The software pandemic is here and eating up the future of Nigeria’s digital innovation and the ecosystem of wealth creation.
Conventional wisdom reveals that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is no longer a specific sector, but the foundation of all modern innovative economic systems. As we wrestle with the meandering challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic; it is important to note that, at the epicenter of global competitiveness and economic recovery, resides a deadlier pandemic.
That is, the proprietary software pandemic with the ability to perpetually enslave unprepared future nations with defenseless impunity! The freefall of the Naira in exchange of notable global currencies continues to present a fearsome threat to our national development; somersaulting the IT budget of private sector businesses, governments at Federal,State and Local Government levels to a point of strangulation.
How long can a nation survive with perpetual dependent on foreign software?
This and other vital questions were posted during the recent presentation of Software Vendors Policy Review by the National Office of Technology Promotion and Acquisition (NOTAP) to stakeholders. To a large extent, the concern of the endemic problem and deep-rooted challenges of proprietary foreign software to national development and security has now become a critical concern by government.
In the last six years, Dr. Ibrahim DanAzumi, the Director General of NOTAP has championed this noble cause. It is now time to mobilize the whole nation and Mr. President on a call for preemptive action.
Meanwhile, it is modest to acknowledge that the advent of information technology (IT) has exposed the hidden indigenous software core-competence of the nation to discover the right technology innovation strategy to engage the global competitiveness in knowledge Olympiad. Therefore, it is now time to advance a proactive National Software Policy and Strategic Framework as a matter of critical urgency. Open-Source Software provides a strategic response window and significant solution to mitigate the national software challenge.
Available records inform that indeed, Open-Source Software – to a great extent – represents the panacea to combat the Software Pandemic encapsulated in the arsenal of proprietary software service providers. Strategic implementation of Open-Source Software is vehemently capable of changing the narratives and experience of the national software challenge; with particular emphasis on government requirements.
Above all, it will reduce the total national software spend expenditure by about 60 per cent. For example, Lagos State of Nigeria in particular, expends a colossal sum of her total budget in acquiring and servicing her Database Software needs; creating a continual pressure on her well-visioned technology trajectory and sustainable development goals. Same can be said of other State Governments.
Through the engagement and deployment of Open-Source Software, the European Union has radically enhanced her IT development experience; with tremendous benefits to the art of Governance and citizenry. A study for the EU’s Commission’s Directorate-General for Informatics (DG DIGIT) shows that the open-source strategy is in line with the best practices from public services and private companies.
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It confirms that our strengthened policy on the use of open-source software is the norm nearly everywhere. The study’s high-level recommendations include emphasize the use and benefits of open source; create a dedicated open-source entity that fosters and measures strategy adoption; improve procurement and product-management processes; establish an open culture; collaborate with communities and the open-source software ecosystem; manage legal/licence/intellectual property rights issues and enhance and develop the technical infrastructure and services.
Furthermore, the Governing principles are based on the thoughts that the open-source strategy supports the Commission’s aims of radical transformation by simplifying and streamlining processes. Above all, it will help to make collaborative working methods the de facto standard for the Commission’s work internally and with others. Therefore, the EU strategy aims to make it possible for the Commission to share software using a process comparable to that for its documents.
In addition, the Commission believes that building a world-class public service Open source is about co-creation and building public services that connect seamlessly across organizational silos and borders.’
Collaborative software development methodology has demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubts that working together in co-creation model delivers best software functionality, value for money and sustainable benefits. Available records with high reliability show that Open Source projects, products and support services embrace principles of open exchange collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy and community-oriented development life cycle.
Also, Source Code is part of software that most computer users do not see; whereas, it is the vital code computer programmers can apply to change how a piece of software program or application works. Experience shows that programmers or developers who have access to a computer program’s source code can improve a given program by adding features to improve it or for fixing parts that do not always work.
In reverse, the Closed Source as Proprietary Software retains absolute control of the source code; keeping users perpetually dependent and enslaved to the solution and services. Developing countries have become endangered species to the Closed Source types of software.
The Federal Government of Nigeria, in recognition and appreciation of the above facts, established the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology; with its various parastatals and agencies to carry out such activities. The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) is one of these parastatals.
NOTAP’s mission and statutory mandates includes, but not limited to the following: Evaluation/Registration of Technology Transfer Agreements; Promotion of Intellectual Property; Technology Advisory and Support Services; Commercialization of R& D Results; Research Industry Linkage; Maintenance of a Compendium on R&D activities in the country; Production and Publication of Industrial Project Profiles on SMEs, etc.
With the advent of new challenges and opportunities in the sphere of emerging technologies and innovation; governed by the fact that ICT is no longer a specific sector, but the foundation of all modern innovative economic systems; the time for action is now for Software Nigeria. Due to its critical importance in accelerating the dividend of digital transformation; there is an urgent need to revisit the mandate and role of NOTAP in the National Development trajectory.
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This, amongst others, will require the reconditioning of NOTAP from her status of a parastatal to a transformational structure of a National Commission for Technology Acquisition and Promotion. Let’s call it NOTAP Commission.
The proposed Commission under the Presidency can become Nigeria’s Technology powerhouse and propel her to world-class software development and promotion prominence. Also, the new Commission will afford the nation to craft a progressive national software strategy and help generate software-centric investment and abundant wealth creation for the next generation by 2025. In closing, the pertinent question to ask is: How much more Software Pandemic trauma do we have to endure as a nation before the nation becomes an irrecoverable hostage and digital enslavement of Closed Source Proprietary Software?
Stop the careless politics of establishing Computer Science Faculties and Software Departments; that lures our IT graduates to jump into the shark-infested world oceans in search or job opportunities; as dishwashers and janitors across the world – due to the inexcusable ignorance of what software is and what it is NOT!
Life of a Nation is a Code.