" ITREALMS: NCS should engage IT pros in diaspora – Ogunneye

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

NCS should engage IT pros in diaspora – Ogunneye

Managing Director of Data Sciences Nigeria Limited, Alhaji Ladi Moshood Ogunneye, is a founding member of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), and the immediate past president of the society. He speaks to Senior Reporter, REMMY NWEKE, on a number of issues in the Information Technology (IT) industry.

Please review the industry for us since you left office as the President of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), about two years ago.

Thank you. We want to say that the Information Technology (IT) community has been moving on very well. There have been good emphases on software, not even from us in the private sector but also from the government. So, we now begin to see the collaboration between the society and government. And there are also other parties that are just coming in now and they all have been doing very well. We all now seem to be heading in the same direction.

But since you left office, has NCS been living up to your expectation?

In fact, let me say one thing about NCS. NCS has formed a long tradition of good continuity and good support of the past presidents. So, whatever that has been before I came, means that when I was there, I got the support of the past presidents. This is because we usually build on what was on the ground and in the same way, the present executive is tapping from the past presidents, including myself. Hence what you see at NCS today was what was on before. NCS can only move forward because there is this continuity and collaboration.

Then, what of the environment, would you say it is getting better or worse?

No doubt, whatever is the environment then, whether better or worse would never be the same now. But for now, it is better, because we now have a ceertain level or semblance of peace and mutual understanding or cooporation between us and the quasi-government institutions, which are really having the same concern like some of us in the private sector. I would say that the tune of collaboration now, is more meaningful.

What is your perception of government policies for the industry as of today?

Of course, if we are to assess by what is their action, and now talking about their action you would see today that the president of our country has come out in support of the software industry to grow. We have seen some input in our hardware area in, that one, two, three of our colleagues in the hardware industry and producing computers specifically. They have thrown the challenge to the industry to come up with the same kind of enthusiasm in the software industry. You can now see that this tallies with the objective of NCS, who had close to 10 years, said that Nigerians should go in the area of software and start software exhibition. So government’s position now is in tandem with that kind of thinking and we are very happy about that.

Nigeria can only be the beneficiary of such two endeavours that are merging; I am talking about the private sector and the government; government putting software in line with what the society is doing.
Tell us about Data Sciences’ involvement, especially in the area of hardware?

You probably know that Data Sciences Nigeria Limited is the first indigenous computer company in the country. We are into hardware vendoring, software and have been in the forefront of IT crusade in the country. If you look at the Nigeria Computer Society for example, Data Sciences has played a major role in getting it to where it is today and in the growth of that society over the years.

With all sense of humility, we have two past presidents of that society emerging from Data Sciences, so we have been quite supportive of the society and strong player too from the IT community.

With regards to Data Sciences, you know, IT is evolving on a daily basis and the good all days, traditional branded computer dealership is beginning to wean and that is because most of those computers are yielding to the general purpose Personal Computer systems, we too are trying to work around the changing market and at the same time trying to sustain our market share in the industry.

Then, what is your company’s relationship with UNITEC?
Data Sciences is one of the consortium that set up UNITEC, so we are one of the shareholders in the consortium.

How far has this translated to the growth of UNITEC?

UNITEC is one of the companies that are producing computers locally. Data Sciences and some other companies; IMS, Informatics, Microproducts, Chams, just to mention a few members of the consortium. So we are the companies that set up UNITEC. Like I told you earlier, the general purpose computing is evolving and for it to meet relevant niche in the market place and that is what UNITEC is trying to do now. I think the other computer producing companies are doing the same too.

Recently, there was a replacement for the late Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in the appointment of Prof. Cleopas Officer Angaye. First I would like to get your reaction on the appointment and then your expectations and advice for him?

One thing is that I think the position was advertised. Two, in the last few months, there have been some efforts at better understanding and better collaboration between NITDA, NCS and the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN). We expect him to continue that, mostly as a member of NCS personally.

So, what we wish him is to continue with the kind of collaboration that we have had in the last few months.

Looking back, you would realize we have not gotten the IT Act yet, I would like to know your position on this now? Don’t you think it’s affecting the industry on the way forward?

Yes, the IT bill we understand is still going through some reading at the National Assembly and I am not sure it was the same bill that was initially sent to the House at the inception of this administration and in the format that it is now.

The fact is that on the first bill, there was no consensus on whether that was the proper thing to be pushed. And when you don’t have a consensus of what would be good for every body, the pushing would not be easy and successful and from all sections.

What is there now, I believe, is that it’s being pushed by everybody and we are told it would soon become a signed bill,that is an Act. So we are hoping it would soon happen and we shall all get there faster when all efforts are going in the same direction. I think we are beginning to witness that now.

Being the immediate past president of NCS, what would be your advice to the current executive of the society, as some of them were returned to their offices at the recent international conference of the society in Port Harcourt?

It is a fact that some where returned unopposed and some others elected unopposed and I think that was good especially for NCS which is the umbrella body of other interest groups. That is very good and it made the job of some of us who were adopted as electoral officers easier. (Laughs). I think that was good to have a consensus over a candidate.

With regards to advice for the current executive, you must not forget that the immediate past president of the society is also a member of the executive. That is number one and two, as the elder in the society, if I may say, most of our input would not be for show and they would be passed to the president and members. It would be in a more productive way and not playing to the gallery.

So, I would say the president is doing very well especially in the area of pushing software development and re-engaging with the Nigeria Information Technology Professionals in the Americas (NITPA) to create a window for all those products that we may produce locally, especially software, a window of exposing and selling them.

We are looking forward to more of such engagement with our colleagues in diaspora. For all the noise we have been making for Nigeria would not only be for Nigerians, but for the world and I believe that we have the capability and expertise to compete with the Indians and the world generally.

And for us to achieve that, we need all our colleagues in diaspora, not only in the United States (US). Although the US organ is very active, but we should now look at other areas like United Kingdom (UK) and Europe generally, so that whatever the capability we have would be opened to the rest of the world.

At Port Harcourt few weeks ago, Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Turner Isoun, challenged NCS on the capacity building in the area of biotechnology and how do you think the private sector would collaborate with the government to achieve this?

Now, most of the jobs that needed to be done, have to be done by the government in a way, it is not just glamour projects. But projects that are endearing and that would take time for them to yield fruits.

For instance, some 50 years ago, India started the process of building their country graduates in the sciences as much as possible. It is the fruit of such endeavour that now made it easy for India to now tap into IT in such a big way as they are doing.

So, Nigeria need to put emphasize on science education, IT education as much as possible. Even if it is only the five per cent of those who are trained that emerged to be players in IT, they will be just enough to carry the country along.

Then, we need to go into putting emphases on science education, IT education from primary school level to secondary and not even to talk about the universities. But as it is now, we don’t see that happening. Of course, at the level of the society, that is NCS, we are at the level of dealing with our members who are already graduates. So, somebody needs to do all that before becoming a graduate or creating more graduates in IT. That is the job of the government.

Of course, we do advise and do some accreditations to the universities, the polytechnics and all that. We helped with the syllabus for secondary schools and will do same for primary. Those areas we can help but for the actual job of making it happen, to make it possible for us to have IT education, science education in secondary schools, primary schools and universities, especially it has to be done by the government and in a very big way too.

It is that major job of educating that would make the job of having a few of them coming out to become skillful experts.
The brains are there for Nigerians, no doubt about that because they excel abroad. The country is even a big country, therefore, a big market for whatever we may produce. So the earlier we get into that, the earlier we begin to import less, and export more.

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