opinionBy Chris C Nwannenna
Lagos — In the past few years the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) has placed the issue of the development of indigenous IT Capacity in the front burner and preached it fervently as a religious doctrine.
With indigenous software development as the main focus, NCS has succeeded in getting both the public and private sectors of the economy to react positively to the campaign. The President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo himself reacted first with his famous " I want software!" exclamation during the presentation to him of Omatek brand of computers. The setting up of a Software Task Force by the Ministry of Science and Technology followed this almost immediately. From the private sector came Zenith Bank, which is currently sponsoring a private initiative in this direction while Zinox Technologies Limited has announced plans to do the same.
Our focus on indigenous software development, as said several times in the past, is borne out of the conviction that this option presents us with a better opportunity to compete with the rest of the world since we have shown, with examples of proven and tested software products and services, that we have the requisite skills in this area. Thus a good policy direction will help us excel and join the choice group of developers rather than consumers of IT products and services. The ultimate result is job and wealth creation in Nigeria.
In 2005 NCS and ISPON will continue with the campaign. In particular we hope to achieve the establishment of the earlier proposed Software Development Institute (SDI), which is aimed at equipping new entrants with development skills and imbibing in the professionals the culture of best practices in software engineering. NCS hopes to market the business plan of SDI more vigorously this year to attract international organizations, indigenous companies, state and local government agencies for partnership and for funds for establishing SDI.
Workshop on the IT Policy Bill
The IT Policy Bill will get maximum attention this year. As will be recalled, the Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara was the Special Guest of Honour at the closing conference Banquet of the 2004 conference of NCS held in Abuja. In my welcome address at the Banquet, I enumerated the achievements and contributions of IT professionals in Nigeria to the national economy. I also requested for a Bill to empower the IT industry and to formalize and guide activities in the area so that the professionals will improve on these achievements. In his response the Senate President promised to accelerate the passage of such a Bill as soon as it came to the National Assembly. CPN and NCS have concluded the preparation of the Bill, which is undoubtedly more comprehensive than the previous one submitted during the life of the last National Assembly. The new Bill makes provisions or, as the case may be, reviews existing provisions in the laws of the country, to cater for developments in the field of IT.
In order to carry everybody along NCS will hold an IT Policy Bill Workshop very shortly to enable all stakeholders in the industry to review the current document and contribute to it before the final one, which will be submitted to the National Assembly. NITDA will be expected to play a major role in the whole process.
Workshop on Bank Consolidation
NCS fully identifies itself with the current banking re-capitalization and reforms introduced by the Central Bank and notes with pleasure that the initial negative reaction by banks has given way to optimism as the banks themselves have started to regroup and merge in order to achieve the target set by CBN.
NCS considers itself an interested party in the whole reforms considering the fact that what makes today's banks are no longer the buildings and the physical structures we use to know but the IT systems that oil the operations. We are of the view, therefore, that the ultimate success of the on-going bank reforms, involving mergers and acquisition, will depend to a large extent on the efficient and effective integration of the different IT and Communications infrastructures of the merging banks.
To this end NCS will hold a workshop to highlight some of the problems we envisage in the bank consolidation exercise and proffer solutions to them. The Workshop will feature experts in Information Technology with sound and proven field experience in Banking Automation and Systems Integration. We consider this to be part of our own contribution to the success of the overall exercise.
2nd Software Developers' Summit
Last year NCS and ISPON put together a forum referred to as the 1st Software Developers' Summit with the theme "Indegenous Software: Retooling for Global Markets". The event was overwhelmingly successful attracting more than a thousand participants from the stakeholder industry, developers, students, users, etc. Resource persons included both local and international experts who spoke extensively on new software tools and technologies. The event was sponsored solely by Microsoft.
The 2nd edition of this event is holding in March and, in addition to what was covered last year this year's Summit will emphasise Web applications, ERPs, tools, technologies, techniques and standards. The Summit will be climaxed with the finals of NACOSS's Software Competition, an NCS/ISPON annual award-winning event showcasing the best students' talents in software development.
Microsoft has also indicated interest in sponsoring this year's edition of the Developers' Summit.
Computer Science Curriculum Workshop
The Nigeria Computer Society administers Computer Professional Examinations on behalf of the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN). The examination has legal backing through Decree 49, which established CPN.
The examinations so far have been based on a syllabus now considered to be out of date. In line with our professional responsibility, NCS has completely revised the syllabus to ensure that it reflects current practices, current technologies and current tools. In addition to the existing professional examinations, the new syllabus makes provision for eleven new Computer Users' Certification exams covering a broad range of interests, from Secretarial Practices to Desktop Publishing, Systems Audit, PC Maintenance, LAN, Website Development, CAD, Office Productivity, Programming, etc. These new certification exams are being established in response to repeated demands by training institutions, the general public and the students' population.
The launching of this new syllabus is billed to coincide with a Computer Science Curriculum Conference, which will bring together Training Institutions, the Universities, the Polytechnics, Colleges of Education, the National Universities Commission and the Federal Ministry of Education to brainstorm on the future of computer science education in the country. The National Association of Computer Science Students, NACOSS, will co-host this event, which will take place in April.
8th International Conference
This year's conference is the 8th in the series of our international conferences. The Conference with the theme " IT Capacity Building: the Future of Nigeria's Economic Growth" will feature a number of international scholars including Professor Augustine Esogbue of Georgia Institute of Technology, a systems engineering guru, a member of NASA's panel of experts and a consultant to the Chinese Government.
The conference will consider issues like the collaboration opportunities between IT Industry and Academia, Outsourcing, Software Engineering and Management Practices, Software Engineering Research, Web based applications, Geographic Information Systems, etc.
The Conference, which is expected to be attended by most of the Governors in the both the South East and South South states of the country, will hold in Port Harcourt from June 14 to June 17 2005. More detailed information about this event is available at the NCS Website www.ncs-nig.org.
In summary, 2005 will see NCS sustaining its campaign that the country should build indigenous expertise in Information Technology and harness and channel it to the development of products and services, which will generate income for the nation.
Dr. Chris Nwannenna, is President, NCS.