Nigeria: ‘Regulators to blame’ for failed ICT projects

Nigeria: ‘Regulators to blame’ for failed ICT projects

Nigeria: ‘Regulators to blame’ for failed ICT projects

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Information and communication technology (ICT) sector regulators have been blamed for failed technology investments by several states in Nigeria.

Mr. Silas Vem, Deputy Chief of Staff in Plateau State said that these State governments are not getting value for their investment in ICT because they are being neglected by regulatory bodies responsible for ICT development.

While speaking at the West Africa Convergence Conference (WACC 2016) held recently at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Lagos, Vem said specifically identified that State governments are not carried along by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the nation’s IT policy implementing agency.

According to him, the neglect by NITDA, which has led to poor knowledge of ICT value is also affecting the agency’s interest to further investments in ICT.

He called on NITDA to always involve the State governments in its activities on IT developments to bridge the knowledge gap which he said exist among State techies.

The Deputy Chief of Staff in Plateau State said that, “for us at the government we will need IT for good governance and also to diversify our economy. Unfortunately, we have been doing this convergence without most of the State governments, as there is still a lot to be done in the state governments. Most of the State governments are not getting value for their investments in ICT, and the reasons are very simple.

“I want to appeal to NITDA, if it can find a way of reaching the Governors Forum and make them buy into the need to deploy IT by professionals in their States for good governance. Because if the Governors do not buy it, whatever you do, you are just wasting your time,” Vem said.

Chief Leo Stan Ekeh, Chairman, Zinox Technologies with some participants seen in group photo at the West African Convergence Conference 2016 (WACC 2016) held in Lagos by KnowHow Media Limited
Chief Leo Stan Ekeh, Chairman, Zinox Technologies (middle in suit and tie) with some participants seen in group photo at the West African Convergence Conference 2016 (WACC 2016) held in Lagos by KnowHow Media Limited

“The industry partners are trying hard, and the private sector is driving the IT regulation in Nigeria. But I think a lot needs to be done by NITDA to get the State governments to key into it. There is a big knowledge gap in the techies in government circle, and I think a lot needs to be done to bridge that gap.”

Vem also suggested that NITDA should use policies that will include the State governments in the deployment of IT and encourage investments in the sector.

“I think in some kind of policies can be used to help the State governments in order to achieve and be able to leverage on this convergence for good governance. For most of the states, the key players in government and the policy makers sometimes find it difficult to key into IT. Therefore, as a techy, even where you have a very good submission, if your Governor is not disposed to it, it all ends on paper.

“I want to appeal to NITDA, if it can find a way of reaching the Governors Forum and make them buy into the need to deploy IT by professionals in their States for good governance. Because if the Governors do not buy it, whatever you do, you are just wasting your time,” Vem said.

Using Plateau State as an example, the Deputy Chief of Staff told the WACC 2016 attendees that “Let me use my State as an example. I’m aware that the State has deployed payroll system more than seven times; simple payroll system. Every government comes and wants to deploy her own. They are in the process of deploying another one. And there are so many States like that. There are a lot of failed IT projects in most of the States.”

According to him, there is no need for government to be spending money regularly on the same project, especially now that the nation is experiencing economic challenges.

“I think we need to grow wild on why these projects fail. Government spends money on this and we are in recession, I don’t think we have to keep on spending money in that order. We must find a way of reducing these expenses for the States, and also find a way for the States to key into the IT regulation for us to get the benefit of the investments that goes down into that,” he added.

He also recommended that tech events should also be held in other states besides Lagos and Abuja to enable other States to know what is happening in the IT sector and join in keying into it for even development.

“I have noticed over time that most IT events are held either in Lagos or in Abuja. These places are saturated for God’s sake. Hence, we need to also diversify, perhaps taking it to somewhere in the North East where most people attending are going to be from within that area, and they will get to know what is going on,” Vem said.

While speaking to Technology Times at the sideline of the event, the Deputy Chief of Staff in Plateau State said that for technological convergence to be successfully achieved in Nigeria, the three tiers of government must be involved.

He also said that the State and Local governments have been neglected on convergence noting that these tiers of government are not fully aware of the trend and its value on IT development.

“Most of the time, the regulatory bodies only look at the Federal government neglecting the State government as the other tiers of government. This is what informed my suggestion to the regulatory body that for holistic IT development in this country, all the tiers of government must be carried along.”

According to him, “they must know what is going on at any point in time, and they must know the rules, else they would be doing things on their own. So, if we are talking about convergence, convergence covers Federal, State and Local governments for us to have a holistic development.”

He noted that the Federal government has no separate people for itself as the people actually reside in the State and Local government areas.

“So, if you are an agency for this country, your regulations must cover the three tiers of government for it to be holistic and to meet the needs of the Nigerian populace,” Vem challenged the IT industry regulator, NITDA.

Highlighting what Plateau State government has done on IT deployment and improving the use of ICT in the State, the Deputy Chief of Staff said the government has automated the operations of some of the public offices of the State.

