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Government Has Not Supported IT Development Enough — Adewumi

Professor David Adewumi is the President, Nigeria Computer Society. He spoke with Ozioma Ubabukoh of The Punch on the activities and constraints of professionals in developing the industry.

Government Has Not Supported IT Development Enough — Adewumi
Professor David Adewumi

The ICT development has been phenomenal globally; how has Nigeria fared?

Today, the Information Technology is taking a major space in the world economy and has gone into every sphere of human endeavours. Nigeria cannot afford to be left out. The pace at which the ICT is driving global development has been great. Imagine technology contributions in the health, education, agriculture, human capacity development, among others.

It has helped to create jobs directly and indirectly. For Nigeria, we still have a lot to do with technology. We have not tapped into its full potential, but we have not done badly either. We can still do better. The major challenge is that government has yet to buy into the ICT and that has limited local content development.

I heard recently that the Senate has approved the e-voting, and with the approval of the e-voting, that means that there is no way that INEC can shy away from fully going into cooperation with the NCS. From here, we can run a training programme for them, because we have the expertise. We are waiting for them. I will advise the Nigerian government to go on a wide capacity building with IT. Secondly, it will also be very crucial for them to improve on infrastructure. We must emphasise that today, infrastructure development without power means we will not get anywhere.

My advice to government is to make sure those infrastructures are improved on, especially if we must compete favourably. I must say that the ICT cannot thrive without power. Power is everything. In addition, all the stakeholders must be carried along in any developmental process.

How feasible is the clamour by the NCS to use the IT to create a knowledge-based economy?

The issues are very clear. The fact is that black nations were sleeping during the industrial revolution. We are lucky that we have people who are gingering us up now. But if we don’t follow this to a logical conclusion, what we are going to lose will be more than what we lost during the industrial revolution. So, if the IT is not given its vital place, then our expectation is dashed.

The last NCS conference addressed the knowledge-based economy, which is also a major aspect of what the IT has been able to achieve over the years globally. I would not say the same thing is true of the African nations because of our lack of infrastructural and human capacity development.

African nations have not done much in those areas. Apart from the capacity development in the IT and that of the African youth, we don’t have enough jobs and training. So, this is why when you talk about security challenges in Nigeria, you begin to think that if everybody were occupied or employed, the problem would have been reduced. I am not saying that it will stamp it out totally but it would have reduced it to a reasonable extent.

How does NCS intend to implement the outcome of the conference?

One of the strategies we have in place now is that we will be meeting with our stakeholders, especially the government. We also want to engage government at the highest level. Our plan is that the next three months after our conference, we want to engage Mr. President to let him know all these things. We will tell him the effect the IT will have on the government and the Nigerian people. Another thing is the Boko Haram insurgence, if Nigeria had placed the IT at the front burner, we would have had the entire communication gadget placed within the nation such that any movement, whether usual or unusual, would be recorded. We want to make sure that we engage our youths to let them know that they have to follow up on all the things that we have done to improve their awareness of the IT as an association.

What is the update on the ₦500m Information and Communication Technology Park initiated by your predecessor?

We have started work on the project and I think in a short while, we shall inform the public how far we have gone about the project. We are also working on another NCS building and we have made considerable development on them.

The National Assembly recently accused the ICT practitioners in Nigeria of not coming up with solutions that would help in reducing security challenges in the country.

What is your reaction to this?

My reaction is simple: we need to find out from them how many bills they have passed in making Nigeria an IT-based economy. Even the Cyber Security Bill has not been passed. There are quite a number of things that have not yet been done. One thing I know is that IT professionals have been trying to engage government, which we have found a little difficult. The IT companies have been doing a lot on their own. The government has not been supportive enough.

When you say government has not been supportive; how vocal has the NCS and other IT practitioners been on this issue?

I can say without mincing words that we have been very vocal, I mean the ICT professionals. At the NCS, we are doing a lot in terms of increased sensitisation about the usefulness of the ICT in virtually all areas of the economy, but like I said, government has yet to see the need to give technology that support. It will interest you to know that the ICT sector has been contributing hugely to the country’s GDP. Government must support the sector.

You accused government of not buying into the IT; what do you think is responsible for this and how can this be addressed?

Government has not yet appreciated the effect of buying into Information and Communications Technology. By the time this e-voting comes on board, they would be able to appreciate the need for IT. One other reason why I feel they are not buying into IT is the non-representation of the IT community at the national conference. None of the members of the IT community was invited, including NCS and Computer Professional Registration Council of Nigeria. Our thinking is that if the government knew the enormity of progress IT would bring to the country, they wouldn’t have done that.

Government’s apathy towards the ICT will hinder local content development, which is critical if we are to become a producer nation. To address this issue, I think it must be a collective effort. All the stakeholders involved must collaborate to move the sector forward. It is also very pertinent that the Federal Government must be at the forefront of this course.

How does the NCS encourage young Nigerians to embrace IT?

We have NACOSS, which is the youth wing of the NCS. It is present in all higher institutions and membership is largely driven among students. We also have schools for our developing youths outside NACOSS, which they have opportunities to join at the zonal level. But what will they get when they come in? They will be exposed to the up to date happenings within the IT community, and in terms of capacity development for them, we are involved. We have many youth-based programmes and we work closely with a number of our groups and they are coming up now, even the security groups. We have a lot of groups such as ITAN, ISPON and quite a number of them. When they join all these groups, we are sure they will get the right exposure.

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