Once upon a time, you had to literally queue for years to be assigned a phone line and the number of years you had to wait would not in anyway influence the allocation of a line to you.
Today, all that has changed because a visionary government made a wise decision and opened the sector. Billions of dollars of investment power the industry and today all that is history.
In 2002, a GSM SIM card was sold for about N22,000. Who would have thought that a SIM could go for as low as N100, or even free today? A lot has indeed changed since then and a lot can still happen with the right policies. Technology is disrupting and rewriting the norms various industries have been used to. While I have no issues with the current administration focusing on agriculture, may I once again call for equal attention towards technology because the reality is this – how else can we effectively fight corruption in Nigeria or in what ways would you ensure that the Intellectual Properties of the technological solutions we are implementing in both private and public institutions are owned by Nigerians? Technology is it!
Take a look at the countries that have high Gross Domestic Products today, they are all also strong when it comes to technology. If for nothing, they are ensuring that the software and solutions that power their critical national infrastructure are locally designed and built. It may be difficult to separate Information technology from the growth and development of nations. The nation has needs and these technologies meet those needs. How are these ICT dynamics poised to facilitate national development? Some of them are expressed below:
A few weeks ago, a journalist friend of mine was kidnapped in the once secure city of Abuja while entering his church. As soon as he came down from his car, four men with guns bundled him in his own car and drove off. According to him, ‘as the kidnappers approached a check point and one of them asked ‘no be eke be that’ (is that not the police)? The other responded and said, ‘forget them nothing go happen’. As they predicted, they found a way to pass through the check point and off they went with my friend.
Thankfully, he is alive but his family had to pay a ransom. This got me wondering, “how would a nation develop, if its own federal capital has become a den of kidnappers and robbers?” I remember that once upon a time, a contract worth millions of dollars was awarded to a Chinese company to install CCTV across Abuja and Lagos. What exactly happened to that project? This is a question that must be answered.
With the advent of technology, security is being improved in countries across the world. Deploying the knowledge of electronics in intelligence gathering has thrown up sophisticated gadgets and equipment like, drones, GPS trackers, electric burglaries, automated license plate recognition and many other equipment, all to better secure a nation or city. I chose to start with security because without it, development in its real sense will remain far from us.
I am of the opinion that our education system today will never catch up with our current population growth, so one of the ways to ensure that this changes is to invest heavily in technology. Think about the millions of out-of-school children; when is government going to build schools for them?
In my opinion, learning has grown beyond the four walls of a classroom to a virtual world. Technology has made it possible to learn online thus, displacing the issues of time and space. Free, short and part-time courses are available for learning online. Other information are also easily accessible online for learning. Knowing how to prepare a particular meal can be searched for online and learned easily without having to engage in much stress. Research and discovery are a part of education that have yielded more knowledge to create more advancement in technology.
The government and all relevant bodies in this sector has to come to the realisation of this fact and begin supporting edtech companies building disruptive solutions.
A circular to various government ministries, departments and agencies with reference number SGF/OP/IS.3/VII/795 dated October 26, 2006 and signed by the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, U.J. Ekaette reads, “This is to draw your attention to the Federal Executive Council directive that all Federal Government ministries, departments and Agencies should patronise Made-in-Nigeria software products and services as priority choice of application for all their functions.”
It further reads, “Accordingly, all federal ministries, departments and agencies are hereby directed to comply with this directive henceforth and you are to bring the content of this circular to all concerned for strict compliance.”
Imagine, how the technology sector had grown had this directive been followed through? Sadly in Nigeria, the government hardly ever becomes a continuum and yet we hope to become a developed nation someday. In my opinion, it is called deception because if indeed we ever hope to become a sustainable nation, we have to start today doing the right things and the first point of call is enabling policies. Policies that support the growth of technology in general, innovation hubs, start-ups and small businesses in general.
Let me conclude this piece with a quote from the Africa Chair for IEEE World Internet of Things, Chris Uwaje, one of Nigeria’s strongest advocates for the growth of technology, “unless we completely retool our local skills and content model, power-up our ICT ecosystem and intensify the establishment of massive knowledge innovation hubs for outsourcing and offshoring, with capability to create critical mass of world-class skilled employment for both the high-skilled and low-skilled support workforce, we will continue to experience massive brain drain.”
The irony is that, while our policy makers are arguing over zoning formula, brilliant young Nigerians who should help build the nation are escaping to Canada and other countries in droves.