Features of the week:
First edition of the Financial Internet Technology (FINTEX-05) ended in Lagos, recently with eulogies for the organisers, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), reports REMMY NWEKE.
IN April this year, when the first-ever Financial Internet Technology Expo (FINTEX-05) was shifted to August, skeptics were doubtful over the seriousness of the event, but the leadership of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), organisers of the event, led by Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, went back to the drawing board to restrategise.
NIG, a non-profit organisation was founded in March 1995 and dedicated to fostering growth of the Internet community in the country. Its membership is open cutting across all those interested in the growth of Internet technology, irrespective of educational background and current field of employment.
This includes the academia, non-governmental organizations, government parastatals, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), private organizations and individuals.
FINTEX-05, an annual conference and exhibition organized by NIG with this year’s theme as “Mainstreaming IT in Banking and Finance,” was initially scheduled to hold from April 28-29 and later shifted to August 8 and 9.
The reason given then by NIG was to offer exhibitors value for their money, and due to collision of the event date with others within the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry, of which over five different events took place within the slated two days chosen for FINTEX-05 both in Lagos and Abuja. Held at the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) Center Onikan-Lagos, FINTEX-05 attracted ministers and high-profile professional participation.
According to Dr. Ekuwem, NIG as an advocate of best practices in the ICT service delivery endeavours to elevate the nation to an enviable height in the use of Internet and other ICT tools, which would boost productivity in every sector of the economy. Pointing out that efficiency starts by knowing what to do and doing it right at the right time.
“With FINTEX-05 as conceptualized, NIG seeks to provide an enduring legacy by assembling those who are professionals in different ICT sub-disciplines with evolving practical experiences to do it right and share expertise with others,” he asserted, stressing, it tends toward enhancing productivity and sustainable economic development.
”It is expected that at the end of the day, both the government and the organized private sector (OPS) would have learnt how to deploy Internet and other ICT tools appropriately,” he said, in addition to exhibition of financial hi-tech solutions by manufacturers, vendors, software engineers, finance automation system integrators, cyber security providers, data center/warehousing service providers, ISPs, telecom operators, banks, insurance companies among others.
With the sponsorship line-up including Zenith International Bank Plc, Oceanic Bank Plc, Equity Bank and Teledom Group, the event came to a close on Tuesday, August 9, a success according to Dr. Ekuwem, who also is the Executive Vice Chairman, Teledom Group.
Welcoming participants to the event, Prof. Pat Utomi of the Lagos Business School/Pan African University, who presided the expo opening ceremony lauded NIG for coming up with FINTEX and charged participants to explore ICT for the benefit of the sector and the nation in general.
List of exhibitors included all core sponsors, IGI, ipNX Ltd, Mweb Nigeria, Omatek Limited, Chams Limited, Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), Maxgate, DOPC Ltd, Progenics Ltd, Naira.com, Entegration Solutions Limited, Intercellular, BT Ltd, Linkserve, Nigeria Online limited and General Telecoms.
This came as over 20 presentations were made at the occasion led by the chief executive of Oceanic Bank Plc, Dr. (Mrs) Cecilia Ibru, who delivered a special address tagged, The ICT platform for effective bank mergers. She said that for an effective bank mergers to take place, ICT must support post-consolidation, currently on-going in the nation’s evolving banking and finance industry.
Mrs. Ibru also said that ICT must be adequate to support future operations of the banking sector, despite accommodation of current platform, emphasising that it would engender transparency, which translates to better business practices as well as better dividends for the shareholders.
Pointing out that for this to occur, there must also be strategic focus by relevant banks which she recognised, varies, but involves computing and communications facilities, equipment and infrastructure.
Automated work load, she said, is the ultimate in banking sector, noting that in effective integration, there must be two steps to be taken, which include identifying appropriate hardware and security features which could be in-built, even as organisations must ensure availability of skills to support the application locally, while business focus of the application adopted must be examined to the extent of its retail, investment and trade finance and so on.
Director-General (DG), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Prof. Cleopas Officer Angaye, in his address lamented non-patronage of locally developed software by the nation’s banking and finance industry as well as lack of facilities to support developers in sustaining initiatives.
The DG, noted that NIG has positioned itself as the foremost NGO involved in Internet development and penetration in the country. Therefore, whenever the nation’s internet history is written, it would be incomplete without NIG.
He noted that issues concerning software, hardware, and infrastructure, network security and cyber crime, electronic payment (e-payment) solutions and regulatory frameworks outlined for the two-day conference, could not be richer at any other time in the history of the nation as the bank’s consolidation and recapitalisation as directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
He described the selection of the finance sector as the main focus, as a “wise choice indeed” declaring that banks are to electronic commerce (e-commerce) what the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) is to university education in the country.
“As far as I can recall, FINTEX is the first main attempt by stakeholders to comprehensively discuss IT in the finance industry, even though the industry blazed the trail of Internet technology in business many years ago,” NITDA boss represented by the Head, Corporate Affairs, Mr. Inye Kemabonta, asserted. Highlighting, “There is a great deal of indigenous expertise and potential, which the finance industry needs to begin to develop and take advantage of”.
Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Turner Isoun, who was represented by DG, NITDA, Prof. Angaye, tasked participants to realise that as the migration of business operations and processes to the online and electronic environment, is relevant to ensure that not only are online contracts enforceable.
“But also that the processes and critical infrastructure are secure, or that redress and remedy are available in the cases of breach and misuse,” he said, disclosing, it was for this reason the federal government instituted the Nigerian Cyber-Security Initiative (NCI), being implemented under the auspices of the Nigerian Cybercrime Working Group (NCWG).
The most remarkable aspect of the event according to industry watchers was the indication that the IT umbrella body, Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), expressed interest on partnering with NIG on subsequent editions of FINTEX-05, given its potential values to the industry and growth of the nation’s economy.
This indication was given by the first vice president, NCS, Chief Anthony Olaide Ayodele of Labyet Polaris Ltd, in a goodwill message presented on behalf of NCS President, Dr. Chris Nwannenna, among other eulogies to the organisers for the programme.
He said, NCS would be glad to partner with NIG on subsequent editions of FINTEX, considering its focus which is leveraging on development and exploration of ICT specifically for the good of banking and financial sector.
The proposal received thunderous applause from participants at the event, which the NCS boss said, was a signal that this kind of collaboration has been long expected by the stakeholders.
In his opening message to welcome participants, NIG President, Dr. Ekuwem said FINTEX has been positioned as a forum that promises to provide answers to the applications of ICT in the financial sector of the nation’s economy and that the group pioneered the expo as a leapfrogging platform to boost productivity in institutions within the sector.
Excited Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, while evaluating the event, said the two-day expo recorded great success in terms of participation and calibre of personalities that graced the expo.
In relation to this, he said, FINTEX-05 attracted two ministers, Prof. Turner Isoun of Science and Technology and Chief Cornelius Adebayo of Communications, despite their being represented by high profile directors from the ministries.
He also said, this was no mean achievement for an event that just made its debut, even at the kind of experts drawn from professional bodies within the ICT community is definitely not a small feat either.
Industry analysts, therefore, lauded FINTEX-05 for becoming a propelling force for the banking sector growth based on Information Technology.