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Nigeria did not plan well for ICT before the GSM revolution in 2000— Techpreneur

Leading techpreneur and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) analyst, Mr. Jackson Ibeto has opened up on why Nigerian local content in ICT may take time before it will begin to give results currently observed in the oil and gas sector.

In a chat weekend with our correspondent in Enugu on Sunday, he said “We were carried away by what foreigners’ were feeding us with in 2000 and 2001 when GSM was introduced instead of working out how we Nigerians can become players in the industry”.

“That being carried away continued till just few years ago when government started understanding the imports of encouraging its nationals to become major players. That is when the likes of Visafone, Glo and others started to come up.

Ibeto argued that the Nigerian government failed in its duties to drive locals to become part players from day one, saying “I remembered how the founder of Zinox Computers suffered and suffered to grow his company while the government kept buying computers from abroad even before the arrival of GSM”.

“So I believe the same government that is discouraging early startups in ICT entrepreneurship is now crying foul that the country is losing much in the importation of materials.

“We had planned to fail before now, so current failures should not border any government official. Where was the current NITDA boss when the founder of Omatek Computers was looking for government assistance before her recent death? How many of her products were bought by government and its agencies.

Recently, a foreign oil company sealed a deal with Zinox to retool its fleet with Zinox Computers, has the federal government or any state government done that?

“These are issues NITDA should first resolve instead of shedding crocodiles tears.

Only recently, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim, warned that Nigeria would be spending $143.8bn on ICT imports between this year and 2019, if the trend of importation of ICT products is not stopped or at least reduced to a barest.

Speaking during a visit to a national daily in Abuja, he said the importation of virtually every ICT software and hardware was killing the local IT industry and draining the country of foreign exchange.

According to him, the country loses approximately N1.52trillion ($3.8bn) every year through importation of Information and Communications Technology products, services and software.

‘’We want to solve the problems bordering on local content in the ICT sector in the country. We are not happy at all that Nigeria loses so much on importation of IT products and services as well as software. Approximately, $2.8billion are being lost annually from importation of ICT goods and services, including $1bn spent also annually on importation of software into the country. This is huge; if we don’t act quickly to reduce this, the survival of our local industry will be at risk’’, Ibrahim noted.