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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Angaye urges MDAs to embrace .ng

The Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Professor Cleopas O. Angaye, has said that urged Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to connect to the nation’s domain name, .ng, maintaining his stand that African nations lack political will to embrace new technologies.

Speaking at the Nigerian IT Merit Award organized by the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) in Lagos, weekend, Angaye, who dwelt on “Nigeria at 50: The Impact of Information Technology” said that MDAs must connect to .ng to check the increase in cybercrimes in the country.

“NITDA at the forefront of encouraging Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to connect to the Nigerian domain name dot ng, in order to check the increasing rate of cybercrimes, among others,” he said.

Commending NCS for demonstrating leadership as an association of Information Technology practitioners, Prof. Angaye said that the topic fitted the momentum of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the country.

“For indeed IT has played a key role in Nigeria’s economic, educational, social and political growth in spite of daunting challenges,” he said, stressing that a section of the industry recently maligned him for bringing these issues to the front burner, which he felt the author misunderstood the context in which he made his observation.

Angaye explained that his job as a public officer allowed him to be familiar with the hydra of misunderstanding to expect that by lopping off one of its heads, the monster would have been killed, noting that recently he had pointed out that IT development in African nations and not Nigeria particularly was being hampered by lack of “adequate political will … to fully support and embrace new technologies.”

He wondered why such an obvious fact should generate so much acrimony among a section of the larger ICT sector.

“Let me ask: how many African countries have the political will to introduce electronic voting as one means to ensure credible elections? How many countries have enacted laws to protect intellectual property as it relates to software? How many financial systems recognize knowledge encoded in a Compact Disc as sufficient collateral for a bank loan? It is within that context that I called and still call for more political will to embrace new world trends,” he enthused.

Locally in Nigeria, he said that the Federal Government may have set the tone with many commendable IT initiatives, but many State Governments except a few and Local Governments have lacked the will to follow the examples.

“So, the benefits of IT have not sufficiently trickled down to the grassroots. That is partly why NITDA introduced the Rural Information Technology Centers (RITC) at the State and Local Government levels,” he said, reiterating that the aim is to help bridge the internal digital divide in the country.

“I have also received flaks for the one step slip in ITU ranking of Nigeria in e-readiness. We were ranked 63 in 2007 and 64 in 2008. I do not know the FIFA ranking of our national football team today, but I know we were number 1 in Africa and number 5 in the world some years back. I do not think we should throw tantrums over ITU rankings,” he said.

Emphasising that stakeholders should be patient with the current efforts of government to reform the power sector, bearing in mind that electricity and Information Technology are inseparable.

“In other words, if our ‘ranking’ in power slips, so will our e-readiness,” he asserted.

For him, Angaye said, it is a mark of responsible leadership to be honest, noting that he owes that as a duty to stakeholders to speak forthrightly on issues and challenges facing the IT industry.

“The solutions will require our collective ‘political will’ at all levels and tiers of governance,’ he declared, maintaining that this was not to say that IT has not made contributions to national development.

He described as the single most important developmental initiative of the Federal Government this decade the enactment of the National Information Technology Development Act 2007.

“That Act apart from giving birth to NITDA in a legal sense, created the only national framework for the orderly and systemic development of IT in Nigeria. Before then the IT terrain had been foggy, the issues convoluted and the implementation haphazard. Nonetheless, major strides were taken in past five decades. The most impact was recorded in the banking sector,” he said.

As said by him, Nigerians may have forgotten the era of ‘tally numbers’ and long queues in banks, simply because today, banking transactions could be done in the comfort of living rooms and offices.

“The terms “electronic-banking” and “electronic payments” are now familiar buzz words, but those services would not have been possible without software both at the back end and at the front end of the transactions,” he said.

However, he said, it is important to point out that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government are required by official regulation to clear their IT projects with NITDA.

The aim, he said, is to ensure that IT development is harmonized and standardized under a secure IT-enabled environment while also avoiding duplication and wasting of resources.

“Among the very significant contributions of IT to national development is the redelegation of the technical point of contact of the Nigerian Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD),” he said, stressing that until recently, such a national resource was being coordinated and managed outside the shores of Nigeria by a volunteer foreigner.

The birth of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), he said, has helped to put the Nigerian ‘flag’ on the internet.

“Every true Nigerian business in government or in the private sector now must migrate to the dot ng domain and fly the flag of Nigeria in cyberspace,” he said, as NITDA would soon issue a regulation making this mandatory for all MDAs.

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