The remarks by Mrs. Omobola Johnson, minister of Communication Technology, that the country has lost its grip in banking application software at the recent stakeholders’ forum, organised by the ministry has called for a review of software development and the need by developers to really harness this aspect of information technology.
With this statement by Johnson, it is obvious that the moves by developers in banking applications in the country, has been left in the dark in their quest in coming up with software that could compete with those from other countries such as India, which is known in that area.
While trying to encourage young developers in this regard, Professor Chris Uwaje, president of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (Ispon), said software is at the heart of the global knowledge economy.
He said it presents Nigeria with an opportunity to take high-up position in the global ICT value chain, which consists of creators, distributors, resellers and consumers.
According to him, every software in the world started as an indigenous software that were basically developed to serve the immediate community, before it gets matured to what is known as ISO standardised level.
It is a fact that software engineering emanated from the view that computing, is an extension of man’s vision to solve problems, and a look at the architectural frame of software and distributive processes, is a man’s thought processes, he wants to do a lot of things, then he need to codify them in a machine language that can help resolve those process issues.
Uwaje stated that though the country is Africa’s busiest information technology (IT) market because of the trading, importing and consumption pattern, software opportunities can unleash the potentials of the nation with its large, youthful, educated and enterprising populace.
He explained that software has taken every part of human nature and form part of his daily activities. “Indeed everybody harbours software, you are here today because you grew up with some basic information in your brain cells, from your mother’s placenta, the way you were fed, the food you eat, how it was cooked, a lot of precipice of information that cumulate into what they call software. So today, you have some database in your head, which make you to go about your daily activities, the software that drive the human being is a data base, so now before you come here, you have a roadmap in your head,” he affirmed.
Growing the software industry
While trying to match Johnson’s comment with reality, it seems obvious that large percentage of young developers have moved from core banking applications to mobile applications. According to her, since the country cannot make meaningful progress in banking software that can compete with their foreign counterparts, emphasis should be placed on mobile applications to meet with the growing demand for the rapidly developing market.
In view of that, Mr. Collins Onuegbu, chief executive officer, Signal Alliance, at a forum stated that the most obvious opportunities for the local software industry are the specialised applications, which involves software for accounting, legal, banking, financial services, personnel, payroll, information management, games, etc.
He said there are several local software providers doing well in these areas but as a whole, the software industry needs to move faster than it is doing at present. To move Nigerian into its right place in the value chain, the challenges faced by the local software industry must be addressed. A large proportion of Nigeria’s software business is in the hands of firms based outside Nigeria, and local developers are losing out to ignorance and foreign software providers.
According to him, awareness is low about the benefits of software and for most of the large corporate organisations that invest in niche software; foreign software is regarded as a better option.
iDEA Incubation Centre
In view of the relevance attached to this area, Johnson, in June commissioned the iDEA software incubation centre in Lagos as part of efforts in enhancing software development, where trainings could be conducted by Lagos Business School, Nokia, Google and Microsoft.
The incubation programmes which are intended for students, start-ups and software development companies, help in boosting the software policy in the IT policy framework of the ministry, where utmost priority has been placed on developing locally relevant applications that could resolve national issues and also to make them competitive at the global circle.
Commenting on the centre, Mr. Pius Okigbo, vice chairman, iDEA, who has long years of experience in software development, stated that the training programmes would complement the efforts of the National Information Technology Development Agency (Nitda) and the Ministry of Communication Technology, whose policy has been on the patronage of locally developed software.
He said India earns about $50bn annually from software development and it is time the country takes part in this area to develop its local market, for export purposes so that other countries would know that Nigerian software are as sophisticated as foreign ones.” We want to enhance this local market, to grow it in order to achieve progress, and the earlier we do this, the better for our economy,” he stated.
The need to grow an enabling environment for Software development in the country has prompted the plans by Ispon to raise N500million to move the nation from its present condition. According to Uwaje, Ispon’s role is to harness the knowledge in the country and turn them into processes that can benefit the IT industry and the nation in general. “Ispon software engagement mission in Nigeria will embrace the country’s evolving software policy and strategy to ensure users confidence,” he said.
He added that in order to meet with standards in the world, Ispon is also going to design and build a national software capability framework for a national software workforce that is called the code warriors, because it is the bedrock of what happens in the world. “We would also be engaged in planning, educating and encouraging innovation of software workforce, undertaking software research and development with Nigerians in Diaspora and also encourage creativity and innovation in the software industry. All these would enable us recover from a national disaster of abandoning software development for so long, and when this is done, it will be to the benefit of the country,” he stated.
This is informed by the fact that the abandonment of software development, may lead to what is called the locking syndrome where the nation continues to consume other people’s culture. It could have immense consequence for the nation if software is not enthroned as the most important aspect of our livelihood, of our politics, and culture, the most critical tool, and indeed the nation’s last hope for a sustainable national development and global competitiveness.
“We recognise the development of the software industry as a monumental challenge to the survival of the future. The country has no excuse of being the leader of the software industry in this century. We must be able to engage that momentum, and if it slips away from us, we would become one of the digital colonies of the 21st centuries,” Uwaje explained.
According to Professor Cleopas Angaye, former director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (Nitda), benefits of developing the software industry cannot be overemphasised. He said a strong local software industry will save foreign exchange; provide career and business opportunities for the youth locally and globally in outsourcing, application and web development. It was opined that the country can take a cue from India, a country that has benefited tremendously from business process and software outsourcing.
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