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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Challenges before Olufuye @ ITAN

Features of the week:

The Information Technology (Industry) Association of Nigeria (ITAN) recently elected new executive members led by Chief Jimson Olufuye, to steer its ship in the next two years. REMMY NWEKE, outlines some challenges awaiting the leadership.

Fortnight ago, ITAN had its Annul General Meeting (AGM) cum one-day consultative forum on ‘Enhancing Information Technology (IT) Penetration in Nigeria (EITPiN 2007): Imperative for the success of PC instalmental payment schemes, ” in Lagos.

Welcoming participants to the forum which addressed the importance of IT in the nation’s life, the immediate past national president of ITAN, Chief Will Anyaegbunam of Beta Computers Limited, stressed that for a meaningful sustainable development, core IT diffusion is no longer debatable.

Chief Anyaegbunam also noted that this has become evident of late with an embrace by the banks through provision of facility for local Personal Computers (PCs) manufacturers to distribute computers nationwide, emphasizing that in the banking and telecoms sectors, all the laudable developments as well as products currently are made clearer through deployment of core IT.

While lauding participants for gracing the forum, Chief Anyaegbunam, pointed out that the challenge remains on how to drive the penetration of core IT through hardware deployment which is expected to give boost to massive use of PCs; at homes, offices, educational institutions, government and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).

“For us in ITAN, that represents the hardware sector of the ICT industry, this is a challenge that we’re determined to play a pivotal role in addressing as a successful combat of this will impact positively on the fortunes of our members and advance the growth and development of our dear country,” he said, adding that finance has always been a challenge to acquiring of PCs, hence the theme of the forum was described as very apt and timely.

What is ITAN?
ITAN was established in 1991 as Microcomputer Vendors Association of Nigeria (MiVAN) and five years later transformed into Computer Vendors Association of Nigeria (CoVAN), yet in year 2000, following what some stakeholders described as dynamics of its membership and growing larger Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), the group was further transformed into today’s ITAN.

Two years later, consequent upon the need to have a standardised umbrella body, ITAN was part of the formation of the now Nigeria Computer Society (NCS).

ITAN prides itself as having played pivotal role in the coming on stream of locally manufactured computer systems in the country, including Zinox, Omatek, Speedstar through NACASET; successful mitigation of the Millennium Bug 1999-2000 in association with the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology; drafting and adoption of the National IT Policy 2001, which paved the way for the establishment of the National IT Development Agency (NITDA), as well as reduction on Custom duty on IT components to zero from hitherto 32.1 per cent down to 5.35 per cent and finally zero.

Emergence of Jimson Olufuye’s presidency
Top of highlights at the AGM was the election of new executive members, which saw the immediate national first vice president of ITAN, Chief Jimson Olufuye, emerging as the new president of the group at its general election.

The chairman of ITAN electoral committee and chief executive of Innovative Systems Limited, Chief Ernest Aghanenu, pronounced Chief Olufuye, who is the chief executive of Kontemporary Komputers Limited, the winner.

According to the electoral committee, Chief Olufuye’s emergence was unopposed while the chief executive of Gafunk Computers, Mr. Ganiyu Alimi and Mrs. Bunmi Badru of Termex Limited equally became the first and second vice national president’s respectively.

Equally elected into the new executive of ITAN were Mr. Olu Joseph from Sephix Limited, Abuja as the National Publicity Secretary, Ms Akinyola Akinyemi of Omar Ventures, National Treasurer, Mr. Olumide Akinmutimu of Omatek Computers emerged the Assistant National Secretary, while the office of the National Secretary remain vacant, Mr. Tunji Balogun of Brain was elected as council member of ITAN.

In his acceptance speech, the newly elected president, Chief Olufuye traced his interest in the group to the visionary leadership of former ITAN president, Chief Chris Uwaje.

Chief Olufuye also promised to take ITAN to the next level of development, saying, “the next level would be to move ITAN from its hitherto position to its expected leadership position in the IT Industry.”

He recalled that ITAN was well known for aggressive but sound industry initiatives like the local production of Personal Computers (PC) initiative of 1996, that which resulted in the likes of Zinox, Omatek, Beta, Brian among others, noting that the very successful IT Policy drive of 1999 by ITAN resulted in the adoption of the National IT Policy by the Federal Executive Council in March 2001, stressing that all this eluded ITAN in the past few years.

He promised to make ‘Next Level’ the focal points of his administration through which he intends to resuscitate ITAN brand and membership with the goal of adding critical values to their businesses.
“In this regard, ITAN would organize quarterly capacity/policy/development forums like EITPiN, to stimulate the industry,” he said.

In addition, he said his regime would promote top-level synergy with other sister associations in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry in order to amass and drive critical developmental mass.

