By John Adebisi – Internet Constituency.
Nigeria, like most developing nations around the world, has come to recognise the importance of information and communication technology, ICT, as catalyst for sustainable socio-economic development. This recognition is well captured in the National Development Plan – Nigeria’s Vision 20:2020. This is the way to go!
However, Nigeria is not going to get the full potential benefit of ICT until we change our ways. Although there are mobile communication devices to suit every pocket nowadays, the tariffs being charged by the telecoms operators are still on the high side. And what’s more, the poor quality of service remains a thorn in our flesh. They told us to talk the talk and now we’re talking everywhere we go. But if we must talk and talk we should at least get value for our money. We are tired of carrying two or three mobile phones as if that’s the way to glow with pride.
At the inception of the biometric voter registration, they boasted it would not be possible for one person to register more than once. Hardly had the exercise started than people realised there wasn’t anything in place to prevent multiple registration. Independent National Electoral Commission later told us they would clean up and remove all duplicates! There is fake biometric registration everywhere, and wild claims of uncovering ghost pensioners and thousands of ghost workers even when we fail to unmask those who enjoy ghost benefits!
The government recently launched the issuance of the long awaited electronic National Identity, e-ID, card scheme by the National Identity Management Commission. We hope they get it right this time around.
We are a people who hate change. Ironically, Nigerians actually like change that suits their personal interests. They can’t wait to own the latest electronic gadgets but electronic voting can wait forever! On this side of the digital divide, whatever would help promote the transparency and efficiency of government institutions and processes hardly stands a chance.
Conventional wisdom has it that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore, there is need to align the public sector with the private sector to allow for a smooth transition to a vibrant digital economy. As of today, most ministries, departments and agencies do not have working ICT structure. As one of its strategies for success, the ICT ministry ought to push for the creation of ICT Department in every government ministry and agency. This would help provide an interface necessary for effective implementation of policies aimed at maximising the potential of ICT for national development.
Similarly, the dearth of IT experts in our public institutions does not help matters. This has created a vacuum currently being filled by non-IT personnel, and exploited by private business partners alike, resulting in misplaced priorities, poor value-for-money solutions and service delivery. Again, to address this problem, we urge the ICT ministry to liaise with relevant organs of government to create appropriate cadres and right incentives to attract and retain IT professionals in the civil service.
Nigeria needs to leverage its investment in ICT to gain a significant competitive advantage in the rapidly changing global economy. As a way forward, government should provide security; expand national infrastructure such as power and broadband; encourage private sector investment in the ICT industry; deploy and ensure full utilization of ICT infrastructure on all fronts – education, health, agriculture, oil and gas among others.
If we are serious about becoming one of the world’s leading economies in this age then ICT should not be seen as a “nice to have” asset, it must be embraced as a sine qua non for transforming Nigeria into a knowledge economy.
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