Some hydra-headed challenges, including lack of continuity in government and shortage of new sets of skills have been identified as contributing significantly to the low performance of Nigeria's technology eco system.Besides, lack of political will on the part of government and poor funding of the sector were other issues that have weakened the performance of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector.
These identified challenges, are said to have continued to plague the sector both locally, and internationally, making it less competitive.Speaking in Lagos on Monday at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) organised conference on Emerging Technologies, Research and ICT Innovation Forum with the theme: "Developing Nigeria's Tech Eco-System Imperative for Improving Local Content," Lead Paper discussant, the Chief Executive Officer, MainOne Cables, Funke Opeke, noted that major economies are no longer focus on oil money, but on innovation, disruptions coming through technology.
Opeke noted that if the identified challenges are adequately tackled, Nigeria's technology ecosystem could develop in such a way that other African countries, and even advanced countries would be able to pick something innovative from.
According to her, tech ecosystems globally are providing disruption that lead to innovations in existing sectors and creation of new sectors in the economy. She said it is an interconnected, interdependent network of tech startups and entrepreneurs; global tech companies; hubs/accelerators, investment groups; universities and research institutes and organisations that are driving what is today referred to as the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Tracing the challenge of Nigeria, the MainOne CEO, stressed that lack of continuity in government has negatively impacted the sector."This challenge is real. So many companies, startups majorly have collapsed and gone into extinction because of inconsistency in governance. There are technology hubs that are no more because of they were not supported by successive governments," she stated.
Opeke also observed that there have been serious skill gaps, especially new ones that are fit for the current global development.She noted that a viable ecosystem cannot thrive in the absence of research and technical skills. "It is no co-incidence that Stanford University is right in the middle of Silicon Valley and has a strong relationship with the tech ecosystem which has greatly benefited from the diversity of ideas from its research studies. A case in point is Google, which started in its Engineering School. Currently, Google employs approximately 1,300 Stanford graduates. Nigerian universities in general, are not producing enough technically proficient graduates.
"Nigeria ranks 123rd among 139 countries in university-industry collaboration in R&D in the WEF Global Competitiveness Index. The few qualified developers and engineers in the ecosystem are either foreign educated or self-taught."
The MainOne CEO noted that there are not enough incubators and limited scale providing early-stage support to startups. She stressed that part of early teething problems startups face is access to market, finding customers for their product or establishing that potential customers need the innovation they have created.
The Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, represented by the Director, Legal and Regulatory Services, Mrs. Yetunde Akinloye, said the commission is aware of the immense importance of technology hubs to an economy, hence, "NCC has been visiting tech hub across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria to assess their development and challenges saying that "we need to assist the various tech hubs with the right regulatory intervention to ease their operations."
Danbatta said that globalisation has become essential for the government and the private sector to remain competitive and improve local content, adding that it is imperative that the right framework is developed to help indigenous companies.He said: "It is therefore become necessary to innovate on how to access segments of the consumer wallets not presently allocated to communication by providing solutions to consumer needs in other vertical areas education, health, government services made available through telecoms network infrastructure."
The NCC Director, Research and Development, Ephraim Nwokonneya, said the commission will give ICT research grants to more Nigerian universities. Nwokonneya said that the grants would help the universities to conduct research in areas that would help the development of the industry.