Indigenous Software makers have frowned at federal government’s plan to use about $2.8bn to import software into the country annually
They said that such humongous amount which equals four percent of the country’s 2017 annual budget is an outrageous expenditure for services that can be easily acquired locally.
Software importation issue which has continued to attract serious criticisms among stakeholders in Nigeria’s ICT eco system came up for discussion again recently at the 2017 Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria, ISPON, Presidential Dinner held in Lagos, when Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim, revealed that Nigeria spends about $2.8 billion annually on importation of information and Communications Technology, ICT goods and services.
Although NITDA said it was committed to the local content policy and would see to the reduction of such capital flight, the issue however created a lot of arguments.
Former acting DG of NITDA, Dr Vincent Olatunji who represented the NITDA DG, however promised that the regulatory authority will reverse this trend to ensure that local software sector is protected.
The local software makers said that the country may remain digital colonies of the developed nations unless the government pays attention to local capacity.
For the stakeholders, government should declare a state of emergency on Nigeria Software and establish a N100 billion litmus package as bailout for strategic national software development ecosystem
One time President of ISPON and now Director General of Delta State Innovation hub, Mr Chris Uwaje, immediately raised the alarm on the dangers of digital colonization of the country saying that the only way to ensure that the economy and national security will not continue to dwindle would be to enthrone critical legislations and huge funding for the IT/Software sectors.
Uwaje was concerned that through a short sighted policy such as huge software importation, a nation may wake-up, one day, to realize that it has been digitally colonized.
“The resultant effect of this probability will seriously impact on future generations to come. In my candid opinion, this digital colony issue will one day become the critical heart of the matter in the emerging Information Society, IS.
“It simply means that the entire life, culture and sovereignty of a nation and her citizenry have been unknowingly traded off and taken over by IT-Smart minds, powerful and knowledge-centred information forces around the globe.
“ It will not only be national election process take-over, but education, communication, financial, economic, government, culture, entertainment and social take-over. This will complete the fearful process of the anticipated life and knowledge lock-in syndrome”, he added.
Uwaje warmed that Nigeria must wake up and urgently establish a National IT Framework Bill to enact laws on protection of Software Nigeria and the establishment of a National Software Board and the creation of the Office of the IT General of the Federation.
In his address during the forum, the ISPON President Mr James Emadoye, said that digital colonization by other nations will continue unless government is committed to buy Nigerian products, apply Nigerian content, and consume Nigeria content.
He said: “We must urgently embrace Software-Nigeria to change the tides and repackage our ways of life. The oil which has turned us to the proverbial prodigal son status of the bible story is fast depleting and countries that had patronized our oil in the past have turned their back on us.
“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. You may have heard that the 2016 budget had well over N15 billion provisions for ‘Computer Software Acquisitions.
“If 70% of the well over N15 billion had been spent in software Nigeria, the impact would have been felt in all facet of the economy with ability to generate many billions of Naira along the value chain” he argued.