The Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) has harped on the need to implement the Presidential Executive Orders, as a means to develop the software industry in Nigeria.
This is the unanimous view of participants at ISPON’s Roundtable on the ‘Future of Software in Nigeria’; where the practitioners stressed need to implement the Presidential Executive Orders series that started in May 2017 with Numbers E01, E02; E03 and subsequently EO4, EO5 etc., so as to improve local content in software applications in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Government of Nigeria.
ISPON is the industry professional body for indigenous software developers and practitioners in Nigeria, established in 1999 with the aim of creating an enabling environment for local content developers.
The Institute has been at the forefront of championing the advocacy for the application and utilisation of locally developed software in order to boost our economy, GDP and give Nigeria an alternative to oil as a revenue earner.
In his opening remarks at the roundtable held on Wednesday, December 11, 2019 at TheNest, Yaba, Lagos State, the President of ISPON, Dr. Yele Okeremi, said the roundtable was convened to unmask the miseries around the software industry in Nigeria.
According to him, embracing indigenous software in the deployment of critical government database and projects is one critical way to avoid impending ‘digital imperialism.
He urged Nigerian government officials not to overlook the lurking global cyberwar where software contains the footprints of any nation.
Dr. Okeremi wondered why nearly 60 years Nigeria is still preferred to it “as a country with a lot of potentials. When shall these materialise?”
“At a point, we were doing well in agriculture. But when oil was discovered, probably we became rich and relaxed. Now the price of oil had ditched; the environmental degradation has become unbearable.
“Aside from that, oil is becoming old-fashioned. It has now dawned on us that Nigeria, perhaps, is not very rich.
“Therefore, countries like Singapore; etc are doing very well without oil and such natural resources. We need to tap into the intellectual property and human resources we have to become great. This is not the time to play politics if we want to remain relevant as a great country, in the next 15 years.
“I am saying this because around 2013 Nigeria started showing up in the global map for innovation. Why? There were deliberate policies to support the software industry. That is why we are asking the MDAs to ensure strict implementation of the Executive Orders that give priority to local software”.
The ISPON President also highlighted that while the country is referred to as a haven for Fintechs; “investors are coming in their numbers, startups are raising funds. But there is an urgent need to rethink our strategy as a nation”.
“Nigeria should have been known as the leader in oil & gas technology, but we choose to make laws – local content- thereby asking permission to enter the kitchen in a house ‘we’ built and ‘own,” he lamented.
“We are sourcing (software) engineers from different countries. Why? We have the human capacity but lacking the interest to harness the potentials.
“Technology has two areas – software and hardware. Until we can boast of having people with the IP to control relevant industries we might be playing to the gallery.
“China has come out to say all foreign hardware and applications should be trashed. Russia has also said that smartphones selling in its market will come preloaded with Russian apps.
“We might be remotely switched off as a nation. It is better to not only consume but produce ourselves and outsource,” he said.
Need for software houses
In his contribution during a panel session, a Past-President of ISPON, Mr. Pius Okigbo Jr. believes the country must deliberately support the younger generation of software developers as means to build software houses focused on solving local needs.
To actualise this, he said there must be a change of mind-set among civil and public servants, especially with regards to implementing Presidential directives meant to empower local software developers.
Federal Government was emphasising on local participation in the execution of government contracts, thereby improving local content in national socio-economic development.
“We need to match words with action. The Government at the Federal level directed all MDAs to engage indigenous professionals in the planning, design and execution of national software related projects. How have we faired so far?
“The intent was to maximise in-country capacity and capability in all contracts and transactions with software components, utilising Nigeria human and material resources in the planning and execution of Nigerian projects.
“Unfortunately, some people are not interested in working in that direction. This must stop if we are going to build an enduring and endearing future for the younger generation. We must build ‘software-future’ for the younger generation and it requires growing local by patronising indigenous software companies”.
Addressing the industry practitioner, Mr. Pius Okigbo. Jr. urged them to focus on solving local issues.
“For instance, there are about 700 hotels in Owerri, and the number in Enugu is growing too. A policy statement by the government to digitize the records of hotels in the state, it’ll lead someone to provide hotel management software to these hotels and open up a new business opportunity for the developer. We must look inward to grow and become global champions,” he charged.
Growing software industry by focusing on data
The Chief Semantic Architect / Knowledge Engineer – CYMANTIKS Nigeria Limited, Mr. Emeka Okoye, also drew the attention of participants to ‘data-economy’.
He said that the future of software will dwell largely in ‘data territory’ as it has become a strategic asset to companies and countries.
“I am confident that growing the software industry that is locally engineered and empowered would be beneficial to our country, generate wealth, stimulate inclusive growths in the domestic economy and reduce the unemployment level. There are 20 million farmers in Nigeria who need to be empowered using software” he said.
Consumer education, branding and patience-capital
The Founder and Managing Director of Future Software Resources Limited, Nkemdilim Uwaje-Begho, pointed out that branding, continued consumer education and advocacies are key ways to expose different users to the efficacies of Nigerian software.
On the other hand, she said that the country’s education system must be rejigged such that the graduates can be equipped for future work.
In her words, “We must intentionally build the software industry for the younger ones who on their own should have ‘patient-capital’ as against get-rich-quick syndrome.
“The Order directed that all procurement entities of the FGN shall give preference to Nigerian companies in the award of contracts for major projects in SET and where local expertise is not available, Nigerian companies shall enter into a consortium with relevant foreign firms,” he said.
The roundtable moderated by the General Secretary (ISPON), Lanre Adelanwa, also had in attendance the Past President Global Network for Cyber Solution and past president and co-founder of ISPON, Chris Uwaje; Chairman, Education & Capacity Building Committee (ISPON) and co-founder of The Nest Innovation Park, Peter Ogedengbe; Executive Director at SystemSpecs, ‘DeRemi Atanda amongst others.