Jide Awe is the chief executive officer of Jidaw Systems, a training, certification and career development company focused on fundamentals for building IT careers. Awe is also chairman, Publicity Committee of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS). He has had over two decades experience in ICT and business management. Awe consults for both corporate and government clients and provides ICT content through various online, print and electronic media. He spoke to funmi ilesanmi on industry issues as well as the forthcoming 24th Annual Conference of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS).
Jidaw Systems is into training, consulting and web content provision. Basically, we are into human capital development in the IT industry. We develop people to get the skills that are necessary to grow the IT industry and also providing contents on the internet with a lot of things going on relating to IT for development while at the same time we also provide consultancy services to assist organizations and people that need to improve their performances through IT. Another area is development advisory, we advise countries and organizations that want to use IT to develop their skills, we advice them on how to go about it.
We also train secondary school students because we believe that these things should actually start from the schools. It is not something you should wait until you graduate from higher institution before you start acquiring the skills. A lot of pioneers in IT that created a lot of change were very young people. We tap into the creativity and energy of the young people and show them that this is something that can actually transform the world. Through this you can make money for yourself and also make an impact in the world. We are looking at young people but there is no real restriction. It is a question of desire and interest but the focus mainly is on young people.
Training Women and Girls in ICT
Look at the population, we have been into trainings for sometime and we have seen in seminars and training programmes that women do not attend as much as men. So we did our studies and found out that it is a general thing and we also understood why. We try to say some of these perceptions if we do not do anything about them, we will have a situation in which 50 per cent of the population might be excluded from what is going on technology wise. The argument we try to bring in is that those set of people you excluded, technology is actually harming them if they do not use it. We need to be entrepreneurs and leaders in technology, we should not just be consumers and so 50 per cent of the populace not being actively involved in technology means you are loosing them because there is prejudice and that is where we said there was a need to intervene in that area. It is not a question of men are better than women, it is a need. It is not a men’s affair alone because it is a profitable career for both men and women.
Dearth of ICT Manpower
I do not think on the whole Nigeria is doing enough to encourage development of manpower. A lot of things that are being done are private initiatives, so we still need to have a very proactive strategy and interventions because anything you want to grow, you have to actually make extra efforts in pushing it. I do not think we are doing that, everybody is just pushing their own private initiatives. Private initiatives depend on resources available to you, your ability to market and things like strategic ways of repositioning yourself not that government itself will actually put in money but there is a way it can facilitate things to make it easier. For example, making training courses cheaper and more available for students. Training providers are entrepreneurs, they are going to do what is profitable for them in the environment so if the environment is better, of course they too will respond.
We do human capacity development training and we feel that part of what we needed to connect with training and development was to imbibe the skills. We have training in entrepreneurial and other job search skills. Apart from that, we started an initiative which I see a lot of people doing now, where we actually post jobs online. We get jobs from people who come for consultancy and from other sources, people have been trained in this programme and they are looking for people to employ. The initiative is to help solve part of our employment problem using the online environment. This is connected to seeing how we can use IT to create jobs.
Jidaw’s Annual Software Development Capacity Building
Essentially we do the software training on annual basis to promote software development though we are not known for software development, we have identified that software development is at the core of all IT innovations. Anything new coming through information technology is software driven. It is an area in which we can tap into the creative abilities of young people that are actually being wasted. A lot of young people focus more on things like entertainment and sports but we are saying that those young people can use their ideas and their energy in the area of software development because it is an area that offers so many opportunities both to the country in terms of employment and also for foreign exchange earnings. The start up is not really as high as in other businesses. It is an initiative of ours that we do annually to sensitize people and create awareness on the importance of software development.
Assessment of Software Development in Nigeria
I think there need for re-orientation and a change in how we do things. A lot of organisations invest more in foreign software. There still has to be something in the environment that will encourage people to patronize their own and to develop the quality because you cannot keep on giving the excuse that foreign software have better quality than local software, when are your local people going to meet up? In the knowledge economy, it is those high value areas that will give you sustainable development, not the consumption. A lot of what we do here especially when we are buying software is that we are consuming at the expense of developing our local industry. Software development is one of those critical areas that we can tap into. If we can tap into it, it will actually transform our economy.
