Imperative of Promoting Local Content

0
Edith Udeagu
Executive Secretary, Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), Mrs. Edith Udeagu

The need to encourage the consumption of local information and communications technology goods and services in the public and private sector, has become imperative to boost Nigeria’s economy, writes Emma Okonji

From all indications, Nigerians are yet to grasp the full advantage of several government policies that were put in place to encourage local content patronage in products and services emanating from the information and communications technology (ICT) sector of the Nigerian economy. The reason for this has been traced to lack of implementation of such policies, even though they exist.

From the federal government policy paper on patronage of local software, to the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act 2010, and recently, the Executive Orders 003 and 005, the federal government was able to raise the hopes of Nigerians that government was ready to promote local content development as a means of creating jobs and boosting the Nigerian economy. But the impact has not been felt among Nigerians because of lack of implementation of the policies and Acts, thus leading to job loss and capital flight.

In the oil and gas sector, for instance, local jobs, which Nigerians can handle, are given away to foreigners, who still use Nigerians to get such jobs done, and at the end of the job, money is repatriated from Nigeria to foreign lands to develop foreign economies.

In the consumption of ICT goods and services, multinational companies operating in Nigeria, prefer to patronise foreign software products and services to the detriment of locally developed software. Such multinationals are in the habit of blaming the situation on local skills gap and low quality of local ICT products and services, a situation that calls for re-assessment of the Nigerian policies in ICT products and services and the need for government and the private sector to train quality technology start-ups that could fill the skills gap and at the same time, develop local products that could stand the test of time and become globally competitive.

Position of ICTLOCA

Worried about the local content development in ICT, especially in the oil and gas sector, the Association of Information Communication Technology Local Content (ICTLOCA), last week, organised an ICT Community Roundtable in Lagos, where it discussed the challenges of local content in ICT and proffered solutions through a 16-Point Communique it presented at the end of conference.

Stakeholders that were present at the conference called on the federal government to encourage the consumption of local ICT goods and services in the public and private sector, in line with the NOGICD Act 2010. The stakeholders frowned at the situation where jobs in the oil and gas sector are given to expatriates instead of Nigerians, as recommended by the NOGICD Act 2010.

The Act was enacted with the aim of providing for the development of indigenous content in the Nigerian oil and gas industry by ensuring that priorities are given to indigenous companies. Section 12 of the Act stated that Nigerians are to be given first consideration for the provisions of goods and services in the sector, but industry stakeholders are worried that local content in ICT goods and services are not being implemented in the oil and gas sector of the Nigerian economy and have called on the federal government to make haste in promoting the Nigerian local content in oil and gas.

In her keynote address, the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), Mrs. Edith Udeagu, said the NOGICD Act, in recognising the importance of ICT to the Oil and Gas sector, specifically in section 58 of the Act, mandated the Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to set up Nigerian Content Consultative Forum (NCCF) in ICT to provide platform for information sharing and collaboration in the oil and gas industry.

Udeagu, also explained that the Executive Order 003 of the federal government mandated specifically all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government to grant preference to local manufacturers of goods and service providers in their procurement processes for a number of items including food and beverages, motor vehicles, ICT products, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, furniture and fittings, among others.

“The significance of the Executive Order is that preference would be given to locally manufactured ICT goods and services. It stated categorically that henceforth, 40 per cent of all ICT goods and services consumed by all MDA must be provided by Nigerian IT firms. As at today, not up to 40 per cent patronage of local ICT goods and services consumed by MDAs in Nigeria, has been achieved,” Udeagu said.

President, ICTLOCA, Mr. Adewale Akingbade, who was represented by the Vice President, Mrs. Busayo Balogun, said the body had the mandate to ensure that all laws and policies of government are put in place to promote local content in ICT in the oil and gas sector of the Nigerian economy. But he called for collaboration with industry stakeholders to ensure full implementation of local content policies in the oil and gas sector.

Secretary, ICTLOCA, Mr. Adebunmi Akinbo, said with the signing of the Executive Order 005 by the federal government, ICTLOCA has moved into the development and execution of the convergence of Executive Orders 3 and 5, to promote Local Content 4.0.

“The wealth of Executive Orders and Acts is the basic key to creating a strong foundation to build our advocacy, promote and protect the relevant creators, developers, entrepreneurs and business within the ICT Ecosystem,” Akinbo said.

