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By Emeka Aginam
THE dust is yet to settle on the recommendations of the Steve Oronsaye-led committee set up by the Federal Government on the rationalization of federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies with a view to cutting costs of governance, as leaders of the Nigerian IT industry under the umbrella of Nigerian Computer Society, (NCS) rose in stout defence of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), urging government to retain it as a development agency for Information Technology.

This was the initial mandate in 2001 when it was set up pending when it would be self-financing in line with its enabling law. Oronsaye's committee had recommended that it be reduced to a department in the Ministry of Communications Technology.

Report'll kill IT development
By making NITDA a mere department in the Ministry of Communication Technology, according to a communique signed by the President of the NCS, Sir Demola Aladekomo at the end of emergency meeting of elders and leaders of IT profession in Nigeria held recently will make the agency ineffective and castrated, thereby killing Information Technology development in the country.

In the 21st century knowledge economy where the wealth of nations is directly proportional to the level of development of IT in that country, Nigeria , according to the professionals cannot afford to scrap an information technology development agency and replace it with a company limited by shares or domicile its development activities in a department of a Ministry.

The federal government needs to retain NITDA as a veritable tool for driving the transformation initiatives of the federal government e-transformation, the professionals noted.

Accordingly, the professionals, in the communique also strongly believe that as a developing nation striving to achieve the millennium development goals, Nigeria needs to effectively apply IT as a tool for achieving these goals as obtained in other developing economies like India, Singapore, South Africa, etc.

Meanwhile, Oronsaye committee had made the following recommendations as regards the Information Technology (IT) profession:

That the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) should become a department in the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology (FMCT).

That it function as the clearing house for Information Technology in the public sector should be taken over by Galaxy Backbone Plc

That the proposed enabling law for Nigeria Communication Satellite (NigComSat) should not be passed; rather, it should now be fully privatized because if its enabling law were to be passed, it would conflict with the Act setting up the parent body, National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) and the withdrawal of funding for Computer Professionals (Registration Council of Nigeria) (CPN) by 2013.

IT gains'll be wiped out
While commending the good intention behind the Orosanye committee and its mandate, the IT professionals observed that because of the importance of IT in the growth and development of any nation, the recommendations of the committee were capable of setting the IT sector back by decades in addition to wiping out gains already made.

NITDA on track
Accordingly, the IT professionals in the communique noted that a close look at the performance of NITDA since inception would confirm that the agency has been working hard on its mandate and its impact is being felt in Information Technology, e-Transformation and the overall economic development of the country.

'The Agency has achieved landmark accomplishments particularly in the areas of Human Capital, Infrastructural Development as well as Institutional capacity building. Additionally, the Act that established NITDA also created the National Information Technology Development Fund (NITDEV) for its developmental initiatives. Therefore, NITDA will not be a financial liability to the Federal Government.

'The establishment of Information Technology development agency is in consonance with UNESCO recommendations. Therefore, development agencies that are similar to NITDA were established in many other countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Brazil, Phillipines, India etc and they have played significant roles in the penetration of IT and overall economic growth of those countries. Indeed, the expected economic growth, the actualization of Vision 20- 2020 and e-transformation will be a mirage without an appreciable depth of IT development' the report stated.

After deliberations, the elders and leaders in the Nigerian IT sector resolved as follows:NITDA should remain a development agency of Government for Information Technology as requested in 2001 when NITDA was set up and not be made a mere department in Ministry of Communication Technology where it will be rendered ineffective and castrated and thereby killing Information Technology development in the country.

NITDA should retain its function as a clearing house for Information Technology in Nigeria, among other functions as empowered in the NITDA Act 2007.

On the recommendation that Professional Regulatory Agencies become self funding, we suggest:

That government works with those Agencies in strengthening their enforcement apparatus.

That government gives them a grace period of funding till year 2015 as a sudden and unplanned cutoff of funding to them will be disruptive to their statutory regulatory functions.

The recommendation that Galaxy Backbone, a Public Liability Company be charged with the responsibility of serving as the clearing house for Information Technology in the public sector is ill advised, absurd and retrogressive. Galaxy Backbone that has been involved in procurement contracts cannot serve as a clearing house because there will be a conflict of interest.