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Real Independence, ICT and Nigeria (2)
Oct 1, 2009 - Entrepreneurship (Ctd) - To live better lives, building entrepreneurial skills in self reliance, marketing, risk taking and wealth creation should be priorities for individuals, especially youth and women. It is important to have a strong entrepreneurial foundation.
Small enterprises and businesses need to exploit digital infrastructure in a more serious manner. They must adopt the cost-effective, innovative ways of doing business to tap into this era of "small giants".
To compete globally and create sustainable economic growth Nigeria must develop and produce in the ICT arena. Perpetual consumption without production is not just dependence. It is slavery. Growing and fostering ICT-enabled entrepreneurship - innovative entrepreneurship to meet the needs of local and global markets is the way to go.
Broadband networks support the key public and private applications which underpin the entire economy. A number of undersea fibre optic cable projects (Glo one, Main one) that will link Nigeria with expanded international bandwidth capacity are currently in various stages of development. It is essential to encourage such broadband expansion initiatives. The various broadband cable projects will improve broadband availability and competition by breaking the existing monopoly of the erratic SAT-3 submarine fiber-optic cable network. These initiatives will in addition provide cheaper and high quality communications links. However, to fully benefit from these interventions it is also important to improve last mile connectivity nationwide - there is a need to build internal linkages within the country on a massive scale.
Broadband enhances existing Internet applications, while paving the way for new solutions, which were too expensive, inefficient or slow to consider in the past. We have seen the example of GSM - widespread broadband growth can also have a transformatory, multiplier effect on the economy and growth.
Nigeria's telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has started implementing an initiative aimed at closing the broadband telecom gaps in unserved communities. NCC's State Accelerated Broadband Initiative (SABI) is a Private Public Partnership arrangement which entails deploying broadband services in all of the country's states by the end of 2009.
The NCC however has to improve its regulatory function in the areas of quality of service and consumer protection.
Improving the Environment
The ICT sector can be used to accelerate economic growth - as a tool for independence. But ICT is not a cure all. In fact if this sector is to be an engine for sustainable development, serious attention must be paid to creating an enabling environment to both stimulate significant investment in the ICT sector and support ICT and ICT enabled activities. Already Nigeria's massive population is an opportunity. With the right strategies in place the population will attract investors - local and foreign - who will creates jobs and widen opportunities in the economy.
Information security is an area of concern. Cybercrime,
hacking, phishing, ATM fraud and general identity theft are on the
increase. Security of information assets is critical to building
confidence in today's networked world. Having secure information
environments helps in attracting more investment in ICT. The need to
develop Information security awareness and capacity is glaring not
just in Nigeria but whole over Africa. The African Information Security Association (AISA) was
established to facilitate and promote information security in
Government, security agencies, private sector must be proactive in
complementing the efforts of AISA. There is no one-man army in
information security. And waiting for major problems/violations is
irresponsible. Establishing legal and regulatory frameworks to
support e-business, ICT and ICT enabled activity is therefore
imperative. Legal infrastructure is required to practically address
law enforcement, consumer protection, Intellectual property rights,
Cybercrime, electronic contracts, data protection and other aspects
of information security. Towards this end, Nigeria's House of
Representatives held a public hearing on draft legislation for
Cyber Security and the Information Protection Agency in July, 2009.
The unfriendly operating environment is a major challenge. The high cost of business setup, multiple taxation, crime, weak infrastructure base, as well as inefficient and corrupt business practices must change. Hostility in the environment hinders both the development of the ICT sector and the growth of ICT enabled services. IT only serves to drive operator and provider costs up. In particular security and crime prevention/detection must be brought into the 21st century with ICT. And global competitiveness will be difficult without attending to the problem of power supply.
In addition to the transformation of the education system, it is imperative to establish a knowledge culture environment. Access is not an end in itself. It is what you do with access that matters. The environment must foster creativity, local content development, reward merit and facilitate the cultivation of an entrepreneurial mindset, especially among Nigeria's youth.
Do value systems encourage consumption or contribution? Get-rich-quick or hard work? Pleasure or knowledge? Entertainment, innovation, wealth creation? Knowledge, computer education and entrepreneurship should be promoted through incentives, funding, support, initiatives and interventions such as business support or skills development centres.