“Most of the time, the regulatory bodies only look at the Federal government neglecting the State government as the other tiers of government. This is what informed my suggestion to the regulatory body that for holistic IT development in this country, all the tiers of government must be carried along.”

Mr. Olusola Teniola, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) (left) and Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, the new Director-General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) at the at the West Africa Convergence Conference (WACC 2016) held at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Lagos.
Mr. Olusola Teniola, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) (left) and Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, the new Director-General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) at the at the West Africa Convergence Conference (WACC 2016) held at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Lagos.

“Government has done a lot in trying to deploy IT in government processes. The government has completed the project that was started by the last administration on the use of GIS (Geographic Information System) for land appreciation within the state. It is now operational, so our land appreciation in Plateau state is being carried out by GIS application,” he said.

While highlighting that IT has been deployed in the State Revenue Board for the collection of internally generated revenue (IGR) as well as in the state Ministry of Finance, Vem said the state is presently working on a draft Bill on IT deployment and an ICT policy to speed up the deployment of ICT in the State.

“The Revenue Board collection of IGR (internally generated revenue), IT is deployed to handle that, and Plateau State Ministry of Finance also uses IT solutions in most of their operations. Also, we have recently completed work on a draft bill to the House of Assembly on the establishment of an ICT Agency.

Ven said that “the Bill will soon go to the House. Initially the Bill was in the House, but when we came in, we had to withdraw the Bill to look at it again to ensure that the Bill will address the focus of the government in terms of leveraging on IT for development. So, the review has been completed and it’s going back to the House.”

Speaking on the ICT Policy, he said: “The government has set up a committee which I chair to draft an ICT Policy for the State. We are doing that currently with support from NITDA, but we have completed work on the Draft and we are waiting to engage the stakeholders in fine-tuning that Draft before it is approved. We believe that by the time we get these two documents in place passed in the House of Assembly, we would then have an agency that would handle and harmonize all ICT development in the state. Then we would have a policy that would guide the agency in carrying out its mandate in the state. So, that is what we are working on now.”

The Deputy Chief of Staff also advised State governments to ensure that professionals are used in IT deployment in order to get value for the investments in ICT.

He also called on NITDA as the regulatory agency for Information Technology to ensure strong regulations and adherence to standards in IT deployments within Nigeria.

According to Vem, “government should patronise professionals in deploying their solutions. Most of the time we find ourselves engaging quacks through back doors and then projects don’t fly, and so we don’t get value for our money.

“And finally, we must have strong regulations that would set standard for deployment of these IT solutions so that people do not bring sub-standard solutions that would not solve the problems of their clients. So, I call on NITDA to ensure that they regulate this industry very well and enforce the standards for the deployment of solutions across the states and this must be followed by all the states in deploying their IT solutions.”

Speaking on the Digital Switch over project currently being executed by the Federal government to migrate the broadcast industry from analogue broadcasting to digital terrestrial broadcasting, the Plateau State Deputy Chief of Staff emphasized the need for the switch over which goes beyond just meeting the deadline.

Vem said the digital switch over will enable the spectral space to be controlled in view of the many broadcast stations that are being established, noting that the opportunities in digital broadcasting is unlimited, in addition improved quality of service.

“For the Digital Television, Nigeria has no option. We have June next year as deadline for the total switch over and the issues surrounding the Digital Switch over shows the obvious – to cover the spectral space.

“More TVs and more radio houses are coming out every day, and to avoid interferences, spectrum has to be controlled. And for the analog, it is limited. But for the digital, it is unlimited. Also for us to enjoy quality of images, quality of voice sounds etc, we have no option than for us to switch to the digital broadcasting,” he said.

He explained the experience in Jos, which was the first point to the switch over from analogue to digital broadcasting, where he said only three local governments got the set top boxes needed for the migration. Mr. Vem expressed optimism that the DSO roll outs  in other parts of the nation will be better as government will learn from the Jos experience.

“The experience in Jos after the pilot switch over, I think a lot needs to be done in terms of the set top boxes for the switch from analog to the digital broadcasting. The Jos experience I know is that only three local governments were selected in the metropolis and distributed set top boxes. For the other rural areas, very many of them have not gotten the set top boxes that will help in the switch over.

“We know that they will soon do that of Abuja, I know they must have learnt from the experiences of Jos and we shall see a better roll out for Abuja and other states that they may be moving too,” he said.

Mr. Vem also called on the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to speed up the process in order to meet up with the June 2017 deadline set by the Commonwealth of Nations  for Nigeria and other African nations to switch over from analog broadcasting to digital.

“I think it’s very slow, we have no time on our side, and June is just by the corner. We are talking about seven months or eight months from now. And so if we must meet the deadline of June, then the Ministry of Information needs to step up the speed,” he said.

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Success Kafoi Journalist at Technology Times Media. Mobile: 08077671673 email: success.kafoi@technologytimes.ng

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