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The Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, has lamented the low usage of local content materials from Nigeria in the development of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
Johnson raised the alarm at the 2013 eNigeria conference organised by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in Abuja recently.
She said the telecoms sector in Nigeria has recorded tremendous growth, being the fastest growing sector of the economy and the fourth largest contributor to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with a high growth tele-density figures from 0.73 per cent in 2001 to an impressive 85.25 per cent measured in April 2013; with approximately 112 million active telephone sets.
She however said, “As impressive as the figures may seem, the Nigerian Information Technology (IT) landscape suffers from a clear negative trade balance, as the economic value generated locally with imported technologies used by Nigerians is still extremely low."
Speaking on the forum’s theme, which is 'Local Content in ICT Development in Nigeria: The Journey so far', the minister said NITDA has the mandate to focus and achieve the vision of local content for the country, set and evaluate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) until 50 per cent local content is achieved in the sector.
She added that NITDA also has the mandate to develop a concise ICT local content policy in collaboration with stakeholders. She explained that the NITDA's mandate was a fallout of the resolution reached at the end of eNigeria conference in 2012, by industry stakeholders.
She however said with the presentation of the guidelines on Nigerian Content Development in ICT today, she had reasons to be convinced that Nigerians have reached a significant milestone in the journey to the target of 50 per cent local content, even though there is clearly still a lot of work ahead of the ICT industry.
The guidelines, she said, would level the playing field to facilitate the movement of many of the country's local ICT companies from the fringes of the market to be larger and more strategic companies while at the same time enlarging the pie so that Nigeria keeps her valuable international partners interested and engaged in investing in the local industry.
“Having multi-nationals and international companies co-exist with our local companies ensures that the industry is working to the best international standards, challenging our local companies to set aspirational standards for their products and services in order to remain competitive," Johnson said.
"It is worth emphasising that the guidelines that are being launched today were developed with a lot of enthusiastic stakeholder participation and have been designed to be of practical help as we try to achieve the tough but very achievable target of 50 per cent local content in the coming years," the minister added.
She however explained that implementing the guidelines would not be without some pains. This is because we need to ensure that local providers to the ICT industry (telecommunications and IT, hardware and software alike) are re-tooled, re-skilled and re-engineered to provide products and processes that will compete well with their international counterparts.
The adoption of COBIT5 as our national quality standard is clearly a step in the right direction to supporting the growth and participation of local companies in this most lucrative of sectors, Johnson said.
According to her, "We need to ensure that our providers, often crippled by poor access to finance as well as sub-standard processes and procedures reinvent themselves suitably to properly take advantage of the growing opportunity represented by our ICT industry."
Commending International Business Machine (IBM) for its long standing relationship with Nigeria in ICT development, the minister said Nigeria would look forward to recording true technology transfer with IBM, designing products together around research conducted for Nigeria and innovating around the impressive IBM suite of products and services.
She challenged other multi-nationals in the ICT sector to see the value of partnering with Nigeria, and similarly adjust their marketing and operations model in Nigeria, for the benefit of all parties.