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Indigenous operators condemn government’s low patronage

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Dr. Omobola Johnson


Lack of patronage for local products and services, especially in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), has drawn the ire of stakeholders in the sector.
   
The stakeholders are also miffed at the Office for Nigerian Content Development in ICT (ONC), and urged it to do more to protect and support indigenous companies’ survival.Gathered at the quarterly forum organised by technology reporters in Nigeria, at the weekend, in Lagos, with the theme: “Local Content Development in Nigeria’s ICT Sector: Stimulant for National Economic Recovery,” they stressed the need for more collaborative efforts to be able to turn things around for players in the sector.

The Association of Telecommunications Company of Nigeria (ATCON), represented by the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, eStream Networks, Muyiwa Ogungboye, said the activities in the industry has really attracted large numbers of investment, but the government needed to put certain structure in place to protect it by being less import dependent.
   
“Since the inauguration of the ONC by a former Minister of Communication and Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson, no productive activities that will drive local content adoption have been carried out,” Ogungboye decried.
  
According to him, the ONC was created under the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), with the responsibility of making Nigeria ICT sector less dependent on import.
  
He charged the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and the ONC to come up with long term and short term plans to encourage investment, which will enable the entire ecosystem to know the area in dire need of investment.“NCC and ONC should establish a joint monitoring and evaluation department that will see the adoption and implementation of Nigeria Local Content in the telecoms industry,” he stated.

More so, ATCON wants the duo to pool resources to establish ICT parks, with the mandate to encourage manufacturing of some ICT inputs such as switches, mobile phones, telecom cable, and radio wave, among others.
  
In his contribution, the Director-General, Delta State Innovation Hub (DSHuB), Chris Uwaje, called on the Federal Government to set aside 10 per cent of every national budget for the development of a national ICT ecosystem. Uwaje revealed that “It was such a move by the United State Government few years ago that gave birth to today’s highly innovative Silicon Valley.
 

“Nigeria’s sojourn to the world of ICT has remained poorly articulated due to lack of enabling ICT baseline template that would have driven tailored growth than the current poorly coordinated growth the country is observing now,” he stressed.He argued that even though business development remains in the hands of the private sector, the needed policy direction that should statutorily come from the government is missing.
   
Uwaje averred that “Currently, there has not been a national software regulation and policy direction, and that has been the reason for weak expansion of the industry.”
   
While citing example with the payment revolution driven by the development of Remita software by SystemSpec Group, he argued that “The unprecedented breakthrough which the Federal Government has made in the control of fund leakages through the introduction of Treasury Single Account (TSA). Riding on the powers of Remita is enough signals to deepen the growth of software industry in Nigeria.”


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