11 December 2013

Nigeria's Ambitious ICT Local Content Target


Perhaps goaded on by what can be likened to Albert Einstein's postulation that, "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it," Minister of Communication Technology Mrs. Omobola Johnson last week reiterated Nigeria's commitment to 50 per cent local content in the information and communication sector by 2014. This is both heartwarming and ambitious. Only South Africa, Kenya and Morocco have achieved this feat in the continent. It is however not a task for the lily-livered, slothful and uninitiated. Nigeria is at the base of the ICT ladder globally. Indeed the whole of sub-Saharan Africa has a mere 10 per cent of internet content. There are more Wikipedia articles written about Antarctica than all but one of the 54 countries in Africa. There are more articles about fictional places like Middle Earth and Disney World than many African countries, including Nigeria.

We therefore think it is a step in the right direction. Mrs Johnson should, however, be reminded that new and creative approaches have to be adopted to overcome content deficit and the present challenges in order to create new pathways for such development to take place in a complacent environment like ours. In a critical yet technical sector like ICT, demand and supply drive its growth. Nigeria has the ability - manpower and financial wherewithal - to produce quality local content about it and cannot trail behind while the rest of the world takes knowledge-driven economy seriously.

Currently, the e-content produced by Nigerians and non- Nigerians alike is hosted outside of Nigeria, whereas a favourable development would be for content produced by Nigerians and non-Nigerians to be hosted in the country. It is also an antithesis of what should be the situation, with Nigeria having a preponderance of Internet bandwidth capacity made possible by the landing of various international fibre optic cables. Nigeria loses over $6million (N930million) yearly to the renewal of domain names that were registered with foreign registrars. Nigerians also pay for the hosting of such domain names, whereas domain names like .ng could easily be registered with local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and the domain names could also be hosted in Nigeria by Nigerians, in order to keep local traffic local.

The result of the innovation and focussed leadership will reverse the issue of capital flight associated with foreign hosting and the dearth of local internet content. Hosting websites and domain names would end the latency caused by the delay in routing local traffic from Nigeria to a country like America, before returning it back to Nigeria. It also has the potential to generate income, boost the GDP, promote employment and lead to a secure social and political landscape. Our economy must be diversified from dependence on petroleum resources to a knowledge-based one driven by ICT. If the minister's aim is to achieve this we welcome it, but hasten to add that it is not a process to be embarked upon without the requisite political will, technical competence and sincerity.

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