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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

ICT agenda for politicians


Features of the week:

As the political terrain hits up, stakeholders are yearning for an Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-inspired agenda come 2007, reports REMMY NWEKE.

In a few months to come, Nigerians will be heading to the pools to elect another set of political office holders for the next four years, that is, till 2011.

Stakeholders in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector are of the opinion that it is high time political office seekers came up with what they called an ICT agenda for the nation.

Till date there is no known agenda based on ICT that is being propagated by the political class, except for the likes of Prof. Pat Utomi’s Restoration Group (RG) that has been canvassing for infrastructural investment to spur industrialization anchored on technology.

This, some industry observers said cannot be distanced from investment in ICT backbone, of which Prof. Utomi is conversant with as a renowned teacher, entrepreneur and social engineer.

Power supply and ICT
For the General Manager, VGC Communications Limited, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, emphasis should be on development of telecommunications infrastructure, principally in the rural areas and precisely on how to make access to the Internet available and affordable.

Mr. Adebayo also said that operators should be encouraged to provide services in the rural areas by availing them location dependent incentives, such as relief pioneer status and facilities that would make it attractive to deploy services to rural Nigeria.

“If Internet is made available in the rural areas, it would discourage rural urban migration, as well as emphasis on providing equal level of services in rural areas as it obtains in the urban centres,” he said.

Government, the VGC boss said, could sponsor Internet services in rural schools both at the primary and secondary levels, stressing also that government should provide internet services in community centres.

This, he noted would encourage electronic learning (eLearning) and discourage people from coming to overstretch the facilities in the already crowded cities.

As said by him, joint efforts should be made to provide steady electricity supply, insisting that as long as there is no regular power supply no matter what effort is made in providing ICT facilities in rural areas, “non-steady power supply challenges will continue to pose a setback for ICT development in rural Nigeria.”

He further advised that there should be no mid-term solution to it, but rather long term solution, saying “Power supply and ICT development should be taken side by side, because, ICT development depends on steady power supply.”

Employment through ICT
President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) and chief executive, PiNet Informatics Limited, Mr. Lanre Ajayi, solicited focus on people with the belief that every politician should see people as the fulcrum of their activities before setting a political agenda.

“I will like to observe that the critical demand of the people today is employment, especially for the young ones. One can also observe that ICT presents a tremendous opportunity for creating jobs for our teeming population,” he said.

He empirical said that it is not difficult to conclude that political agenda in the next dispensation should focus on how to make ICT a platform for creating jobs.

And in doing this, “we should be looking at making Nigeria an attractive location for business process outsourcing, so that our young graduates can benefit from the billions of outsourcing opportunities around the world,” he asserted.

Mr. Ajayi also said, government needs to create an enabling environment by not hitting up the system with political allegations and vendetta.

Equally the populace should be empowered so as to increase their capacity of being self-reliant through partnership with the private sector and civil societies.

He cited an instance of an initiative in which the government must show interest like in the NIG’s Internet-for-Jobs (I4J) project.

Aspirants
As the campaign for 2007 general election hoots up, professionals should adhere to the calls by concerned professionals recently that specialists should embrace politics in order to change the tide of the game previously known as ‘dirty game’.

Also as postulated by an industry analyst, one cannot stay in doors and be complaining of dirt in his vicinity and until the dirt is cleaned properly, it cannot be said to have been cleaned.

Put more succinctly, if professionals such as software developers perform marvelously without equivalent enabling law, which in this democratic dispensation depends on legislators for instance; to be leverage upon and make money for the country and themselves, developers’ efforts would be in vain.

Therefore, the onus is now on the nation’s ICT stakeholders to make out time for politics to bring the expected change that would benefit both the industry and the nation at large.

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