Yes, we have made some progress in the development of our software industry, but the truth is that there is still lots of ground to be covered and Government needs to take the lead by putting its house in order in terms of technology. The Government has to realise that the technology industry is not one that likes too much stories because, put simply, it grows and feeds on good investing, development of the relevant skills and nothing more. It is, therefore, time for the Government to take the bull by the horn and the rest of us in the technology industry in the country will gladly follow.
Remember the ordeal that System Specs faced in the hands of the Nigerian senate? No thanks to a few ignorant leaders, who were hell bent on frustrating their efforts rather than supporting them. The lame argument was, "what have they done to be earning such huge amount of money in commission?" Oh little do they know. If they seat down to analyse the amount of income currently being earned by multi-nationals and other international companies from this very economy, then, they will probably be proud that Nigerians are also innovating.
Come to think of it, do you think that the United Kingdom would be willing to use a solution developed by a Chinese company to power its strategic national infrastructure? Do you know that the Lagos State Government is one of the biggest customers of Oracle across Africa? Nothing is actually wrong with that, but the question is; for how long would we have to rely on foreign software companies alone? When will we start giving our local software companies here in Nigeria too, the opportunity to develop software for us in our country? Have we thought about the fact that a legal action internationally can actually cripple an aspect of our link to such international solutions? How about issues surrounding local data on international servers? These are germane posers that I think our Government at the Federal, States and Local Government levels should ponder upon as we progress on the handling of contracts having direct relations on our national database!
As someone with deep knowledge of the startup community in Nigeria, I perfectly understand the challenges one faces as a local software company trying to pitch your solution to any Government organisation, especially, if the company you are up against has some White or Caucasian partners. Sad, but true! It has always been, and continues to be a herculean task indeed, that only experience can describe.
China has a protectionist policy and they are ready to do whatever it will take to keep their own solutions in the majority. Ask Google what they faced when they moved to China and they will tell you. I am not saying that we should go the Chinese route, but I hate this trend of foreign solutions having an edge over our own home-grown solutions.
I grew up witnessing Taiwanese products being referred to as inferior, so I remember statements like, "it is Taiwan", that is, referring to the product as a not-too-good one. Today, all that has changed and that is because Taiwan keeps going at it, encouraging its people to continue to make improvements on past products. This example is not only exclusive to Taiwan. It is, in fact, the story of most of the Asian tigers.
The issue is that, if they did not believe in their own and kept using the solutions they developed, they would probably still be where we are in Nigeria today. The lesson for us as a people, and of course, our Government, is not to only consume what we produce but, to also protect ours and in the long run, push for exporting our own technology too!.
Sometimes, I get to ask myself; is it that Nigerians are not capable of delivering world-class, international products and services or can this simply be attributed to our unbridled desire for anything foreign? As for capability, I know that, Nigerians are even involved in the development of world-class technological products abroad.
The current administration has to show more seriousness and commitment to the growth of technology and all relevant stakeholders must rally round agencies like the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) while other relevant associations such as the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigerian must step up pressure and advocacy. In the meantime, please go on out there and support our own.