Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Review of ICT Development Memorandum Submitted By ICT-G22 to NPRC
A Nigerian Internet group calling itself the ICT-G22 recently submitted an ICT development memorandum for inclusion at the National Political Reform Conference
(NPRC). Whilst the role of Information and Communications Technology is vital to the Nigerian political and economic reform process, it is important that any dialog regarding ICT strategic development be focused on meaningful and sustainable direction.
One must commend the ICT-G22 for its determination, and for bringing ICT issues to the forefront of the National Conference. Nevertheless, the merit of the memorandum submitted by the group offers no new strategic ICT development initiative. Rather, the proposal is nothing but an attempt to regenerate the poor performing National ICT Policy. The underlying strategic objectives of the memorandum submitted by the ICT-G22 and the current National IT Policy are the same and inseparable.
For those who have not read the proposal, ICT-G22 summarizes its strategic goals for Nigerian ICT Development to include the constructive intervention of ICT in the following sectors:
A. SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
C. EDUCATION & HEALTH
D. GOVERNANCE & LEGISLATION
E. INDUSTRY & COMMERCE
F RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
G. PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP.
H. GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS
I. RURAL COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
For those that have read the National IT Development Policy, you will find that the call for “ICT intervention and constructive sectoral engagement” in the above listed sectors is nothing new. The core essence of the National IT Development Policy shares exact similarities with this so called ICT-G22 memorandum. Some years ago, under the guise of implementing the National IT Policy, the National Technology Development Agency (NITDA) adopted the “USE IT” slogan.
The underlying assumption of the “USE IT” initiative was that, if Nigeria adopted the use of Information Technology across cross-sector of society, Information Technology diffusion would follow. Today, we know for a fact that the National ICT Policy has failed. The rate Nigerians “USE IT” is still very low, the rate of Information Technology Industry growth, and the overall Technology Development readiness in Nigeria, is still not occurring at a pace where it has significant impact on total economic development.
Why then is the ICT-G22 asking Nigeria to “USE IT” all over again? Why is the ICT-G22 urging Nigeria to adopt a “Global Competitiveness” policy regime whereas Nigeria is yet to be competitive in West Africa? Why is the ICT-G22 urging increased ICT research and development when the 2005 Budget does not contain any real capital allocation for ICT development? Readers should note that one of the biggest line item allocations for ICT Development in the Nigerian 2005 budget is a N1.0 Billion allocation to satisfy licensing agreements between Microsoft and the Federal Nigerian Government.
The current Nigerian IT Policy has done very little to bridge the Digital Divide gap. Internet penetration rate is still very low, and the Software Development industry is at best, premature. In essence, the thrust of Nigeria’s ICT strategic direction must be one that follows an effective vision of accelerated ICT diffusion. Policies must not only be designed to tackle obstacles that hinder ICT diffusion, they must also be designed to assure a more effective rate of accelerated ICT growth. Also, Nigeria needs not be thinking only about policies to narrow the Digital Divide, but also at ways which convergence strategies can evolve to effectively extend and maintain gains that we now see in the Telecommunications sector.
The role of Information Technology in a Developing Economy such as Nigeria is critical. Although Information Technology by itself should not be seen as a single factor for transforming economical development, it is nevertheless an enabler for new opportunities and for alternative sources of wealth creation. Nigeria must embrace Development Strategies that positions ICT as an enabler of wealth creation.
To accomplish accelerated ICT diffusion, Nigeria needs to invest more in ICT
Development programs at the Federal, State, and Local government level. It needs to employ drastic measures for ICT Investment promotion, and revive Human Capital Development programs specific to Information and Communications Technology.
Diversifying into alternative source of wealth creation is paramount to the larger economic survivability of the nation. Information and Telecommunications Technologies offers opportunities in new areas of Investment and economic growth. Accordingly, If Nigeria is to exploit these new areas of economic development , prudent steps must be taken to define strategies to accomplish an accelerated rate of diffusion of ICT into the larger society, and fundamental obstacles that hinder the rate of ICT growth needs to be addressed concurrently along with comprehensive ICT growth policy. Sustainable Energy Policy and Human Capital policy regimes must evolve, and a balanced approach must be taken to ICT Development in rural and urban regions. Some recommendations include:
A) The Federal Government must ensure polices towards Infrastructure readiness
development for ICT. Regular electricity, water supply, and mass transportation are underlying Infrastructures upon which ICT Development capacity will rely on for meaningful ICT diffusion to occur.
B) The Federal and State Governments must implement life long ICT Human Capital
Development Policies. Education curriculum at all levels must
be revised to become more ICT centric, and an ICT Work-Force assistance
program should emerge to retrain unemployed and underemployed graduates.
Replacement of non-specialized foreign ICT expatriate workforce with
indigenous Nigerian or Nigerian in Diaspora.
C) The Federal, State, and Local Governments must create balanced urban and rural ICT Development Initiatives.
D) Increase ICT Research and Development funding to 6% of GDP and harmonization of Economic Development Strategy (NEEDS) with ICT Development Policies.
E) ICT Investment promotion and attractive Investor Business environment. Relaxation of import duties for new and used ICT equipment. Tax credit for Businesses with a Research and Development Focus.
F) Convergence and sustenance strategies for gains made in Telecommunications sector and harmonization with Information Technology Development.
G) Government ICT procurement rules should be adjusted to give preference to Indigenous ICT Business, or Multinational with presence in Nigeria.
H) Short term goals to be regionally competitive in West Africa, and long term
Competitiveness strategies in other parts of Africa.
The memorandum submitted by the G-22 therefore is not adequate. What Nigeria needs is an ICT Development Policy that will ignite the pace of ICT diffusion. Nigeria needs not be striving for “Global Competitiveness” when it does not have the know-how to be competitive in Africa.
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