieve this is quite simple by following the money and studying which areas the country consumes the most technology products.
“The country has every right to begin a simple policy of import substitution. This will ensure the practitioners in the country are automatically provided domestic market access.
“Statistics show that we have heavy dependence on foreign IT products and services to run our economy, undermining the availability of local close substitutes to such products and services. By so doing the ecosystem is decimated and the members are left to die.
Inclusiveness – the Way
“Why has it been difficult for the Nigerian IT ecosystem to evolve? The answers lie in Nigerian technology buyers’ failure to place right premium on solution over valuation. While valuation suggests the financial capacity of an IT firm to meet the technological needs of the consumer, it does not guarantee value delivery for money spent to buy the technology.
“On the other hand, Solution to identified problems is what every technology buyer needs to adjudge a technology provider valuable and worthy of patronage.
“Therefore, whoever is capable of providing effective solution irrespective of valuation deserves patronage, more so, when it is in pursuant to local content development and enhancement of the national IT ecosystem evolvement.
“It is in my candid opinion that Nigerian IT firms have and can proffer solutions to the myriad of challenges facing the nation.
“What the industry desperately needs is for enabling policies and government institutions to provide opportunities to promote the local IT firms by engaging them to find solutions for the many socio-economic challenges of the nation at the opportunity costs of going for foreign solutions. Both economic policies and IT strategies should be deliberately crafted and decisively complied to pursue this noble course that many other nations have successfully pursued.
“I strongly believe that, if we get this right, then we will succeed in building and promoting indigenous IT giants that can have easy abilities to become national economic solution providers, technology exporters, create wealth, and employment generation”, he opined.