Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Abuja As A Hi-Tech Hub For Innovation, Entrepreneurship, And Knowledge Exchange
Chukwuemeka Uche Onuora
A paper presented at the IT thematic panel for the 2-day NIDO convention in Atlanta between October 17 and October 18 2003.
Introduction (Preamble, Historiography, Justification, and Statistics)
Sometime ago, I came across an interesting rash of coincidences as they relate to Information Technology Entrepreneurship, my chosen profession, and Abuja FCT, the capital of my country, Nigeria. While surfing the Internet in what is normally a pedantry pastime of mine, I came across a story that highlighted the strategic decision of the Tamil Nadu state government in India to make its capital city, Chennai, “a global capital for business process outsourcing (BPO) and propel Tamil Nadu to the number one position in IT exports”. This was stated by Tamil Nadu IT minister D Jayakumar in his inaugural address at the third edition of the information and communication technologies (ICT) event, Connect 2003 at Chennai. The event showcased business opportunities in the state across the entire ICT spectrum with a special emphasis on IT-enabled Services (ITeS)/business process outsourcing (BPO). The seminar, similar to the one we are currently having, was spread over three days and had around 60 speakers participating in various thematic sessions, including ITeS/BPO in healthcare and engineering and Chennai as an investment destination, among others. Needless to say, this discovery rekindled that innate yearning in me to initiate radical IKT initiatives and reinforced my idiosyncrasies as they relate to replicating successful ones in my beloved country, Nigeria.
In the process of further research, I came across an interesting paradigm as it relates to the battle between the eternal foes of sub-continental Asian geo-political dynamics, India and Pakistan. The disparity between these two nations is instructive to our realities, less because we do not have any sub-continental rival in West Africa per se, and more because our arcane and macabre dance with mediocrity, is rendering any notion of our resurgence a flaccid libido, rapidly receding from the memories of even the most optimistic Nigeria patriot. Pakistan lags far behind arch rival India in all aspects of Information Technology. The disparity is expected to widen more, a lot more, as India is poised to increase its software exports by over twelve-fold — from some $4 billion in 2000 to $50 billion in 2008. Pakistan which thwarted Indian designs for nuclear superiority by giving a tit-for-tat response to the latter’s nuclear explosions in May 1998 has to catch-up with India in IT. Pakistan which is hardly exporting $4 million of computer software has to redraw its list of priorities to meet the challenge thrust upon it by the India’s IT prowess. India houses some 300,000 software engineers compared to just 3,000 in Pakistan. In addition, India is producing some 200,000 IT professionals annually to meet the increasing demand which is a huge 2.2 million professionals every year. In a snide contrast, Nigeria is barely competing effectively with its counterparts in ECOWAS, not to talk of its peers across the African continent and the world at large. However, by a renewed collaborative effort on the part of the public and private sectors, it seems that though the stated goal of NigerianITExpert.com to raise an army of 10 million IT skilled professionals by 2005 appears at first glance to be overly ambitious, it is still a worthy aspiration and is attainable. It can still be achieved eventually if all Nigerian IT professionals (at home and abroad) commit to an active participation in reclaiming the determinants of our society’s destiny, from those who have betrayed our sacred trust.
The history of human achievement and societal development is replete with examples of transformational leadership on issues of national importance. The road to development and transcendent renaissance is strewn with the blood and bones of sacrificial visionaries. We must strive to initiate or at least recreate such success stories as our national pastime. The debilitating trajectory away from this desired renaissance of our society (and development of our nation) that we currently inhabit, must be rejected in the interest of our progeny’s survival. Instead, we have to redirect and “retriple” our efforts towards a guaranteed existence using IKT as a locomotive for change. A glance at our developmental indices and our shrinking resources (oil and otherwise) should spur us in this direction. In stark contrast, we can learn lessons from India’s dalliance with Information Technology preeminence. The Indian IT revolution has made it an IT power to reckon with. India today boasts that between one-fifth and a quarter of the IT professionals in the famed Silicon Valley of California are of Indian origin. Half of them originate from the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The province itself is fast emerging as India’s new Silicon Valley housing many IT parks. Hyderabad, the capital of AP, has become a robust symbol of Indian IT industry. A 15 billion rupee ($350 million) Hi-tech city is near completion while another project, Knowledge Park which will house biotechnology, pharmaceutical and allied industries is also in progress. The sordid pantomime that Nigeria’s waltz with underachievement has become must be consigned to the trashcan of unpatriotic logic and an Indian-style revolution must be embraced, hook, line, and sinker. That is our only way out of the woods.