“The Local Content 4.0 is designed to be a convergence of all stakeholders, professionals and artisans in the ICT industry to come together to brainstorm on topical issues and chart a way forward for effective implementation of Executive Orders on Local Content, Local Content Laws and highlight challenges faced by ICT,” he added.

Communique on local content

In the communique issued at the end of the event, the forum advised government to encourage deliberate consumption of local ICT goods and services in the public and private sector, according to the NOGICD Act 2010. It called on NCDMB to ensure that the websites of Nigerian Companies bidding for contracts must be hosted locally and that they use a .ng domain name. It also called on NCDMB to provide ICTLOCA access to Annual Nigerian Content Performance Report, relating to ICT contracts in the Oil and Gas industry and other relevant information that will assist the association.

The forum called on the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), to always certify local ICT software and certify local software vendors. It called for the enforcement and monitoring of local content laws and policies of government on the promotion of local content in ICT by relevant regulatory bodies.
In the communique, stakeholders called on government, to through the NCDMB, identify, support and fund young innovators in the ICT industry and implement intervention programmes to correct the identified skills/competence gap.

They called on NCDMB to support ICTLOCA’s efforts to ensure the patronage of local ICT goods and services. The stakeholders insisted that the certification of Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN), should be a sufficient requirement for the registration of ICT practitioners, while calling for collaborations between NCDMB and NCCF-ICT to increase awareness and sensitisation of practitioners in the ICT industry.

In the area of implementation and sanction on erring members, the stakeholders insisted that government through the relevant regulatory agencies should sanction all offenders of local content laws and policies. They also spoke of the need for NCDMB to organise relevant trainings and seminars for ICT practitioners to enlighten them on project tendering and ICT Jobs and service contract awards processes and implementation in the Oil and Gas sector.
They equally called for awareness creation and the participation of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and ICT practitioners in Nigeria to drive investment in local content.

Government’s position

Meanwhile, the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, has reiterated the commitment of the federal government to the implementation of the local content program and the Executive Order on local content. He said that the federal government and the private sector service providers have a critical role to play for the local content programme to succeed in Nigeria.

The minister stated that the government would provide guaranteed order and policies, and ensure those orders and policies are enforced to achieve the quality of products and services as well as their commensurate patronage by Nigerians.

“My ministry is totally committed to the implementation of the local content program and the Executive Order 005 on Local Content. Let me quickly add here that, local content does not mean excluding foreign participation in our economy, rather, it means concerted and collaborative efforts by all players to build a strong indigenous economy” Shittu said.

To achieve the goals of promoting the Nigerian local content, Shittu explained further that the “Win-Win” formula must play out so that the locally assembled computers must run on Microsoft Operating System (MOS) and Intel processors.

Shittu disclosed that patronage of Nigerian local content has soared during the current administration more than ever before, in the history of Nigeria, via the dynamic leadership of Director General of NITDA, Dr. Ibrahim Isa Pantami.

Fresh directives to MDAs

According to Shittu, the Ministry of Communications through NITDA will soon issue fresh directives to encourage MDAs of government to use emerging technologies and other platforms across boards. He said the fresh directives would charge MDAs to comply with the new guidelines in the procurement and utilisation of ICT infrastructure and services as issued by NITDA.

The minister added that the federal government shall continue to sponsor initiatives that would attract local and international investments into the country, to boost its economic growth in the technology sector.

Speaking at the forum, the Director General of NITDA, Dr. Ibrahim Isa Pantami, represented by Dr. Abdullahi Usman of the agency, said the agency has ensured compliance and enforcement of the guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in ICT, which was an issued in December 2013 and is currently being updated for more results.

According to him, the guidelines together with the Executive Orders 003 and 005 issued by the federal government for the promotion of local content in Nigeria, provide a fulcrum for the development of indigenous capacity in ICT sector.

“NITDA has ensured compliance with the guidelines through its Information Technology (IT) Clearance function where projects submitted to NITDA by MDAs, federal institutions, and its companies are assessed on compliance with local content as a primary criterion. Specific cases of the breach have resulted in criminal enforcement by the agency in partnership with other law enforcement agencies in Nigeria,” Pantami said.,

In his speech, the Director General, NOTAP, Dr. Danazumi Ibrahim, represented by Samuel Eneanya, said government policies of mandating foreign companies to train Nigerian engineers has helped at improving the Nigerian local content.