The Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) has said the recent collaboration between the federal government and Microsoft, a foreign software giant, will stifle indigenous technology growth and hamper local content development.
President of NCS, Prof. Adesina Sodiya, who raised the concern in an interview with THISDAY, said: "Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo is trying to engage Microsoft on National Economic Development. Although the area of engagement is still not clear to us, but if it is in the area of software development, we have indigenous software developers in Nigeria who are NCS members that are capable of developing indigenous software solutions that could address specific challenges of Nigeria."
According to him, the idea of government recognising a foreign software company and neglecting indigenous software developers, would dampen the spirit and zeal for technology innovation, while discouraging local content development.
"Government must collaborate with NCS on matters that have to do with National Economic Development in order to grow indigenous technology and promote local content development. Nigeria has a regulatory council that is saddled with the responsibility of regulating the practice of Information Technology in Nigeria, which is the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN), and the NCS is the umbrella body for all IT professionals in Nigeria. "Government should begin to engage these professional bodies in matters concerning National Economic Development, and not a foreign software company like Microsoft," Sodiya said.
He further said in developed countries of the world, governments would always engage the national IT bodies of their countries when it comes to issues of national development, and advised Nigerian government to learn from them in order to grow the Nigerian economy much faster.
He insisted that NCS could develop the software needs of Nigeria, and advised government not to look elsewhere to get things done. Recently our members developed e-meeting and e-conference platform that can compete favourably with Zoom and the likes, Sodiya said.
He equally blamed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for not believing in NCS and the Nigerian IT professionals in matters of technology that would drive electoral processes in the country.
"INEC is another government body that is ignoring the IT profession in Nigeria. NCS has made several attempts to assist INEC in addressing some technicalities in election matters, especially in the area of card readers for election process. We have written INEC severally to allow us be part of the process so that we can give technical advice in the use of card readers for elections but such request was never granted. Instead, INEC will prefer to engage foreign tech companies and expatriates in technical issues that we can handle internally in Nigeria," Sodiya said.
We wrote a letter to INEC recently, asking for collaboration for the proper guidance in the purchase of card readers in the next general elections and to our greatest surprise, INEC did not honour the letter.
Last year, INEC invited over 20 organisations to discourse the deployment of e-voting system in Nigeria, but NCS as a critical stakeholder in IT development in Nigeria was not invited to be part of the screening process and that is why Nigeria has not been able to successfully address the issues around e-voting system, Sodiya further said.
While citing some of the technical hitches that the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) is facing, Sodiya said NIMC would overcome such challenges if properly funded.
He called on the federal government to focus on policy implementation that would enhance capacity building in 2021, having dwelt so much on digital transformation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), e-governance and automation processes in 2020. "We need implementation plan to drive these initiatives and we also need to see action plan on policy implementation on these emerging technologies," Sodiya said.