Piracy is a double edged sword in the sense that what makes piracy thrive is that we do not have the controls and at times we also look at it from the point that what are the kind of things we are focusing on. Piracy has a lot to do with proprietary software and we are not really doing enough to develop other types of software especially the open source which is not affected by piracy. When you do that and you do not have a strategic plan, you look at the kind of environment. This kind of software because of this population let us sell it at this rate. You have earning power and the ability to pirate is huge. Can you police piracy? Why it is blossoming is because it is available and affordable for a lot of people. Once you can block those areas and create an environment where it is not affordable, where it is not available, you bring down your own prices too. It is not a good thing. Someone took his time to write these programmes, it is intellectual property and someone without doing anything steals it and starts making money from it. We cannot just complain about it, we have to change the environment by doing something about it
Part of what we are looking at is that can some of these software providers actually look at the mass market in Nigerian and bring down their prices to have an available pricing for Nigerians so that by the time you compare their prices with the pirated version, you do not see why you should get the pirated version that might be infected by virus with no support base after purchase. That is part of what I mean by policing it and when you discover that piracy is going on, what actions do you take? You cannot go everywhere, that means you have to target particular places and heavy consumers of pirated products. Piracy is not good but its impact is more on heavy users.
Encouraging Nigerians to Transact Businesses Online
Buying online is cheaper. If you are in Ikeja, you do not need to go to Victoria Island to make a purchase. You can view what you need online and also order it online. We need to emphasize more on the security and threats to building more confidence. Building confidence aligns with what we are doing about cyber security. This is one of the things we are trying to push through the Nigerian Computer Society (NCS) to ensure that the Cyber Security Bill is passed. There is no legislation. Electronic transactions that are fraudulent can be traced and either merchants or consumers that are using the electronic environment fraudulently should be punished. Once people start seeing that it is effective, they will start using it. Assuming you are a merchant, you should give users the confidence and an environment of safety while they are using your portal or using your online shop. That is what I advice merchants to do. Generally the society itself needs legislations to back up some of these things and enforcement as well. It is not just a question of the laws being in place with no one to enforce it. The law must be enforced. It is not the IT professionals that will do that. The law enforcement agency doing the enforcement must also understand what it is enforcing because it is not physical security.
Nigeria is ripe but not ready for cashless transactions. You can never wait until you are ready because if you are going to wait until you are ready; you will keep on waiting and by the time you are ready, others would have moved on to another phase. It is something that is available now but definitely there are issues and rather than run from those issues we can confront those issues and deal with them properly. One is the issue of telecom infrastructure, issue of failure in connectivity. We have to address those issues but when are we going to address those issues if we do not address them now? How we can make it practical for users. You have to make it attractive and make users confident in it and feel that it is superior and make it more profitable for people.
Upcoming NCS 24th Annual Conference
The conference is called Cashless 2012 and it was agreed upon by the national executives of the NCS that one of the most critical issues facing Nigeria now is how we can use IT to drive development and our focus this year is the financial sector. The financial sector based on this cashless policy is heavily dependent on technology and as a responsible professional stakeholders association; we feel that we should raise the issues. It is not just for bankers, finance houses and people to discuss. What are the technical issues, what can provide the backbone for the national infrastructure. If there is no technology, there can be no cashless society. The Nigerian Communications Commission executive vice chairman will be there and he is going to tell us what NCC is doing to make sure that quality of service improves, the quality of telecom infrastructure improves because it is also the backbone of going cashless. We have people that are going to talk on security because some of the benefits of using IT is convenience, ease of use, speed at less cost but there are also associated threats. What are the responsibilities of we as IT professionals in the area of security, what are the responsibilities to make sure people are secured as they go cashless. It is not about pushing technology on people, how do you change the culture of people for them to be carried along.
We are also looking at the postal sector. That means the postal sector, not just Nipost must also be connected to the delivery of the service. We are looking at the implications of the postal sector on e-business so that at the end if the day, it is truly effective and those technology practitioners play their parts as well because we are the real backbone of cashless and that is why we are championing it.