Incubation Centres as Boost to Local Software Development

14 Mar 2013

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Omobola Johnson

The recent inauguration of the governing board on technology incubation, is one step that will address the many challenges of local software development in the country, writes Emma Okonji

The Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, penultimate week in Abuja, inaugurated a 10-man governing board of the national information and communications technology (ICT) incubation programme, and charged its members to oversee the functions of the planned incubation centres for the country, in order to ensure its resounding success.

The members include Adedotun Suleiman of Arian Capital; Pius Okigbo Jnr of Infosoft; Osayi Alile Oruene of Fate Foundation; John Obaro of SystemSpecs; Teemu Kiijarvi of Nokia; Wiebe Boer of Tony Elumelu Foundation; Juliet Anammah of Accenture; Mohammed Balarabe of Fidelity Bank; Vincent Olatunji of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA); and Aristotle Onumo, also of NITDA.
Apart from the careful selection of its members, which has good

representation of the industry stakeholders, the decision of government to establish a board that will drive technology incubation in the country, has been described by many as a right step in the right direction. They argued that the motive would boost local software development, which they said, had over the years, been relegated to the background by Nigerians who considered foreign software as superior to locally developed software from Nigeria.

Strategic Roles
Members of the board are required to provide overall strategic support and leadership to the National ICT Incubation Programme, commission and evaluate the strategic plans and key performance indicators at the national and individual incubation centre level, guide the establishment of the centres and provide management oversight functions. They are also expected to approve policies and procedures including tenant admission and tenant exit processes, select and recruit management staff for the incubation centres and review performance of management staff.

The governing board is also expected to review and approve incubate selection criteria and process developed by the incubator’s local management, support and assist incubator business managers in creating links to local and international investment and professional resources that support the success of the centres and ensure the overall financial viability of the incubation centres, including seeking external funding and financial assistance, evaluation of annual operating budget, approval of major capital expenditures and equity investments, among others.

About Incubation Centres
The incubation programme, which is an initiative of the ministry of communications technology, is tagged ‘Information Technology Developer Entrepreneurship Accelerator’ (IDEA), and has a mission to support Nigerian ICT entrepreneurs to create successful businesses that will have global impact.

The programme will offer support to promising ICT entrepreneurs through ICT incubation centres that will be established in a selected number of cities with the first two located in Tinapa, Cross River State and Lagos State.
The minister disclosed at the inauguration that while the centres would be initially established and funded by government through the National Information Technology Development Fund (NITDEVF), they will subsequently be funded and managed independent of government through a special purpose vehicle under the guidance and supervision of the governing board.

Stakeholders’ Support
Most industry stakeholders, that expressed their views on government’s move to establish a governing board for technology incubation, told THISDAY they were pleased with the initiative. They believed that the move would boost local software development in the country, and also help developers to understand new technologies in developing software that will meet local and international standards.

Product Manager, Notebooks and PCs at Samsung Nigeria, Mr. Chima Ezenwanne, told THISDAY that people had always associated Samsung with mobile phone devices, but he explained that Samsung had since diversified into the production of hardware devices like laptops, notebooks and personal computers (PCs).
According to him, “The initiative of the Federal Government to drive software development through the planned incubation centres must be commended. As hardware manufacturer, we also need the software that will drive hardware, and since we operate in the Nigerian market and other African markets, it will be good for us to have local software that could be incorporated into our hardware, to offer the Nigerian experience in technology innovation.”

He explained that the only way to achieve it was to have Nigerians develop standard and widely acceptable software. He insisted that that Nigerians could do it, adding  that they however needed to acquire requisite skills from learning centres like the planned software incubation centres.
“What makes a PC device to perform at its best is the software that is running on it. At Samsung, we encourage indigenous software of international standard that could run on our devices as well. The reason is that we operate in the Nigerian market, and we will be glad to get indigenous software that could address local challenges, as this will boost our customer experience.” Ezenwanne said.

Another stakeholder that is prominent in hardware manufacturing, with a little investment in software development, is the Zinox Group of Companies, makers of Zinox Computers. Its Chairman, Leo-Stan Ekeh who also commended government for the software incubation initiative, told THISDAY that it was not sufficient for government to incubate Nigerians in technology applications development like the software development, without empowering the larger group of Nigerians that would drive software development in the country. Ekeh was of the view that government should begin to subsidise computer ownership among students of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions across the country.

According to him, “If  the government should subsidise laptops for students, the multiplying effect will be amazing because these students need the laptops to carry out researches, and develop applications that will address basic challenges in the country.”

He said it would pay government and the country more if laptops were subsidised than training people on software development, when they cannot afford to buy a laptop to practice after the training.
“By subsidising laptops from primary to tertiary students, government will contribute immensely to educational development in the country, and people who need them will make better use of them,” Ekeh said.

He explained that should government invest N100 billion on student laptops subsidy, it would create triple effect turnover in terms of naira for the Nigerian economy.

It has been the practice of Nigerians to patronise foreign software, in the midst of local software that could perform at the same level, leading to neglect of local software developed in the country. But with the intervention of the Federal Government to train Nigerians at different technology incubation centres planned for the country, Nigeria may begin to produce software developers that will produce local software that will meet international standards. If this is achieved, the old culture of clinging tight to foreign software may soon begin to lose its grip.

Tags: Business, Nigeria, Featured, Incubation Centres, Local Software Development

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