Wednesday, September 26, 2007

ITAN kicks against investment in OLPC

Stakeholders in the core Information Technology (IT) sub-sector, under the aegis of IT (Industry) Association of Nigeria (ITAN) have kicked against the federal government recent investment in the One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC) project, saying that it negates the support of local content inclusion and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) being canvassed by the government.

Nigeria’s investment in OLPC also known as ‘$100 laptop per child’ is estimated at N185,000,000, based on the current price of $185 per unit. Even as Nigeria had in 2006 order one million units.

This was in spite of OLPC guideline that only order of 5 million units would facilitate production for that effect.

The deal was reportedly the first actual order for the project that aimed at providing Linux-powered laptops to children in developing economies.

While in March this year, the One Laptop Per Child Foundation provided L.E.A. Primary School Galadima, a public school in the outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, with an XO laptop for each pupils in Primary 4, 5 and 6 and each school staff member, even as it was expected to have provided each child in Primary 1, 2 and 3 with their own laptops.

Leading the opposition to the government investment in OLPC, ITAN president, Chief Jimson Olufuye, said that such investment should have been channelled to local computer assembly plants also known as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) as interest free loans.

ITAN equally in its September charter at the end of annual summit in Lagos, weekend, described $100 laptop scheme as a project that should be discontinued alongside any other such foreign based laptops initiatives.

“They should not be patronized by the government because they would not benefit Nigeria in terms of jobs creation. Local alternatives should be engaged,” the charter stated.

Corroborating Olufuye, the former ITAN president and chief executive of Connect Technologies Limited, Chief Chris Uwaje, who spoke at the one-day summit for chief executives of ITAN member companies in Lagos, condemned the act.

He said it was not a wise investment for the country and should be reversed if possible, stressing that further investment should not be made on OLPC.

Federal government, he said, should have invested such fund into the re-engineering of the nation’s education system especially at the primary and post-primary levels as well as encourage local OEMs in creating employment for the teaming unemployed graduates.

Additionally, he said, the fund should have been focused on retraining of all the teachers in the country and other aspects of education through provision of facilities and then see the kind of change it would enthrone in the sector.

“Wonders will happen,” he declared.

Chief Uwaje also cited neighbouring country, Ghana, stressing that it has no OLPC scheme but have invested into the education sector, hence attracting some Nigerian students to go to Ghana for studies in search of better education.

He enjoined any one in doubt to pay a visit to the University of Ghana at Lagoon.

Similarly speaking at the summit, which theme was ‘3e-Strategies for Enhancing and Empowering IT Entrepreneurs for Mega Projects,’ the chief executive of Omatek Computers, Mrs. Florence Seriki, while lamenting the situation, revealed that apart from investing on OLPC by the federal government, indications have emerged that even Intel has come up with its own initiative, which was reportedly produced for the Nigerian government.

She said that OLPC lacks local content and called on the government through the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), to retrace its step and encourage local computer manufacturers to create more jobs for Nigerians, especially the youth.

According to her, keeping the youth graduates busy would do the society and the nation precisely a lot of good.

For her, NITDA should wake up to her responsibility as the government agency charged with the regulation of hardware and software in the country.

Champion Infotel recalls that ITAN was established in 1991 as Microcomputer Vendors Association of Nigeria (MiVAN) following visionary initiative of the Managing Director, Worldwide Computers Ltd, Mr Tayo Adeniyi. In 1995, it transmuted into Computer Vendors Association of Nigeria (CoVAN) and by 2000 it further witnessed another repositioning and transformed into the Information Technology (Industry) Association of Nigeria (ITAN), a member of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS).

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