ATCON, NCS, Others Counsel FG on New ICT Policy

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Stakeholders in the nation’s information and communication technology (ICT) industry are counselling the Federal Government on key areas to prioritise in the proposed new National ICT Policy.

Mr. Adebayo Shittu, minister of Communications, had in penultimate week while attending the foundation laying ceremony of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) secretariat, expressed his commitments to producing a new nation ICT policy; a thrust for the industry to become next major source of revenue for the economy.

Shittu acknowledged that the Ministry has been receiving a lot of inputs from stakeholders across the country and from Nigerians in diaspora; some of which will form part of the details of the blueprint.

In line with the new drives, Engineer Lanre Ajayi, president of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) said that the Ministry should critically review the existing National ICT Policy and the National Broadband Plan, culling the most important areas for swift implementations.

Ajayi said, “I don’t think we need a new ICT policy more urgent as it were. We just had an ICT policy not too long ago. It is my opinion that the present administration toes the line of the existing policy and implement it. A change in government does not necessarily mean the past policies should be discarded, especially when the policies are relevant in today’s environment.

On critical policies and plans Shittu should focus on, he said, “We have ICT policy and broadband plan. The broadband plan implementation seemingly, was short, because of the electioneering (or political activities) few months before the past government left office. The present government can make their milestones from the aspects of the broadband plan, as some of the projections are yet to be achieved such as spectrum licencing to drive broadband and many more, I think, they should focus on the implementation”.

But, Mr. Pius Okigbo, president of the Institute of Software Practitioner of Nigeria (ISPON), believes the Communications Minister deserves the right to choose the ICT policy direction of the present administration.

According to him, stakeholders should wait till the policy thrust is launched before discussing the content; though he admitted that “ICT for job creation” is a sine qua non for the President Muhammadu Buhari led federal Government.

However, Okigbo  said he believes “it will be prudent to wait till the current Minister comes up with his own policy prescription or direction. At that point, we will be in a better position to argue for or against what to include or not.

“Yes, there are certain influences that he has to be govern by. Those influences are the good part of the existing policy that have yielded tremendous benefits. The key point is the iDEA Hub. That is a very strong and positive policy prescription. There are several others that can have to do with expanding and developing the industry and create employment opportunities. So, I strongly believe we wait on the Minister to unveil his policy direction before discussing it”.

However, Professor Adesola Aderounmu, president of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) said they have already made recommendations to the Federal Government for priority be given to the use of registered local IT professionals and registered local IT companies to execute IT jobs. In particular such IT firms and professionals should be involved in Strategic IT projects; a deliberate focus on youth innovation to generate massive employment for millions of our youth through riding on the startup boom in Nigeria and the use of innovative IT tools and solutions to frontally address the major concerns of bribery and corruption facing the nation.

He also made known that NCS is ready to make more recommendations to the Federal Government during a two-day retreat scheduled by the Ministry on the subject matter.

Among other NCS’ recommendations to Shittu include, capacity building in cyber security, most especially within the security agencies and in the nation’s educational system; implementation of the National Broadband Plan and urgently push for comprehensive broadband access all over the country; rollout, implementation, and monitoring of local content policy to encourage MDAs to patronize indigenous software and hardware; establishment of IT parks using Public-Private-Partnership models and establishment of Digital Centres in all the 774 LGAs in collaboration with the State Governments.

“And we believe the Federal Government should approve the pending National Software Policy (NSP) as a blue print aimed at providing a strategic roadmap to make Nigeria a competitive country in the area of software engineering and digital knowledge development and implementing e-Government strategies as Imperatives for corruption-free, equitable, productive and knowledge-based society,” the NCS president said.

In same light, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, chairman of Teledom Group, opined that whatever will be part of the new policy must be centered on the Nigerian Content Development and the Nigerian Content Patronage.

“In the last administration,” Ekuwem said, “there was much talks about the Nigerian content development, but there was insufficient emphasis and trust on the Nigerian Content patronage. It is not enough for Nigerians to develop a lot of contents without Ministries, Department and Agencies of the Government and the private sector not patronizing them”.

According to him, “If we fail to prioritise the local content, then the development means nothing. Patronage must be highly emphasized, otherwise, why should Nigerians develop ICT contents/products that are not patronized? Charity must begin at home. The effectiveness of that will generate jobs as the present government has indicated it is interested in creating jobs for the teeming youths”.

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