Guiding Principle and Reaffirmation (Socio-economic & Socio-political imperatives)
A hub in this instance refers to a location or geographical area that encourages information dispersal and knowledge exchange, by developing and utilizing technology in the pursuit of economic prosperity and societal advancement. In this sense, it includes the diffusion and transfer of information and knowledge as commodities for trade. A hub involves the traversal of technological ingenuity within (perpendicularly) and across (laterally) the economy’s spheres, and the ability of this ingenuity to act as a multiplier of expertise, enterprise, and labor. It resembles an integrated marketplace in the sense that the localization and specialization of intellect, breeds the commercialization of innovations, and consequently, the blossoming of wealth. It thrives as a dynamic encapsulation of the ideas and aspirations of human genuflection in the face of unleashed technological possibilities. In short, an information and knowledge technology hub is the sun around which the planetary bodies of human economic endeavor revolve; it is the glue that holds centrifugal sub-sectors of the economy together.
There is the possibility that Abuja (with its comparatively superior infrastructure and relative security of lives and property) can be recast as a hub of innovation (or confluence of dynamism) for information and knowledge technology development. As has been replicated in sundry cities and municipalities around the world, the notion and incident of a nucleus of activity in the hi-tech sub-sector of any economy, is a veritable instrument for rapid development and economic empowerment. It is a tool for the empowerment of the innovators and entrepreneurs who drive the revolution of ideas in IKT, a means to economic prosperity for the local population that supports them, a revenue generation source for the municipal authority concerned, and a quasi-panacea for the socio-economic ills of the society in general. The opportunities that abound within such a constantly fluxing state of affairs in the developmental life cycle of any society are better realized than imagined. In pursuing the Holy Grail of development and following the abstract theories of societal advancement vis-à-vis the duplication of foreign models, it is imperative to temper any unfettered enthusiasm with the candid realization that our peculiarities are the determinants of our destiny. It is of the utmost importance to study extensively, debate exhaustively, plan strategically, and implement judiciously.
To realize goals previously thought impossible and dreams that were hitherto improbable, we must cast our eyes to the gleaming pearls of the new Orient; the cynosure of all eyes within the billion dollar jungle that is the IT world. That the Indians have recreated Silicon Valley in Bangalore and Route 128 in Hyderabad is no longer news. That they have succeeded in achieving some semblance of parity in the Darwinian entropy of this elitist preserve of the Europeans and Americans, earning their grudging respect and admiration in the process, should be more instructive to our refined sensibilities than to our stupefied adulation. That they have succeeded in transforming their sordid reality of two decades ago into the go-go dynamism and innovation of an IT-driven cutting-edge sub-culture is now the stuff of legends. However, what remains misunderstood and unduplicated (at least in substantive terms) is the combination of tactical brilliance in the sector and strategic foresight in the theatre that rendered their present ascendance a foregone conclusion and fait accompli.
Appropriateness (Why Abuja FCT?)
As I cast my eyes across the vista of whimsical Nigerian executive realities, it occurs to me that there are few administrations (on the state level at least) that understand the importance of IKT as an engine for wealth creation and a catalyst for change. Most of them pay lip-service to the superficial mantra of IKT, but lack a clear and coherent understanding of the underlying concepts that nourished its preponderance and rendered its ascendance a mere fait accompli.
I believe beyond any iota of reasonable doubt that Abuja FCT (even more than Lagos) is best positioned within the Nigerian milieu, to take advantage of the promises trapped within IT (and its latent capacity to utilize hidden innovativeness and entrepreneurship) in the furtherance of economic prosperity. It has the best combination of these militating factors to engender a revolution that will be the envy of the nation and the continent at large. The crystallization of a critical mass of IKT warriors, as soldiers in Nigeria’s irrevocable march towards parity with her international aspirations, can only be induced by a resolute commitment to excellence on the part of her government and people. Abuja’s role in this struggle is to serve as a personification of the dreams of IKT self-determination and relevance. Amongst the factors that make Abuja an ideal incubator of technological innovation and hotbed of IKT fundamentalism are: a reasonably-endowed University, a relatively steady power supply, access to international markets (via the international airport), decent telecommunications infrastructure, proximity to a budding and sustainable entrepreneurial IT-driven (or influenced) culture, a dynamic and committed leadership, and its status as a symbolic representation of the dreams of Nigerians to live in peace and with mutual respect and tolerance for each other. The professed plan of the El-Rufai-led FCT administration to reclaim the Abuja Masterplan of 1976, must take into consideration the role that IKT can and must play in reenergizing and multiplying their patriotic efforts.
