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ISPON indicts NOTAP, NITDA in proliferation of foreign software, killing local content

Considering the surge in capital flights involved in the purchase of foreign software by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and telecoms companies mainly from India and China, leadership of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) has called for a review of the laws to give lifeline to local software developers.

Already, ISPON leadership under Olorogun Emadoye, has argued that Nigeria is ripe for a strategic legislation on software, “if we must change the tide that has turned us to a digital colony of the 21st Century.”

According to him, the first step will be for the presidency to direct National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to confer with ISPON before approving any payment for foreign software to avoid capital flights for what can be accessed locally.

ISPON also averred that “We also urged him to ensure that the Central Bank of Nigeria collaborate with the NITDA and ISPON before allowing transfers for all software purchases; ensure that 30 per cent of all software payment for foreign products approved for payment through the collaboration of the NITDA, ISPON, CBN and NOTAP is retained in Nigeria for the development of local capacity.

“We also want the President to mandate the Bank of Industry to expedite action to establish the N5bn Software Development Fund of which ISPON has already submitted a position paper, and start disbursement to deserving companies and software producers immediately for the development of the sector.”

Explaining more during a recent Presidential Dinner Night, Emadoye said, “You may have heard that the 2017 budget had well over N15bn provision for ‘computer software acquisitions’.  ISPON was highly optimistic when it came across this figure in the approved budget and took the initiative to inform the MDAs on the need to patronise software Nigeria in the real meaning of software Nigeria, and not foreign software that are sold by installation and customising agents in Nigeria.

“The ISPON believes that such effort at the use of made-in-Nigeria software will create millions of jobs for Nigerians and set Nigeria on the path of self-sufficiency in software.”

Giving additional insights on the proliferation of software imports, former President of ISPON, Chris Uwaje said although ISPON is not calling for outright ban on foreign software, it is high time the government saved the nation from forex exlusion and capital flight by engaging local firms with penchant for solutions to challenges peculiar to the country.

He argued that most foreign software deployed by multinationals in Nigeria have failed and could be likened to ‘rat poison’ due to the damages to the economy.

According to him, “Local content has a significant role to play in the telecoms sector efficiency. Talking about ICT in general, services constitute about 2/3 of the market size; it is very labour intensive and there are policies for sustainability that should be adopted as models. One of the models with regards to telecoms which needs intensive support suggests that if you have 500,000 subscribers you build a call centre of about 180 attendants. If you have a magnitude of 20 to 40 million subscriber-base, you need to create call centres in support zones. That is why outsourcing centres are growing.

“India is servicing the world, because they meet the needs of the telcos. But the understanding is this: if the regulatory bodies have come together to ponder on critical mass of what needs to be done, before licensing, they should have laid down the ground rules. They should have anticipated the need for mobile phone assembly plants, knowing that at a time, 50 million mobile phones will be used in the country.

“So, the telcos, considering the factors of the licenses, will now seek for partners to help them fulfil the regulatory body’s requirements. So, these things ought to be aggregated in such manner that within the assembly plants sphere millions of people would have been engaged solving (professionally) the cases been solved today in such areas as Alaba, Compute village (Otigba), Aba, Enugu; these people ought to be in the factories.

“So, that architecture should be in place for us to have sustainability in our ICT ecosystem. Every player should be made to adhere strictly to such guidelines/ standards. For instance, what does it benefit a country to create a computer science department that the graduates will not have any job.”

Uwaje further emphasized domestication of the country’s licensing guidelines, saying it should be skewed to create the integral part of ensuring a linkage for skilled indigenous experts to have job by compelling MDAs and companies to buy Made in Nigeria software.