Developing local content and leveraging information technology potentials for higher productivity, good governance and global competitiveness are some of the major issues that dominated discussions at the just concluded sixth edition of eNigeria 2012 Conference and Exhibition held in Abuja.
For many discussants, the issues could not have come at a better time than now that Nigeria earnestly desires to develop and be among the top 20 economies in the world by year 2020. Ministers of Communications Technology, Youth Development and Women Affairs were among those who attended the event with the theme : ICT Local Content Development in Nigeria.
In her address, Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. said that the role of IT in increasing productivity cannot be over emphasised, hence the need to grow the local content developers.
She noted that the ICT sector had contributed 5.83% to the nation's GDP in the first quarter of 2012. This, she said, made the sector the fourth highest contributor to the GDP. According to her, the Nigerian ICT sector was growing at a rate of 30%, making it the fastest growing sector of the Nigerian economy and employed over two million people during the time under review, but added that a closer look at these figures paints a potentially worrisome picture of Nigeria with huge potentials and opportunities to become globally competitive in the ICT sector.
The minister who expressed displeasure with the level of value added to local content, said her ministry is gathering necessary data that would enable it work out strategies that would to improve on the present state of development attained in local content drive.
"While we do not have detailed empirical evidence, we are currently working on gathering and collating data, it is clear to us that local content in the ICT industry is sub-optimal.
"ICT local content remains grossly under developed in Nigeria and through many reasons are adduced for this including the high cost of production and scarcity of expertise. The fact remains that there is an over dependence on foreign importation of software and hardware and this has led to diminished opportunity for domestic economic empowerment and contributed to limited capacity building within the context of ICT," she pointed out.
Given the quantum of hardware devices and software applications imported into and used within Nigeria, Mrs Johnson observed that there had been a considerable drain on Nigeria's foreign exchange, stressing that there was urgent need to boost domestic participation in the ICT industry by incentivising local hardware and software companies to increase local content.
To boost development of local content with a view of making them globally competitive, she said it is critically important to encourage and nurture local companies especially those involved in the sub-sectors with the greatest potentials for growth, job creation and wealth creation, software development, value added services, devices assembly, sales and distribution.
"This is a very big domestic market with tremendous potential, we therefore need the participation of existing and new international ICT companies as partners, investors and competitors that will bring their formidable research and innovation capacities to bear in the domestic market, invest in key areas of the industry, partner with local firms to build capacity and competence and provide the competitive environment to ensure that we develop an industry that may have local antecedents but is also world class and globally competitive," the minister stated.
Earlier in his opening address, the Director General of NITDA, Prof. Cleopas Angaye said that the aim of the programme was to seek collaboration among stakeholders on how to leverage on the potentials of IT for productivity, good governance, global competitiveness and sustainable socio-economic development in Nigeria.
He also said that the programme was designed to offer IT awareness, develop appreciable framework and seating goals for best practices in order to encourage appreciable positioning of Nigeria in the global information society.
According to Prof. Angaye, previous editions of the programme had contributed to the level of development and deployment of IT sector in the country, leading to improvement in the federal public service with It cadre and department some ministries and departments and agencies.
"Our desire is to se a Nigeria that we will all be proud of in terms of technologically driven services and contribute effectively to the growth of our GDP. The era of mono economy should become a thing of the past. Government alone cannot achieve this hence, we have all been invited to come together and brainstorm in the way forward," he added.
The representatives of the Vice President, Mr. Baba Jubril said it was the responsibility of all to make Nigerian dream come through, using IT as a tool.
"What Nigerians need is opportunity to transform the country. To transform this country, we need the pool of talent, tolerance and technology. It becomes the responsibility of all to make this a reality so that we can move from poverty to wealth.
In her Keynote address, the former Vice President, African Region, World Bank, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili said the only thing that would advance the Nigerian ICT sector, which should be encouraged by every stakeholder for it to succeed.
In the measurement of economic growth, she said that Nigeria going to grow a little above 6% this year, saying that the issue of economy is what every serious government must concern itself about.
She said that the world had transited into the era of knowledge and urged drivers of knowledge to assist Nigeria to grow her economy productivity, saying that the issue of poverty is what Nigeria as a developing country must pursue with vigor to enable the citizenry improve on their standard of living, adding that effort should be focused to technology to bring the desired growth.
"It is time to begin to think of how to leverage this revolution. It happened in the telecom sector because there was effort of policy. Before it can happen, it has to be preceded by sound policies," she said, insisting that the fundamental factor is sound policies.
For her, the role of the private sector has to be properly defined for them to fully play their role in the economy.
Other elements she enumerated as key factors that would drive the economy include: sound institutions, rule of law, public and private sector investment and building of intellectual capital, which according to her will soon counter oil and gas as well as other mineral deposit that turned Nigeria into a mono economy state.
In his goodwill message, Chairman of the House Committee, Ibrahim Shehu Gusau, deplored the level of It penetration in the country and assured on the support of legislatures to ensuring speedy passage of cyber security bill currently before the law makers.
"Soon we will hold public hearing on cyber security in Abuja and Lagos. We should do more on ICT, e-governance and computer utilization in all sectors," he said.
In another goodwill message, the President of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, ATCON, Engr. Lanre Ajayi said " This event gives us great opportunity to refresh and retrace from our mistakes and be able to move forward."
He charged participants to ponder on what value the event would add to software, hardware and local content development, which are expected to drive the economic growth.
Also speaking, President of Nigeria Computer Registration Council, Mr. Tunde Ezichi said local content is one thing that is lacking as far as internet is concerned.
"We are so busy downloading others without uploading, hence, our thinking skewed towards the thinking of others. We should be bothered on what we are uploading. That is why the theme is germane towards the direction.