Infrastructural Analysis (Lessons about Virtual and Non-Virtual Connectivity)
I will use the Chennai case as a study in strategic direction and a lesson that we can alter our reality in regards to Abuja FCT. It does not preclude any changes or manipulation on our part in terms of context or degree, but rather is a fluid representation of the concept of recasting the FCT as a hub for IKT evolution.
To focus on developing innovation clusters throughout the state in a phased manner, the Tamil Nadu government decided to shift its positioning strategy to market the capital city, Chennai first, instead of the entire state, as a global investment destination for the ITeS sector. They determined that BPO is the big ticket to growth for Chennai’s IT industry and that the state is well positioned to take a substantial share in India’s BPO industry market. The Indian BPO market is expected to touch $21 billion by 2008. Since Tamil Nadu is a pioneer in IT and software services, and has a 100 percent digital exchange network, and is the landing point for two submarine cables, it has the potential to garner a major chunk of ITeS business.
The fact that there are 65 direct flights to 15 countries per week proves that Chennai is well connected, non-virtually. The virtual connectivity cost in Chennai is less than 10 percent of what is prevailing in other South East Asian countries. This virtual connectivity to the world at large (via in a large part by high-speed access to the Internet) is unfettered and dispersed to as many entrepreneurs as possible. The non-virtual connectivity—namely power, roads and general infrastructure—is among the best in India. Power supply is uninterrupted with the lowest interruption rate of 3 in 1,000 days. In terms of the law and order situation, the state stands at second place and is among the top three in the human development index.
This remote and direct accessibility can be replicated in Abuja FCT. There are already complimentary developmental initiatives currently being pursued by the current FCDA. What is left is to link these general infrastructural upgrades to the plan to make Abuja a hi-tech hub. An emphasis must be placed on virtual connectivity because the gains in this regard are more readily utilizable in targeting off-shore clientele. Apart from the research, design, and development imperatives associated with IKT entrepreneurship, widespread access to the Internet at speeds well in excess of the preponderant and suicide-inducing 56kbps of dial up, will go a long way in attracting international clients and ameliorating any communication concerns. At the same time, efforts must be intensified to burnish and increase the capacity of non-virtual connectivity conduits. The one constant that must be irrevocable in our quest to realize this revolution is communication. I have made a conscious effort (inspired by Chris Uwaje’s piece on the Knowledge economy) to desist from calling this revolution an ICT one. This careful distinction is because we must realize that communication technologies are as indispensable as the air that we breathe. In other words, such a revolution does not involve communication technologies because it is assumed that communication is an unqualified constant. It is a corollary of any economic growth and technological development; it is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. As such it should be a guaranteed service, a conduit via which information can be transmitted and knowledge-based transactions can occur.
Stakeholders and their Obligations (Roles, Jurisdictional Constraints, & Contributions to the Commonwealth by the Three Musketeers)
The direct participants in making this vision a reality are the government, the private sector, and the entrepreneurs tasked with innovating and developing. The forthrightness of the government in consecrating this reality must also be matched by an equally avid enthusiasm (backed up by action) on the part of entrepreneurial IKT professionals, to employ the tools and resources that the government (and its partners) will place at their disposal, in building a substantive and exportable knowledge base.
