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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wanted! A CIO for President Jonathan


The notice by President Goodluck Jonathan to engage social media accounts for electoral reforms and carry the youths along is giving concern due to inactivity on his random Facebook pages. REMMY NWEKE in this report, makes case for the appointment of Chief Information Officer (CIO).


During his recent visit to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, it was awash in the nation’s media that President Goodluck Jonathan has expressed intensions to set up social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube, for electoral reforms in order to carry the youths and Nigerians along in his bid to contest in the 2011 general elections.

This interest in social media, especially Facebook or YouTube may not be unconnected with the recent fact that over 1.2 million Nigerians are on Facebook as at March 2010, but, lack of activities may defeat the purpose.

Investigations by ITRealms Online, last weekend, showed that currently, Mr. President has about five Facebook accounts and there are no activities since these pages were created from his end.

It was also gathered that some Nigerians are worried over the authenticity of Mr. President’s Facebook accounts; whether they were set up for Goodluck Jonathan or by some individuals to allow fans to fool around by leaving comments and questions without even a word from Mr. President.

For instance, some of Mr. President’s Facebook pages go by the name ‘Goodluck Jonathan’ with 4,891 friends, the purported certified official Facebook page ‘PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN (NIGERIA),’ has 14,770 followers and 113 links; another ‘Goodluck Jonathan’ has 250 people as followers, and ‘Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’ has 396 followers, yet another Goodluck jonathan has 2,972 people on its trial.

One of the concerned followers of Mr. President’s pages on Facebook, Ms Udoka Ekpete-Okeke, said that this group seems to be just for “talk and suggest and no implementation or even response or action. Let it not be that we are just wasting our time here. I still remain loyal though.” Yet,16 hours later, there was no response of any kind officially, at least, to allay her fears.

Segun Elusak in his contribution wondered on how many people Mr. President could respond to but expressed confidence. “If you think Mr. President has a chance to reply? Or do you even think he personally opened this (Facebook) account? Someone, somewhere in the Aso Villa did, and don’t expect response, but know that every comment, suggestion and request is noted.”

For Shehu Mustapha Babura, “If the President is indisposed due to his tight schedules, may I suggest that Mr. President personally assigns a special aid to handle this ‘IMPORTANT’ account on his behalf?” Stressing that it would be great and encouraging if Mr. President finds the time to chip in his response even if it’s once in a week. This, he said, would re-enforce the people’s belief that he is a responsive President.

Apart from no activities on these Facebook pages in terms of official communications, the pages were not cohesive, hence, Mr. President may do well to heed an advice by a Nigerian Information Technology (IT) enthusiast, Mr. Oladejo Fabolude recently in Lagos.

Fabolude while commending Jonathan for the decision, cautioned that it could only be a successful step when complimented with the appointment of a chief information officer (CIO), who on assumption of office would take on a very crucial position in the administration of President Jonathan, considering the huge responsibility in managing the new technologies.

He described it as a good omen that someone at the city of power, Abuja, suddenly woke up to discover all these tools of the 21st century and deserves applause, outlining that these Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) tools would be profitable to the populace, only if it aids public workers in doing their jobs, develop and implement technological policies and strategies. Just as he declared “This IT department doesn’t do technology for technology’s sake, but its function is to provide technology to achieve the organisation’s goal.”

He reasoned that Nigeria as a country needs a practical IT department, although the Ministries of Information and Science and Technology exist, their portfolios are too broad for this.

“While it is possible for someone in either of these organisations to fulfill this role, I believe this is a role that belongs to the Presidency, pretty much the same way the Department of Petroleum Resources is in the Presidency,” he said, citing an instance with President Barrak Obama’s administration in the United States, whose Chief Information Officer (CIO) is Mr. Vivek Kundra and plays “a key role in making sure our government is running in the most secure, open, and efficient way possible.”

He pointed out that it would be a priority to focus on some key areas, explicitly to make certain openness and transparency, lowering the cost of government, cyber-security, participatory democracy, and innovation, to name a few.

According to him, one of Kundra’s first projects was the launch Data.gov, a site for providing access to raw government data, followed by the launch in June 2009 of the Federal IT Dashboard, which gives an assessment in terms of cost, schedule and CIO ranking of many large government’s IT undertakings.

He suggested that Nigeria’s CIO should have a similar job, specifically, besides being responsible for developing an information technology platform to be used by all tiers of government in running their operations.

Fabolude also said that the CIO would specify a standard for collecting, creating and storing government information, a set of tools for accessing and transforming that information for actionable intelligence, and security policies to ensure the integrity and availability of same, to enable government to operate more efficiently by reducing bureaucracy, wastage, duplication of effort, cost of running the nation and time to get things done, even as this would make provision for the prevention and detection of fraud and corrupt practices.

Further, he said, that the position would involve developing a simple mechanism to facilitate Nigerians engagement of their governments in any form, shape or fashion using telephony and internet technologies.

He anticipated that this mechanism would afford the government to aggregate information about what is happening in the lives of ordinary Nigerians in order to formulate relevant policies and proper deployment of resources.

The CIO, he said, would serve was as a resource to various ministries and parastatals in the execution of IT projects as well as the law establishing the office, to ensure that all projects with IT component over a certain amount of Naira value, be included in the CIO’s office as part of the project.

In addition to guiding Senate and House on the formulation of laws that regulate and promote information technology, e-commerce and internet privacy as well as enabling law enforcement agencies to battle cybercrime.

As noted by several other stakeholders, this kind of position is long overdue to show IT seriousness as a tool for running of the government, there is need to evolve a top-down methodology to absorb IT into the fabrics of nation building.

Like another interest party, who described himself as Mr. Kehinde noted, having a CIO is a very good idea, because Nigeria needs to move up the ICT ladder and hopes that whoever is chosen would be a very vast, knowledgeable, technological savvy, up to date and experienced person whose decisions will be respected.

And for President Jonathan to really make inroad on his plan to contest the 2011 election, more so pulling the youths and youths at heart along his proposed electoral reforms, there is need for an appropriate and defined management of his Facebook pages and other social media platforms.

Perhaps, a cursory look at how President Obama is using Facebook could be of a great inspiration for our President.

This, at least, would be a step in the right direction in achieving one of the predictions of president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu that its high-time Nigerians look out for those who are ICT savvy for political positions if the nation must move forward.

A stitch in time, saves nine.

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