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Omobola Johnson charges ISPON on new skills, competitiveness

Dr. Omobola Johnson

Pioneer Minister of Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson, has called on the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) to reposition the software sub-sector by nurturing and building new skills that will give the country an edge in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Johnson said Nigeria should not be left behind in the revolution, which is also known as Industry 4.0 that is gradually becoming the order of the day globally.She charged ISPON to explore areas such as Artificial Intelligence (AI); Internet of Things (IoT); automation, cloud computing, big data, among others. According to her, these new sets of technologies will form the fulcrum of the next global development.

The Guardian checks showed that AI is growing at 55 per cent on a yearly basis, while IoT is at 19 per cent. Others such as big data grows at 18 per cent; cloud computing 15 per cent; automation seven per cent and mobile technology six per cent.Johnson, who was the Keynote Speaker at this year’s ISPON President’s Dinner 2019, the Boat Cruise edition, with the theme: “Having an Inclusive IT Ecosystem,” noted that the current skills are not enough to make Nigeria competitive. The former minister drew the attention of the Institute to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), stressing that the focus should not be on the education part alone, but also the ICT embedded in it.

She challenged ISPON to identify and train thousands of software developers for Nigeria, and that can also be exported abroad.
Citing the example of India, which according to her has become the outsourcing capital of the world and China, which is also fast industrialising, “there are advantages in Nigeria too. The opportunities are huge in this country. We can build an army of software developers in Nigeria. Andela is doing fantastic in this area. I want to plead that we should look inward, use the power we have to develop not only the sector but the economy as a whole.”

Johnson disclosed that software remains a huge market opportunities, stressing that virtually every other sectors rely on one software or the other to survive.However, while building the new software ecosystem, she stressed the need for competitiveness, which will engender acceptability. In other words, Johnson said software coming from Nigeria must be marketable, reliable and ready for use.

The minister however, raised the challenge of lack of off-takers in the sub-sector, stressing that this may remain a major impediment to achieving some of the stated tasks. She therefore, called on ISPON, stakeholders in the ICT industry to come together, discuss and work out a modality that will change the narrative in the sector.

Earlier in his speech, the Chairman of the occasion, Group Managing Director, ARCO Group PLC, Alfred Okoigun, said opportunities are bound in Nigeria if adequately explored. Okoigun noted that there was need to encourage the young ones, who have demonstrated passion for software development by given them access.

President, ISPON, Dr. Yele Okeremi decried Federal Government’s indifference towards the sub-sector, stressing that huge capital flight are recorded yearly from the sub-sector.Recall that at a forum in Lagos some months back, it was revealed that Nigeria spent over $400 million yearly on foreign software licence renewal without recourse to indigenous operators that could perform the same task.

As such, Okeremi said this challenge remained because the Federal Government was not paying attention to the sub-sector. According to him, software production is also the best entry point for Nigeria into the IT production complex.Compared to hardware production, Okeremi noted that software production has much lower entry barriers, less capital intensive, more labour intensive, offer a lower rate of obsolescence, and far fewer economies of scale. According to him, to have an inclusive IT ecosystem in the country, everybody and sectors must contribute something to the development.

Former ISPON president, Olorogun James Emadoye, said over dependence on foreign products remained a big challenge to the Nigerian economy,. He stressed that government was yet to find a lasting solution to the problem. Emadoye said 60 per cent of Nigerian needs are imported, “we need to learn how to produce our needs, but we must first fight corruption, which is fast destroying everything. We need to do Nigeria, build Nigeria and live Nigeria! We must develop our own space, despite globalisation.”

From his perspective, the Managing Director of UpperLink Limited, Segun Akano, if Nigeria must climb the ladder, there was need to invest in capacity building, and friendship.If the sub-sector must be taken seriously, Akano said it has become expedient to work as a force and as a team, and not demonstrating solo efforts.To the former president, Computer Professional Registration Council Of Nigeria (CPN), Ladi Ogunleye, government must urgently tackle the power challenge, improve Internet connectivity and drive with passion, local content development.

If the sub-sector must do well, the President, Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), Reverend Sunday Folayan, said the psyche of an average Nigerian youth must be worked upon, to know that the future should not be eating now by spending on frivolities. Folayan equally challenged rich Nigerians to invest in startups, “and not just real estate across the globe.”

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