There are a number of clear and present responsibilities that the government will need to shoulder in order to make this a reality. From infrastructural obligations to enabling-environment optimization, from an encouragement of local product patronage to unfettered access to the international market by giving these exports priority and reducing bureaucratic red tape, from a manipulation of tax and duty stipulations to an active partnership with the civil society in furtherance of entrepreneurial activity. Some of these government obligations involve but are not limited to:
Development is a three-way street in this case; the main participants are the government, private sector organizations, and the entrepreneurs themselves. The trio must adopt a reciprocal relationship in terms of their efforts and the initiatives that will empower our IKT revolution. In other words, they form the Holy Trinity of the IKT gospel and directly influence its realization in the skeptic-suffused world of contemporary Nigerian political leadership (and the society that feeds it). The beneficiaries of this synchronized societal effort might not reap the rewards of such a bold and challenging endeavor until much later. Nevertheless, it must be embarked upon, simply because it is the one initiative that if followed faithfully, will serve as an escalator to intellectual and economic independence from a foreign technological consciousness, which presently pervades our reality. We can build a home-nurtured, Nigerian-resident, IKT specialty and expertise that can compete on an equal or even superior footing with anything the world has to offer. But the government’s overriding self-interest (to perpetuate its visions of greatness) must align itself with the notion that Nigeria (and in particular Abuja) is ripe for an Indian-style IT miracle. I have discussed the government’s role in the previous section, but I will highlight the roles that the other two groups must play.
The civil polity has its role to play in engendering the successful realization of this enterprise via a complimentary and sustained commitment to the government’s efforts and by patronizing these entrepreneurial ventures. They can offer business advice and mentoring services to these entrepreneurs. They can also offer resources that could include computer equipment donation, private grants, seed-funding, detailed financial plan preparation, management training, and business strategy articulation. Civil polity involves all non-governmental stakeholders (for-profit and non-profit) in Nigeria’s ensuing prosperity. These include private sector participants and businesses/organizations that could benefit from some of the revolutionary products that these enterprises will no doubt discover in the course of their activities. As established entities and organizations with a wealth of experience and insights to provide, theirs’ is a burden of short-term (and sometimes insipient) patriotism, but with a shrewd calculation of future profits that may accrue in the form of productive tools and innovative techniques or direct financial returns. The culture of venture capital funding and incubation even among established non-affiliated “old-economy” businesses must be encouraged and reinforced. This will go a long way in relieving the government of certain obligations that can then be more effectively executed by organizations possessing prudent managerial competence and the resources to ensure sustained productivity. In the process, perhaps, we can avoid the sometimes retarding bureaucratic red tape of the Nigerian political establishment, while reaping a profit for all the parties in the long run.
Additionally, it will be productive for private sector organizations and NGOs to liaise with Diasporan Nigerian professionals with expertise and experience in IT. It is important to create a genuine partnership, devoid of rancorous competitive, condescending, or counterproductive idiosyncrasies, in order to establish a lasting environment and avail a commonwealth of resources and ideas to the home-based IT warriors, for use in ushering in Nigeria’s technological ascendance. Partnerships could be between professional bodies, individual firms, investment concerns, etc. and aim to create a synergy of efforts and initiatives to prosecute this revolution successfully. With an IKT hub in the Abuja metropolitan area, Nigerians in the Diaspora (including non-citizen friends of Nigeria) can be encouraged to return for instances at a time, to work on Research, Design, and Development initiatives, and to contribute in other ways to the fledgling IKT enterprise. For example, by utilizing direct flights into the International Airport and driving straight to accommodations and facilities in the Abuja area, spending time (from a number of days to months on end) in intellectual pursuits and experienced support and incubation, certain Nigerians around the world (some of whom have averred so directly to me) will be willing to provide an almost limitless array of know-how in resolving thorny issues. They are willing, not only to contribute their quota to national development, but to also spend their time and energy aiding the cultivation and abetting the nurturing of a knowledge base and force within the Nigerian reality and experience. A hub in Abuja, will go a long way in crystallizing the aspirations and needs of different sections of our human resource, and will have the simultaneous advantage of doing so in a part of the country that is equidistantly accessible to country-resident Nigerian IKT hopefuls, and directly accessible to international contributors.
The entrepreneurs also have certain obligations that are incumbent upon them. It is one thing to demand the transformational leadership of the FCT government; it is another thing to expect them to baby-sit these enterprises. This is not the desired scenario. A multitude of idle-minds moonlighting as IKT entrepreneurs waiting for government hand-outs and stipends is not what this project envisions. Yet another conduit for siphoning off scarce government revenue is definitely not what I labor to describe. As the recriminations of history are fast approaching and the travails of eternal subservience escalate in magnitude, white-elephant projects belong to another age and another time. A scrupulous regime must be employed in weeding out less than candid and unserious initiatives; and in addition, deceitful applicants for STP-status must be prosecuted.
