Chris Uwaje, former president, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) has expressed displeasure at government and corporate bodies’ fondness for foreign software.
Uwaje said although ISPON is not calling for outright ban on foreign software, however it is high time the government saved the nation from forex elusion and capital flight by engaging local firms with penchant for solutions to challenges peculiar to the country.
According to him, most foreign software deployed by multinationals in Nigeria have failed and could be likened to ‘rat poison’ due to the damages to the economy.
Speaking, specifically, on the place of local content & software as preventive tools for telcos to avoid regulator’s wrath, he said, “Local content has a significant role to play in the telecoms sector efficiency. Talking about ICT in general, services constitute about 2/3 of the market size; it is very labour intensive and there are policies for sustainability that should be adopted as models. One of the models with regards to telecoms which needs intensive support suggests that if you have 500,000 subscribers you build a call centre of about 180 attendants. If you have a magnitude of 20 to 40 million subscriber-base, you need to create call centres in support zones. That is why outsourcing centres are growing.
“India is servicing the world, because they meet the needs of the telcos. But the understanding is this: if the regulatory bodies have come together to ponder on critical mass of what needs to be done, before licensing, they should have laid down the ground rules. They should have anticipated the need for mobile phone assembly plants, knowing that at a time, 50 million mobile phones will be used in the country.
“So, the telcos, considering the factors of the licenses, will now sought for partners to help them fulfil the regulatory body’s requirements. So, these things ought to be aggregated in such manner that within the assembly plants sphere millions of people would have been engaged solving (professionally) the cases been solved today in such areas as Alaba, Compute village (Otigba), Aba, Enugu; these people ought to be in the factories.
“So, that architecture should be in place for us to have sustainability in our ICT ecosystem. Every player should be made to adhere strictly to such guidelines/ standards. For instance, what does benefit a country to create a computer science department that the graduates will not have any job.”
He said also emphasized domestication of the country’s licensing guidelines should be skewed to create the integral part of ensuring a linkage for skilled indigenous experts to have job.
“There are a lot of foreign software that have come here and failed. This is in public domain: they failed in banks, government, aviation, the Police force and several other sectors. So, we must make sure that local developers are given the opportunity in a way of laboratories where they can work after graduation,” Uwaje told Nigeria CommunicationsWeek.
On the quest for a review of existing laws for better negotiations, he said, “Absolutely, even, we do not have laws on software. None! I challenge anybody who will say there is a law guiding software in this country. Whereas, software is treated even in some circumstances as food and drugs, because when you are carrying out surgical operations you need software that controls the oxygen and the blood. If that software fails, the patient dies.
“Just as NAFDAC regulates food and drugs, with reported cases of fake drugs, killing peoples, even as capsules, they put rat poison and people die. Likewise, software in medical environment and other critical sectors must be seen as food and drugs requiring certification before they are imported into the country. If not, software will come and kill our people”.
He added that ISPON has been apt with regards to maintaining professionalism among the members.
However, the software ecosystem in the country should be backed by law to ensure that ISPON will be empowered to help Nigeria look at the efficacy of software that are deployed in the country, whether foreign or local.
“There should be a synergy with to harness the standard for software testing in Nigeria. That is where you can have software that you can prime for the conditional challenges that mitigate Nigeria; that is when you can scale up so that those software can be exported to other African countries and rest of the world”, Uwaje told Nigeria CommunicationsWeek.