In order to encourage patronage of locally developed products in the Information Technology (IT) sector, the federal government has been advised to enforce the local content policy in the IT.
The Managing Director of Beta Computers, manufactures of SPEEDSTAR computers, Mr. Will Anyaegbunam, who gave the advice last week in Lagos when the acting Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Vincent Olatunji and his team paid a courtesy visit to the company’s assembling plant in Lagos, noted that Nigeria would continue to be a consuming nation in the 21st century knowledge economy, if adequate steps were not taken to encourage local manufacturers.
According to him, “Nigeria quest to use IT to significantly increase her GDP in these days of dwindling oil revenues may not be achieved in the nearest future if the federal government does not take urgent steps to ensure compliance of local content policy in IT, among government agencies.” He said although the policy for government agencies to patronise locally assembled computers has been in existence for several years, implementation had always been an issue as government agencies still prefer to patronise foreign brand of computers to the detriment of the locally assembled ones.
Anyaegbunam stressed that local PC assemblers needed to be encouraged and supported by the government so that they can increase their capacity and generate employment in the whole value chain of PC manufacture, up to content development and customer support.
The visit of NITDA was part of the renewed engagement process of the government to re-connect with the stakeholders in the Nigerian information technology ecosystem, designed to grow the digital economy.
The initiative to support local manufacturers of computers started in 2002 when the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, through the office of the secretary of the government, issued a circular dated 7th of March, 2002, to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government that only locally manufactured computers, certified to be of acceptable quality standard should be patronised by all federal establishments.
The directive was followed up during the last government with the establishment of the Office for Nigerian Content in Information Technology (ONC), to drive the process deeper and to ensure increased implementation, monitoring and compliance.
Explaining how Beta Computers has been assembling SPEEDSTAR PCs, years before government started recognising local hardware, Anyaegbunam said, “Government cannot be developing local capacity and be using foreign brands in their offices. We need to be enabled and supported to make Nigeria a hub of PC manufacturing in the West African sub region and capable of generating significant foreign exchange earnings for the country.”
According to him, “NITDA is a development agency. The local content policy has been there but monitoring and implementation remain the issue. If Nigerian PC manufacturers were not developing, I am sure that
NITDA would feel that its mandate as a development agency was not realised.”
No local PC assemblers in the country can claim enough patronage from the government. Lack of government patronage is killing local capacity. I do not see the reason why government agencies should be using foreign brands in the office. It amounts to gross violation of her own policy on local content in IT.
While commending Olatunji for supporting the formation of Certified Computer Manufacturers of Nigeria (CCMON), he said the group would look forward to the Office of the Nigerian Content on IT, for a more robust implementation of its policies.
He said Beta Computers assembling plant has the capacity to assemble no fewer than 200 PCs per day, adding that computer assembling company has a renewed expectation from NITDA.
In his remarks, Olatunji assured local PC assemblers of government’s commitment to support and grow local capacity in IT.
“We are here to reconnect with the stakeholders. It is a multi-stakeholders approach. We are here to see what you are doing, hear from you and see how best we can work together to grow the sector.” He assured Beta Computers that government is already putting in place, structures that will make IT work in the country. “I have told our management team during our meeting that nobody should bring foreign PCs brands to the office again. I have written a letter to the Vice President on why government should not buy foreign brands. I am discussing with the government on this. We will build local capacity to position Nigeria as the hub of IT in Africa,” Olatunji said.
As a way of growing the Nigerian IT sector, he said NITDA would use the GITEX trade exhibition coming up in Dubai next month to tell the Nigerian story to the world by showcasing home grown IT products.