That being said, if the government of Abuja FCT provides the determined and decisive leadership and direction on this issue, then it is the responsibility of the entrepreneurs to provide a vigilant and dedicated commitment not to waste the efforts and resources of the government. Even if subsidies and other sundry encouraging measures are taken advantage of in the initial stages, the desired situation will be such that these enterprises wean themselves off of the program’s generous subsidies within a stipulated and pre-agreed time. This is not a community project to spread the wealth around or a largesse-wielding government “settlement” initiative, but rather a calculated attempt to empower different enterprises and their proprietors to fend for themselves and kick back returns in the form of tax revenue to the government. That government and private sector participants bear the initial upfront costs of starting up and business incubation is not any reason why this scheme should be viewed as a socialist-communist program of wealth or equity disbursement. Rather it is an attempt to empower a new generation of Nigerians to take their seats in the IKT arena, to represent Nigeria’s interests to the benefit of her society, and to make a profit while doing so. Some of these responsibilities include:
Despite the endemic strikes and shutdowns of Nigeria’s Ivory Towers, they have a very crucial role to play in fostering and positively reinforcing the Nigerian knowledge culture. They are burdened with providing the bare essentials of the intellectual and professional sub-culture upon which the dynamism of Nigerian IT creativity will thrive. The practical aspects of our IT profession do not have to be carried out within the hamstrung confines of our decrepit universities however. IT is mainly a profession of self-education. The foundation is laid in college, yes, but the practicality and experience is gained in the field and by self-education and enlightenment. The role of our institutions of higher learning (aided by civil society’s philanthropists) is to provide certain minimum standards and resources that innovators and entrepreneurs can harness to realize their potentials. With the active participation of a determined government, a committed private sector, and a vibrant entrepreneurial sub-culture, the educational sector brings up the ranks of major players in this revolution. The educational sector plays D’Artagnan to these three musketeers of Nigeria’s IKT revolution.
Endowment (Revolutionary Funding Concepts)
This initiative will be funded through a variety of sources. The metropolitan FCT authority could for example draw inspiration from FDR’s New Deal program in the aftermath of the Great Depression as justification and precedence for an otherwise unpopular public spending program in this venture, but must temper it with counterpart funding from the private sector. The counterpart funding will be via a B.O.T (Build, Operate, and Transfer) model. This means that private concerns will be invited to build or subsidize the establishment of Technology Parks in collaboration with the FCT government, and all parties will contribute members to form a Governing Council or Advisory Board. The initiative will be run more as a traditional private business as opposed to a resource-draining public behemoth. It will operate according to impartially laid-down procedure, and arbitrate on conflicting interests and policies as it deems fit. Eventually, the end-goal is to transfer these concerns from the pioneering commercial and governmental participants, to the commonwealth of the citizens of Abuja FCT in particular and Nigeria at large. This could be done through a quasi-PSPLS (Privatization Share Purchase Loan Scheme) model so that ultimate control and ownership rests in the hands of non-biased and independent participants and guarantors. The pioneering concerns will be adequately compensated for their initial risk and incubation of the idea through different procedures. One will be direct cash payments for shares in the initiative via the a program modeled after the BPE’s PSPLS program; tax and sundry financial incentives from the government; research, design, and development returns and subsidies, as a lot of the innovations that will result and ideas that flourish in such an environment will be initially accessible solely to the concerns that risked their resources in establishing the program in the first place. As viable spin-off entrepreneurial concerns emerge, the FCDA and the metropolis of Abuja FCT will reap the direct returns on their initial investment through the concept of trickle-down economics and its resultant effects on tax revenue, capacity utilization, and wealth creation and devolution. The private concerns involved could view this as a novel way of paying for R, D, and D programs without the attendant risks and corollaries that traditional R, D, and D failures will entail. The command and control constraints and resource expenditure that characterize traditional R, D, and D programs oftentimes inhibit radical innovativeness. The free-wheeling and dynamically mutating environment that obtains in the agitated environment of a Technology Park has its advantages and disadvantages, but the former overwhelmingly outweigh the latter. But this is by no means a promised substitution of the R, D, and D process, but rather an amplification of its efforts and a revolutionary amelioration of its drawbacks. In addition, the funds for this venture can be augmented from the capital market, through a bond offering, with the FCDA and other investors standing as guarantors of the transaction. The intersecting interests that will evolve as a result of this public-private sector collaboration will ensure that all parties will work assiduously to guarantee the survival of the venture. What is more pertinent for the government is the initial impetus and determination to blaze the trail for the often reluctant and risk-averse Nigerian private sector.
