Concerns Over Software Piracy in the Nigerian IT Market

Computing

Pirated software products seem to have resurfaced in the Nigerian IT market, despite continued efforts by both private and the public sector to stem the rise. However, can it be true that while indigenous PC manufacturers bundled with official OEM Licences- is on the increase, that software piracy in Nigeria has also increased? According to available data from the Central Bank of Nigeria and NOTAP, there is a significant increase in the outflow of foreign exchange as payment transfer for foreign software increases.

Just last year, India High Commission (Commercial Department) revealed that Indian software licensees had a significant sales growth in Nigeria from increased use of software technology by merged banks, the oil industry and education institutions. To crown it all, federal government has paid billions of naira to foreign software vendors for applications.

This development has continued to attract growing concerns among policy makers, service providers, regulatory authorities both at national and international levels, and if unchecked will still cause more harm than good economically. Experts say that if the ugly trend is not put to an end, it will cost the country billions of dollars.

Although software piracy is a global issue, the rate of the ugly trend in the country, according to International Data Corporation, (IDC) is still high at about 75% even with various enlightenment campaigns, legal actions against the pirates.

Even with several raid operations in the different IT markets in Nigeria, including the notorious Computer Village Ikeja where pirated software products are sold in every nook and cranny of the market like recharge cards, the truth of the matter is that the Nigerian Copyright Commission, (NCC), the Microsoft and other law enforcement agency seem helpless in an attempt to bring to book the culprits.

But despite the progress made, greater efforts, according to industry watchers, are needed by the NCC, the Microsoft and other law enforcement agencies to wage a relentless war against pirates who have continued to harvest where they did not sow.

By 2005, according to International Data Corporation, (IDC), general piracy rate stood at about 84 percent, meaning that the country may be losing $1 billion every year to piracy.

Similarly, Business Software Alliance, (BSA) software piracy study stands at 33.5 percent during the time in question, while its May 2006 reports show that piracy level is 80 percent. With these figures, Nigeria, according to available records is among 20 PC software pirate countries including Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, China, and Pakistan, Cameroon, Russia, Bolivia, Paraguay, Algeria, Zambia, Botswana, Ivory Coast, among others.

Despite efforts by the private and the public sectors to fight relentlessly with the offenders, piracy rate in Nigeria has been attributed by Microsoft to the simple fact that the informal market has not taken sufficient cognizance of the benefits of using original software packages.

The System builder and account manager, Microsoft Nigeria, Emmanuel Uduoise who disclosed this recently in Lagos in a forum noted that software piracy in the country has exceeded 84 percent not withstanding the efforts being put up by the concerned bodies to fight it at least to the barest minimum.

Commenting also on the impact of the trend, Laurent Masson, the Vice President for Middle East and Africa at BSA said that the worldwide piracy rate stood at around 37 percent in 2005, adding that the Nigeria's software piracy rate stood at upwards of 80 percent-about the same as the African average. And that means that Africa was losing approximately $1 billion each year because of software pirates, he said.

On the western side, USA and Canada who collectively are very careful when it comes to purchasing software show a software piracy rate of 23% while the worst offenders, according to repots are within the Eastern Europe countries where piracy levels are on the increase by the day.

Vanguard