“I would be interested in strengthening the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) accord and working assiduously to ensure its success in all ramifications,” he said.

Further, Chief Olufuye assured that his era would be work toward full compliance with the Computer for Professional Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN) Acts by ITAN members for the professionalism of the industry.

He pointed out that ITAN would endorse any presidential candidate disposed of creating the Ministry of Information Technology and pursue the passage of critical IT developmental bills on assumption of power on May 29, 2007.

Chief Olufuye, therefore extended hands of fellowship to other associations of similar objectives in Africa and globally.

On April-07 polls
Speaking on April 2007 general elections, the newly elected ITAN President Chief Olufuye, tasked Nigerians and members of the group precisely to ensure that they vote for IT-inclined candidates.

He stressed that what the nation needs now are leaders that would leverage on the gains made in the last eight years of democratic dispensation, which equally witnessed its boom in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

“I encourage Nigerians to vote only in the Senatorial and House of Representatives candidates that are ICT compliant in the forthcoming elections,” he said, advising that professionals in the country and specifically ITAN members should take the general elections seriously.

“IT industry stakeholders must take the forthcoming elections serious and vote only for candidates that have ICT agenda in their manifestos,” he said, emphasising that by voting for ICT inclined candidates, Nigerians would be advocating for more benefits from ICT sector.

“Now is the time for the new government to move Nigeria to the next level of ICT penetration in the country,” he said.

Chief Olufuye, stressed that the next level is the creation of ICT ministry, adding that the quickest way to transform Nigeria would be through an ICT-driven society.

“With its attendant accelerated development, ICT is to address issues bordering on Information Society (IS) at the highest level possible,” he said.

He cited examples from the creation of the petroleum, agriculture and solid minerals development ministries among others to address those specific and critical developmental issues.

“If Nigeria truly wants ICT to be a major foreign exchange earner then the next government must address IT at the highest level. Ministry of Information Technology Development is different from the Ministry of Information and Communications, he said.

He commended the outgoing president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, during whose tenure Nigeria has witnessed series of development in various aspects of ICT.

He also cited that Obasanjo administration created NITDA, Computer for All Nigerian Initiative (CANi), Galaxy Backbone Ltd, the Directorate of Cybercrime and liberalized the trail blazing telecom industry.
Chief Olufuye further described Obasanjo as the only ICT President the country has ever known, just as he regretted that uptil date, the government was unable to pass the NITDA bill.

Challenges before Olufuye
The new leadership must have emerged in ITAN but the challenges before them could be gamut in nature though surmountable, including the need to resuscitate the quarterly CEO’s meeting announced in 2004 by the immediate past administration, which as matter of fact did not go beyond that announcement because of non-challant attitude of CEO’s in its membership to make out time to be part of the industry evolutions.

Second, there is need for ITAN at this point in time to have its administrative arm strengthened by instituting a novel revenue drive mechanism to encourage its membership to pay their dues as at when due and eventually clear all the salary arrears owe its staff which is currently only two as at the time of filing this report.

The issue of employing Executive Secretary to run the secretariat is long overdue, therefore, it has become of necessity and the earlier it is done the better for the organisation, to be well positioned even as nothing stops ITAN from encouraging growth in its workforce by supporting a professional training for the employees and eventually elevate one of them to that Executive Secretary position, in order to ensure that somebody who knows and understands ITAN assumes that position with relevant responsibilities.

Also, the media quarterly briefing of the out-gone executive must as a matter of urgency be put back on track to not only make its voice to be heard but to enable members of the public represented by the media to add value to its projects.

Equally, instead of waiting for media outcry before waking up from its slumber as it could be recalled that it took the previous executive almost 11 months to have its first media outing, after which it was described as having gone into oblivion.

Noteworthy too is that this is the first time its president is emerging from outside Lagos, the nerve centre of the nation’s economy, hence it could be a trying moment for Chief Olufuye to be traversing between Lagos and his base in Abuja.

The traversing could be good at this initial stage of entrance, but as today’s leadership evolves, he should employ delegation, especially since his first and second vice presidents are based in Lagos.

In addition the issue of using committee to face leadership challenges has been gaining currency in the country and should be optimised, just as the ITAN website and electronic mail (email) should be refocused with immediate effect with the believe that www.itan-ng.org is still kicking without undergoing another melodrama that ITAN went through before now.

The dream of having ITAN regional chapters can only manifest when the central and only national chapter is strong.

Maybe, Olufuye has some answers to what has been achieved in the last four years at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) where he is coming from and from here the success story can now begin, among others.But as posited by one of the stakeholders, even if it means organising a fund raising for the sustainability of ITAN, Chief Olufuye-led executive should embark on that initiative as soon as possible, to give ITAN a new breadth, whether in the short or long-term phases, just as convergence of ICT has made IT industry issues obsolete.


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