Public Policy and Actions (IKT Policy Implementation & e-Government Initiatives)
The FCT government must imbibe a culture that is overtly and covertly partial to e-Government. Not just as a matter of public policy guidelines, but also as a composite portion of its plan to revamp our consciousness. A full-fledged IT department or authority (with different sub-sections e.g. IT Training, IT Policy Council, ITeS/BPO, Internet, Software Development, Hardware Manufacturing etc.), reporting directly to the minister is not a cosmetic enticement to the IT community, but should rather be seen as a committed effort to wholly embrace a culture and indoctrination of IKT relevance. As a potential engine for growth in our recent human experience, IKT remains unparalleled, and serves as a reminder that those who plan well reap the rewards of a tranquil existence. E-government initiatives are important because they improve productivity and enable governmental efficiency by presenting its (the government’s) workforce with tools for skilled and informed service. Governmental waste and public sector overspending can be curtailed amid the promise of growing returns from eventual tax revenues. Also the government and other stakeholders attract foreign direct investment, by an aggressive marketing of Abuja FCT the world over, particularly in the US and Europe.
The various sub-sections of the IT department will be responsible for clearly delineated tasks such as formulating policy in conjunction with various stakeholders in society, regulating operational issues, and fostering a culture of innovation. General policy will be articulated and championed by the general IT Policy Council, while the actual lead in developing and sustaining an IKT base will be left to various sub-sections in their areas of concentration. The general IT Department will be responsible for training and retraining civil service personnel to equip them to operate in a knowledge-enabled environment.
As an extrapolation of e-Governance, I will once again return to the Tamil Nadu example.
Government officials at the Connect 2003 conference noted that Tamil Nadu was the first state to bring out an IT policy statement. The IT minister announced that a new ITeS policy would be adopted in a couple of months. He highlighted the achievements of the state’s digital connectivity project, the Rural Access Service to Internet (RASI) that benefits the rural populace in IT education and that of Tamil Nilam, the land records computerization project that will go live in October 2003 (it is instructive that the El-Rufai-administration is implementing such a project for the digitization of land records in Abuja FCT). Quoting from a recent study jointly conducted by the Indian government and the World Bank on the e-readiness of Indian states to implement e-governance, the state IT secretary, pointed out that Tamil Nadu is one among four ‘e-ready’ states. The fact that the World Bank and the high profile Society for Electronic Transactions and Security (SETS) have set up their Indian headquarters in Chennai stands testimony to its potential, he said. Expressing confidence in the state’s potential to register rapid growth, he pointed out that the share of software exports of Tamil Nadu has grown from 4 percent in 2001 to 17 percent in 2003. Software exports in the last two years alone have jumped from $0.67 billion to over $1.5 billion. "The state is targeting such growth rates in the BPO segment too."
International Orientation/Domestic Implications (Economic Impact Assessments & Focus)
In drafting this guideline, I have borrowed heavily from the Software Technology Park Scheme of Hyderabad India. The Software Technology Park (STPI) Scheme (under The Ministry of Information Technology, Govt. of India) is a 100% Export Oriented Scheme for undertaking Software Development/IT enabled services for Export; using Data Communication links or in the form of physical exports including export of professional services for rendering consultancy services and development of software. According to their definition, “a Software Technology Park (STP) may be set up by the Central Government, State Government, Public or Private Sector undertakings or any combination thereof. An STP may be an individual unit by itself or it may be one of such units located in an area designated as STP Complex by the Ministry of Information Technology”.
