In order to develop Nigeria’s information and communication technology (ICT) sector to meet global standards and best practice, the Federal Government is expected to introduce local content in the curriculum of educational institutions in the country.

Educational institutions to be affected by this include, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.

Besides, local ICT companies have to be encouraged to compete internationally through various proactive measures, such as reduction in the importation of software and hardware into the country.

These, among others, were contained in a communique issued on Thursday, at the end of a three-day conference on e- Nigeria 2012, organised by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.

The stakeholders at the conference with the theme: “Local Content in ICT Development in Nigeria”, also estimated that by 2013, IT investment in the country would have hit $25 billion, which will be a significant leap from the initial investment worth $200 million, representing 18 percent contribution to the nation’s economic growth, noting that the sector was growing at an increasing rate and remained the 4th largest contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Furthermore, the stakeholders recommended that “NITDA should focus on intense research towards achieving the vision of local content, while the theme of this year’s e-Nigeria should be sustained in subsequent editions until 50 percent local content is achieved in the sector.

“There is need for government to include local IT manufacturers in its international trade missions in order to expose our local manufacturers and stakeholders to best practices in the areas of service, software, knowledge, and innovation.

“Stakeholders shall identify an ICT Champion and a lobby group to advance the growth of ICT.

“Government should upgrade NITDA to a National Information Technology Development Commission (NITDC) to ensure adequate regulation of the IT sector.

“NITDA should develop a multilingual web portal in Nigerian Languages, including development of special IT programmes for our teeming youths to meaningfully engage them.

“Government shall continuously facilitate the establishment of knowledge-based clusters (ICT Incubation Centres) in a strategic imperative to enhance the standard and quality of local content implementation processes.

“All stakeholders shall collaborate to develop ICT local content in Nigeria. Creative and innovative thinking should be encouraged at all levels of the education system.”

They also suggested that the federal government should create a service-wide IT cadre similar to that of accountants or architects, at the apex of which there would be the Information Technology-System-General of the Federation (ITSGF), adding that NITDA should collaborate with the National Assembly, with a view to fast track  appropriate legal framework for smooth IT integration in all sectors.

While stating that NITDA should commence the development of a concise ICT local content policy in collaboration with stakeholders, the conference urged the agency to strengthen its partnership with other relevant stakeholders, such as Ministries of  Education, Finance,  Agriculture, Health, Trade and Investment for effective ICT development in achieving their mandates.

According to the stakeholders, indigenous hardware and software manufacturers should commence the development of work stations for forensic technology works, even as they recommended that organising the annual software competition for students should be collaboratively handled by NITDA, Computer Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN) and Nigerian Computer Society (NCS) and the National Mathematical Centre (NMC).

The conference, however, pointed out that Nigerians were yet to leverage on the country’s  existing ICT infrastructure to bring about the desired transformation, adding that there was still a wide gap between monitoring and evaluation of ICT projects on value added on investments.

The forum regretted that Nigeria has not done much on the protection of intellectual property, necessary for the promotion of innovation, even as the stakeholders noted that there was a huge potential for ICT local content development towards its contribution to the growth of the Nigerian economy, adding that the development of a sound IT sector could assist achieve the Nigerian Government’s transformation agenda and engender development in the rural areas.

IT, they said, had the potential to create jobs for the nation’s youths, boost food security and create export opportunities for the country amongst others, stating that national security could be enhanced through the promotion of ICT local content in the country.

Various unnoticed ICT innovative programmes, according to the conference, were currently on-going amongst the youths in Nigeria.

Among the dignitaries present at the occasion included: Chairman, House Committee on Information and Communication Technology, Hon.  Dr. Ibrahim Shehu Gusau; Minister of Women Affairs, Hajiya Zainab Maina;  Minister of Youth Development, Mr. Kabir Inuwa ; Minister of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Mrs Omobola Johnson, the chief host; Senior Special Adviser to the Vice-President on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Dr. Baba Jubril; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Mrs Ibukun Odusote  and former Vice-President African Region, World Bank, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili. Other personalities at the event were Presidents, Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN).

According to the stakeholders, the objective of the conference, among others, included, examining and proffering appropriate strategies  that would enhance the Nigerian content in IT products and services; developing requisite framework for empowering indigenous IT entrepreneurs in order to contribute to Nigeria’s GDP; developing framework for providing critical employment through outsourcing and other digital opportunity windows; examining challenges or factors militating against IT local content development in the country; and developing strategies for leveraging on technology transfer and Nigerians in diaspora for developing the IT industry in the country.