Globalising indigenous software for economic growth
With globalisation transforming the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry, indigenous software development should be one of the results of the phenomenon that has gained momentum in the last few years.
Today, facts on ground have shown that there is enormous potential for a vibrant software industry in Nigeria, especially with its average population of over 170 million people.
However, Director-General of the Delta State Innovation Hub (DSHUB), Chris Uwaje, in an interview with The Guardian, observed that the horrendous dearth of skills aggravated by a dysfunctional system of education and weak government policies have dealt this aspiration a huge blow.
As far as Uwaje, a former President, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) is concerned, vested interests, rent seeking, lack of an aptly justiciable system, among others, will continue to hamper the nation’s ICT industry development, except they are urgently tackled.
The global software industry has grown exponentially, compared to its net worth in 2005 (when the Federal Government salivated over a projected yearly $1.3 billion revenue; being only 0.05 per cent of the total software market revenue).
In 2013, Gartner reported that the worldwide software industry was worth $407.3 billion. If the 2005 records were correct, the differential amounted to a 36.16 per cent rise in global revenue over a 10-year period. Had Nigeria been assiduous in its efforts towards actualising its meagre “0.05-per cent-of-global-revenue” dream, its probable current receipts from software shipments and sales would be slightly above $20 billion in 2014.
This, UK-based telecoms expert Kehinde Aluko argues, would have provided great succour to the economy and cushioned the value of the Naira; especially in the face of dwindling receipts from oil.
In an article titled: ‘Nigeria: Taking Advantages of Software Development Economic Dynamics’, Ayodeji Odusote, a Solution Analyst with the Central Bank of Nigeria, says with the continent’s appetite for software products and services, government spending between 2010 and 2014 suggested increasing needs for automation of critical business processes. From public to private institutions, the potential appetency of the continent is worth several billions of dollars.
As such, his view was that with more efforts, government’s support and challenges mitigated, Nigeria’s software can be globally accepted and adopted if the will is there.
Making reference to a UNCTAD report, Odusote said very few companies like SystemSpecs have produced exportable software packages that have earned the country any foreign proceed, adding that the likes of Computer Warehouse Group (CWG) remains a successful brand across the African continent, starting from Lagos, Nigeria.
Indeed, at the just concluded Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) in Dubai, United Emirates (UAE), the Executive Director, Strategy at SystemSpecs, Deremi Atanda, told investors that Remita, a product of SystemSpecs, has come of age to address financial leakages in Africa and the rest of the world.
Atanda said Remita, which predates Nigeria’s Treasury Single Account (TSA), is not a specialised software for TSA, but meant for all electronic payments and collection of funds that address financial leakages.
Having recognised the importance of Remita, the Federal Government, in 2011, decided to use the software solution to block all financial leakages in Ministries, Departments and Agencies, driving process efficiency and accountability by aggregating all government funds in a single account.
Findings reveal that before TSA, MDAs operated multiple accounts. As such, government could not give account of the net cash flow of the country. But with the application of Remita to TSA, government discovered huge financial leakages and lapses, including remittances of government monies to over 17,000 accounts spread across different banks within the country that were unaccounted for.
Riding on the successes of Remita, Atanda urged foreign investors at GITEX to invest in the local software developed from Nigeria. He maintained that Remita has the potential of addressing global financial issues, especially in blocking financial leakages and setting up a platform for accountability and transparency that organisations could always rely on.
“Talking about opportunities, the simple good news you will hear in the payments space is that there is a model of payment for the entire Africa coming from Nigeria, a one-stop payment gateway overlaid with payment applications for enterprises, multinationals, governments at all levels, SMEs, corporates as well as individuals. So at every point you want to touch payments across the entire ecosystem, Remita is the product to do that,” Atanda assured.
SystemSpecs, he explained, has a track record in the Nigerian software industry, which dates back to 2006 when Nigeria had a payroll challenge in the face of an international World Bank bid. As a Nigerian firm, “we won that bid and completed the project in a record six months. The next time was in 2011 when the Nigerian government was going to begin the process of properly taking charge of its national cash assets and introduced the TSA initiative. It was something that made Nigeria to look for the best in the whole world. And after evaluation SystemSpecs came forward again. Today, the TSA success story is because a Nigerian company is involved; that’s the story of Remita and the myth of indigenous software.”
At the forum, while welcoming Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu; Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami and the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on ICT, Mohammed Onawo to Remita’s stand within the Nigeria pavilion, Atanda said: “Remita has been around for about 10 years and currently serves over 1,000 merchants, billers, multinationals, SMEs, and governments at various levels. The uniqueness of Remita lies in its ability to serve as a one-stop payment platform that offers organisations and individuals the most number of payment and collection channels available on any single platform.”
Responding, Shittu, who pledged government’s support for SystemSpecs’ quest to roll out Remita across African countries and beyond said: “We will continue to support all your endeavours to take our country to the next level.”