The thrust of this initiative should be geared towards and controlled by an export-oriented psychology, both on the part of government and on the part of the knowledge-warriors. It is evident that the gains of an export culture are what drive real GDP growth (both overall and per capita), and that retention of capital and commercially valuable knowledge (avant-garde expertise), within the local economy, is what drives economic diversification and industrialization and shores up foreign exchange reserves. Abuja’s IKT harvest should be treated in the initial stages as a food crop, and then nurtured eventually as a cash crop. It should grow rapidly to suffuse the indigenous economy by fulfilling and exceeding local demand to the point that a natural progression to export is the strategic thing to do. My preference has always been for software engineering/development and ITeS/BPO for off-shore clients due to the low start-up costs associated with its establishment and the specialized but relatively low maintenance costs associated with sustaining it. Software development is well-suited to the camaraderie of technology boot-camps aimed at fostering a spirit of resilient belief in intellectual capacity of groups of IKT professionals. The fears of tedious factory work and the drudgery of repetitive assembly-line processes are ameliorated by the dynamism of intellectual sparring in tackling issues and employing innovative expertise in their resolution.
The psychological orientation of the government is summarized by these few concepts and should be geared towards establishing 100% Export Oriented Ventures. It should be in the form of a mind-set that supports the establishment and promotion of software/code-warriors that will ignite the engine of Nigeria’s participation in the global IKT industry via.
A first step will be to establish a knowledge park/IKT domain on the outskirts of but within the administrative authority of the FCDA, that will serve as launch pad for specialized know-how in current and emerging technologies. Such a facility does not have to be close to the city center. In fact, it is more desirable if the initial site of the knowledge park be located as far away as possible from the hustle and bustle of city life, in an environment conducive to intellectual challenge and innovative solutions. To reduce the start-up costs of such an initiative and to ease the financial burden on public funds, the FCT government can commission any unused or abandoned structure/s and renovate it for this purpose, or invite active contributions by private sector participants. The key thing is the size not the design of the required facility. In addition, a high-speed Internet access backbone to be shared by the qualified ventures must be available at subsidized rates in the initial stages. The FCT administration must think of this as a long term investment in a culture and venture that will provide returns on that investment by developing and exporting technological services and products beyond Nigeria’s shores. The primary goal of these ventures will be competition on the international market, to provide Nigeria with an alternative foreign exchange earner, one that sells the intellectual resources of specialized knowledge rather than an exhaustible natural resource, such as Crude Oil.
Conclusion (Reiteration, Positive Reinforcement, Immediate and Eventual Possibilities)
In my quest to capture my sentiments regarding a Nigerian IKT revolution in general, and software development and export policy in particular, I may have been biased to the nth degree. My judgment on certain aspects of this project may have been clouded by my background as an IKT entrepreneur (by training and profession). But this shortcoming should not serve as a disqualifier for the entire concept of Abuja FCT as a hub for innovation in the mould of Silicon Valley or Bangalore. Instead, those opposing portions can be refined or struck down as the case may be, in order to arrive at a consensus position on the general ideas and themes discussed in the preceding paragraphs. I apologize, albeit belatedly, for the exceedingly theoretical and verbally effuse style of this composition, and pray that a chance is given to me to clarify or extrapolate in detail, any seeming inconsistencies or vague concepts. This is a major policy thrust for the enthronement of a lasting IKT culture in the FCT, all hands must be on deck to ensure its success. This treatise is entirely amenable to constructive input, as I do not profess to possess all the answers; all suggestions/critiques are welcome. In closing, I would like to use a very insightful quote from Chris Uwaje’s seminal work in August 2000 on Nigerian Professionals in the Diaspora. I do so in order to underscore the importance of the Knowledge Economy. It goes thus; “knowledge is the only commodity that multiplies when shared”. And to extrapolate on that sentiment, knowledge it is the true creator of wealth because it empowers the beneficiary with the tools and skills to compete on an equal footing and in the dynamic domain of the new economy. Thank you.
 To satisfy time constraints, I summarized my address to the panel by condensing the general theme of knowledge incubation and reparation into a clarion call for capturing Nigerian IKT skills and expertise.
 http://www.expresscomputeronline.com/20031006/indianews03.shtml “Tamil Nadu projects Chennai as IT hub at Connect 2003”, G Sankaranarayanan, October 6, 2003
 http://www.pakistaneconomist.com/issue2000/issue4/f&m.htm “IT: India and Pakistan”, Syed M. Aslam, January 24, 2000
 http://www.expresscomputeronline.com/20031006/indianews03.shtml “Tamil Nadu projects Chennai as IT hub at Connect 2003”, G Sankaranarayanan, October 6, 2003
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