Experts optimistic ICT can address economic recession

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One sure way to address the lingering economic recession assailing the country is to harness the immense potentials in the nation’s burgeoning information and communication technology (ICT) sector.

The foregoing submission was made by experts at separate fora recently. These experts hold the view and very strongly too that the massive growth in the nation’s ICT ecosystem shows that country could come out from its recession if only the sector is explored to its full potential.

The sector which contributes significantly to the country’s GDP, the highest after the oil and gas, according to The Report Nigeria, shows that as at August 2014, the sector accounted for 8.5% of Nigeria’s GDP up from 5.7% in 2011.

Little wonder the ICT pundits have suggested the need for the government to do everything humanly possible to endear local content and grow the sector to cater for the short falls in oil revenue.

Firing the first salvo, Lanre Ajayi, who is the immediate past President Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), observed that: “For us to diversify our economy using ICT, we need to also really prepare our local brands, the software developers, the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), to ensure that they scale up the standards of their products and services.”

According to him, “When you scale up the standard of your products and services to international standard nobody can fault what we are doing, because they all buy from the same market. For instance, to assemble a computer, there is no single company that will manufacture a computer from the beginning to the end.”

The multiplier effect, he admitted, “The idea is to have innovation hubs in the six geopolitical zones, like two in each zone; and if we have such hubs, we want to bring ideas, bring people who have one solution or the other together, to incubate them, mentor them and prepare them for global market; and with that we will be creating jobs.”

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Speaking further, Ajayi, who is a widely acclaimed engineer observed that: “From software alone, if we really put our house in order, we won’t do anything less than $20 billion from software alone per annum. India is doing over $30 billion from software alone.”

Continuing, he said there are lot of opportunities specifically in the area of business process outsourcing, hardware production, maintenance and repairs, including web development, hosting and maintenance.

“There are several opportunities that are available. These are just the core areas of ICT. How about the services; that is the service sector, to drive other sectors? For instance telemedicine; what of the services that ICT can provide in that sector? What about agriculture, e-agriculture; what about the services that ICT can provide for that sector? What of tourism and culture, and the services that ICT can provide for that sector? The scope goes beyond core IT jobs when you look at the multiplier effects on the sectors. For instance, look at the medical line; you’re using ICT to run your hospital, look at it from record keeping to basic diagnosis, prescriptions, even sophisticated surgery; consider the services that can be provided by ICT experts to that sector,” ATCON boss summed.

Echoing similar sentiments, the new president of ATCON, Olusola Teniola cited experiences from India, China, Singapore and Brazil who have relied on using ICT to diversify their economies on how progressive they are now.

Teniola said ICT is used as the basis by these countries to develop innovative solutions, such as cars that use electric/solar power energy.

According to him, it has been established that the ICT sector is contributing about eight per cent to GDP, yet members can no longer buy US dollars directly from CBN designated banks, a situation, he said, has further pushed the cost of doing business higher.

Only recently, discussants and participants at the third edition of Nigeria Digital Agenda Breakfast Forum held at Protea Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos canvassed the ICT-led diversification of the economy during the event which was organised by the Centre for Cyber Awareness and Development (CECAD) an advocacy group made up of ICT experts. ICT stakeholders were of the view that if the country were to seriously look forward to an effective CHANGE in economic fortunes, there is the need to focus resources on the enormous potentials provided by ICT which will in turn go a long way in solving the lingering challenge of oil scarcity, epileptic power supply and unemployment.

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As part of their submissions, the stakeholders said the federal government must put the right policies in place to see how Nigeria, its businesses and innovations can respond to ensure a sustainable growth and economic development in a digitally-competitive world beyond oil.

The Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta stated that the Commission has clear and fundamental initiatives to encourage SMART Digital Nigeria.

The NCC EVC who was represented by the Director of Special Duties, Mrs. Iyabo Sholanke while delivering a keynote speech said “The Nigeria Digital Agenda Forum’s main objective is to develop a digital single market in order to generate SMART, sustainable and inclusive growth in the IT industry and the economy in general.

Speaking at the forum, Mr. Chris Uwaje the immediate past President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON)), was of the view that proper legislation must be put in place to serve as ICT enabler towards reshaping the fortune of Nigeria’s economy for better.”

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