Promotion of an inclusive information society (characterized by lifelong learning, creativity, innovation and public awareness) needs to be high on the agenda. ICT must connect with the people. Otherwise the "bread or broadband" questions will take centre stage. How does ICT help me? People must see and appreciate practical opportunities for growth, options for the future, prospects for making their own choices and living interesting lives.
The essence is to help all Nigerians realize their aspirations, and enable them participate meaningfully in the economy and society.
Strong leadership is required by government The government should use the development of online presence for government agencies, e-payment, online procurement practices and ICT enabled processes to provide incentives for local ICT enterprises. Instead of empty slogans and the vague promotion of ICT, deliberate promotion of ICT creativity rather than consumption is the road to take.
What is the purpose of ICT in Nigeria? What is independence without purpose? Or are the country simply spending money and shooting in the dark? What values should ICT reflect? On what foundation is the ICT sector being built? And the question of sustainability is always there. ICT must go somewhere. We must reject the action of a barber's chair.
There must be purpose and direction if ICT will help in achieving national development objectives. No nation can perform at its best without concrete, well-thought-out and working ICT strategies.
The government had the foresight to develop and produce the Nigerian National ICT For Development (ICT4D) Strategic Action Plan through multi-stakeholder participation in June, 2008. However, the policy needs to be implemented to make a difference. It is not enough to spend money on ICT. It is not enough to have policies.
Without policy implementation and coordination the results are waste, duplication and ineffectiveness. In fact policies must be continually tried and tested to identify the best ways to drive development through ICT.
Through policy implementation, the government must provide consistent, clearer and purposeful leadership to guide the national ICT agenda. Since ICT is a priority for growth, establishing an enabling environment which supports development of ICT should be pursued more vigorously at all levels of government and ICT policies must be mainstreamed into national development programs (strategies, policies and implementation).
Way Forward - This generation must fulfill its mission
Independence is more than a ceremony. Independence means the economy must be in better shape and overall quality of life for all should be improved. ICT is more than consumption. It offers Nigeria freedom, independence - a way to leapfrog into the knowledge economy and the information society. The alternative is digital oppression. God forbid!
The challenges are enormous, and the sector is up against multiple obstacles in trying to achieve national objectives. A lot needs to be done for real independence. However, as Nigeria marks the 49th anniversary of its independence Nigerians must face the future of ICT in Nigeria with confidence, energy and enthusiasm. There is no point moaning and complaining. We always have a choice. We can accept things as they are or work on making things better.
ICT provides practical ways of diversifying the economy away from its overdependence on the capital-intensive oil sector. From the above it should be clear that Nigeria needs to leverage better on ICT to jump-start growth and development.
Real independence comes from widespread penetration of world class ICT. Research, awareness, local language content, ICT localization and human capacity development, entrepreneurship are keys to freedom for unlocking the future.
Individual initiatives in ICT are great. They show how enterprising the people of Nigeria are, despite weaknesses and hostility in the environment. Notwithstanding the wasted opportunities, Nigerians keep pushing and pressing. They channel their disgust and anger with the squander into self reliance efforts. Nigerians must continually embrace this "never-say-die" attitude that rejects analogue and digital slavery. However, the need for quality leadership has never been greater. Leadership comes with responsibility to society.
Beyond individual empowerment activities Nigerians must challenge leadership in all sectors and hold them accountable! "Is this your country or our country?" Enough is enough! Leadership is not about telling stories. It is the duty of Nigerians to ensure that leaders do not sleep on the job. Leadership must deliver. Otherwise what really is the point of leadership?
Strong and responsible leadership is required NOW to drive significant progress. We all have a role to play and leadership must play its part to ensure that ICT has the desired national impact.
True independence requires leadership that understands and appreciates the role of ICT. It is one that thinks and acts with sincerity and commitment to achieve overall growth and prosperity.
We must not be left behind. Independence is about a generation fulfilling its mission.
I wish the people and friends of Nigeria a happy anniversary and true independence. God bless the good people of Nigeria. God bless Nigeria.
Jide Awe is the Founder of Jidaw.com
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October 2, 2009
Akan Antia of Calabar, Cross River state, Nigeria says:
I thank for this detailed info. The problem however is with the leaders. Will they rise uo to their responsibilities. Thanks for the sensitization. God bless Nigeria. Amen.
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