Saturday, February 13, 2016

Obaro, Systemspecs CEO says Nigeria’s future lies in software technology

Nigeria has the capacity to influence the global software technology landscape and reap the huge attendant benefits if the government makes a conscious effort to actualise the prosperous future that beckons the country in software technology.

This was the view shared by MD/CEO of SystemSpecs, Mr John Obaro, during the visit of the Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, to the head office of the company regarded as Nigeria’s leading software house, in Lagos.

The Minister said the visit was to encourage the company and appreciate its flagship indigenous software, Remita. He said had Remita been introduced to the federal government earlier, government’s revenues would have improved significantly than it is now.

“We owe Systemspecs a debt of gratitude for introducing Remita. The electronic payment platform has saved Nigeria about N2 trillion. In the area of e-government, SystemSpecs has done well for Nigeria,” he said. 

According to Obaro, the country should quit focusing on agrarian initiatives at the basic levels, and concentrate on the potentials of software technology wherein the future lies. 
To attain this, he rolled out steps that the federal government should take. He asked that government delegations should no longer embark on foreign trade missions without the inclusion of Nigerian software entrepreneurs or products.

He requested that the federal government should not receive foreign software as aids donated to the country in areas where the country has demonstrated local competence that can be polished.
“No longer should our young and virile tech talents be allowed to succumb to foreign exploitation that retains them on foreign soil rather than become a blessing to their fatherland,” he said.
This is the time, according to him, for the country to seize advantage of the opportunities inherent in software technology, when oil prices are at their lowest.

He believed the present situation in the country may be a time of divinely orchestrated providence, expected to jolt the country from oil dependency to harnessing the huge potentials presented by software technology.

“While our currency is struggling and the naira’s exchange rate against major currencies have almost doubled in less than a year, we still have to source enormous foreign exchange to service the huge foreign-owned software assets in use by government at all levels and across the private sector. The beneficiaries are those countries that have nurtured their software industry and caused us to be dependent on them even in critical areas of our national life.”

He then wondered what the country would have benefitted had the software installed at the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation [OAGF], Federal Inland Revenue Service [FIRS], Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems [NIBSS], the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN], and the banks are all powered by indigenous software companies.  
“Let us imagine what would have happened if Government Integrated Financial Management Information System [GIFMIS] and Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System [IPPIS] at OAGF are powered by indigenous software and not one from Estonia and USA respectively. If Integrated Tax Administration System [ITAS] at FIRS is an indigenous software and not from Canada; if the Bank Verification Number [BVN] platform deployed by NIBSS is powered by an indigenous software and not from Germany; if Real Time Gross Settlement [RTGS] platform at CBN is powered by indigenous software, and not one from Sweden.
“Let us imagine that at least one Nigerian bank uses indigenous software rather than the prevailing situation where all the banks use foreign software procured from India, Jordan, Switzerland, etc.”
He listed the benefits of patronising indigenous software by the government to include assisting the federal government realise its objective of providing employment to teeming talented Nigerian youths. Others are the conservation of the huge foreign exchange currently lost when paid as annual software maintenance fee to foreign software providers and the retention of 100% annual maintenance fees within the Nigerian economy.

Specifically, he further stressed that, had the government patronised the indigenous software industry, this would have helped the country to preserve its foreign reserves and thereby become a net exporter of software and an earner of huge foreign exchange.

His experience has shown that many indigenous software entrepreneurs have become discouraged while others have closed shop and thrown employees on the streets.

He offered that aside the low patronage by the government, lack of “specific funding to develop the software sector of the economy is another challenge faced by the practitioners.”

Razaack Psalmson/GEE

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