By Emma Okonji and Nosa Alekhuogie
Following the unprecedented crowd that besieged the offices of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and other registration centres nationwide to enrol for their National Identification Numbers (NINs), a technology expert has said that Nigeria needs a standard Internet Protocol (IP) address system to help decongest crowd during NIN enrolment.
Chairman of Mobile Software Solutions and former President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Mr. Chris Uwaje, who spoke yesterday on The Morning Show, a breakfast programme on ARISE NEWS Channels, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, blamed the federal government for the congested crowd.
He said the government has failed to carry along technology experts in its approach to national issues involving the deployment of technology.
According to him, Nigeria should develop an indigenous biometric IP, and use it to generate temporary registration, where people’s information could be used for registration and within few minutes the registration is done without the issuance of NIN on the spot.
He added that the NIN could be issued after some weeks when the registration is completed online.
“People can send their basic information to NIMC or any licensed agents, using their smartphones, without physically being present at enrolment centres. With this arrangement, people do not need to wait in any enrolment centre and there will be no stamped,” Uwaje said.
NIMC is the government agency responsible for the registration and issuance of NIN slips and national identity cards, but the challenge with NIMC, which is already affecting the ease of NIN enrolment, according to Uwaje, “is that NIMC does not own the biometric Internet Protocol (IP) that it uses for enrolment. The biometric IPs that NIMC is currently using are foreign based IPs, and this is wrong because NIMC could be sabotaged anytime because it is using foreign-based biometric IPs, more so that biometric IPs are of security concerns with security implications.”
Nigeria has over 15 digital hubs and they could come together to develop biometric IPs for NIN enrolment, but because government is working in silos and has refused to work with indigenous technology experts in the country, government has so much depended on foreign solutions to address local solutions, which of course poses national security risks for the country, Uwaje added.
“We have the smartphones and the feature phones in Nigeria and feature phone, which is also dominant in Nigeria, has its limitations and cannot be used to enrol and access NIN, unlike the smartphones that have several features and can be used for NIN enrolment,” Uwaje said.
Addressing the issue of using technology to stop the spread of COVID-19, Uwaje said government must explore the triangle connection between government, academia and the technology industry to assist the government in combating the COVId-19 pandemic.
“If Nigeria wants to get it right, just like other countries are doing, government needs to engage technocrats and invest in research that will bring solution to the pandemic. Government should begin to fund various researches for COVID-19 cure as well as fund communication and digital awareness to make Nigerians more conscious about the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
“Government should collaborate with the media to shape the attitudinal behaviour of Nigerians, who still do not believe that the virus is still living with us. The media is a good channel to broadcast information on the health risks surrounding COVID-19 and the media should have access to infected persons and be allowed to broadcast images of affected persons in order to instill fear and discipline in Nigerians who do not still believe in the virus. This is true because images that are broadcast by the media can tell thousands of stories across the country. Therefore we need more digital sensitisation of the people on the part of government,” Uwaje said.
He expressed concern that while the global community is talking about vaccines to fight the pandemic, Nigeria is yet to make any commitment about COVID-19 vaccines because there had been no research on COVId-19 that is funded by government.
“The future of work, education, lifestyle and learning has changed because of the new normal brought about by Coronavirus. We therefore need new ways that are driven by technology to adapt to the new normal.
“To achieve this, the technology industry needs soft loans from government to fund researches and local content development. The technology industry needs emerging technologies like Internet of Things (IoTs), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Realities (AR), among others, to drive the process of technology researches that will bring new solutions to address our challenges,” Uwaje added.