Nigeria: Home Made Software Best according to Obaro
John Tani Obaro is the Managing Director of SystemSpecs, a Nigerian Information Technology (IT) solution provider company. In this interview with Senior Correspondent AjibolaAbayomi, he shares his experience as a software builder and comments on the Nigerian software market. The software expert submits that Nigerian software remains the best for the country. There are excerpts below:
Less than one per cent of the annual budget is always allocated to the IT by the Federal Government, don't you think industry deserves more than that?
At the level of government, the question is not just about the quantum of resources available. We need honesty of purpose to influence the quality of investment into the sector. It is not enough to budget some money and somebody just go and buy some disjointed technologies. On paper, money may have been spent but in terms of ultimate value, there would be gap. We need honesty of purpose on the part of government officials and computer consultants not computer vendors that would help us arrive at a desired destination.
Are you satisfied the development in the software market?
In Nigeria for now, software is the least appreciated. It would take a while before people appreciates computer technology in that regard. On many occasions, the people don't know that the real engine in the computer is the software and not the hardware. Nigeria appears to be a follower of foreign software whereas our home made software is as good as any other one in any part of the world. Nigeria has a quite number of youths waiting to exhibit the skills they have acquired. It is needless for anyone to start rushing abroad for software technology because we have the very best for our environment here.
Despite what you have said software piracy is still rampant in the country, how do you think this can be curtailed?
The laws in the country are not quite squid to protect the intellectual right of software application. The registration of software under our patent laws is not really pronounced. Therefore, the control of software market through law is not sound in Nigeria; this laxity is giving so much room to the pirates. We really need to build in some litigants against illegal copy of software. Across the world, software usage is moving towards Software As A Service (SAAS), with users logging into a hosted application to pick usage. The model is a strong challenge to piracy. In that case, anybody who wishes to use a particular package has to log into the package through internet.
There have been several complaints from software builders in the country about low patronage and inability of government to give protection to the local software industry through legislation, are you not bothered about this?
Our association, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) would continue advertise and agitate for what is right to make Nigerians and the government appreciates the potentials of the indigenous software builders based on what is available. I have said at the beginning of the interview that there must be honesty of purpose in the system and on the part of the buyers of software products. Take for instance, the pay roll package, I personally think it would be criminal on the part of anybody to go abroad and get payroll that would comply with the laws of Nigeria. Certainly, you cannot get better software that is designed for Nigerians and suitable for Nigerian environment except from the local system builders. That is the home truth. There are many available packages in the country both in the area of accounting and payroll that are built by Nigerians and are available for purchase. I am not against the patronage of foreign products but I make bold to say that some segments of the Nigerian market did not need to patronize foreign software because of the peculiarity of their operation. My assumption is that many of those that rush after the foreign products may not be aware that there are better home made products that could serve their purpose better or they just want to rush into the comfort of the foreign application because they believe it is foreign, therefore, it is the best. I feel those in that category just need to be encouraged that with good consultancy, they would get the right application in Nigeria as there is nothing to fear about the quality of local products. The recent collaboration between our company, SysteSpecs and Maxi-pro, another Nigerian system builder company has brought about solution to improve the Nigerian market. It is a unique one. Having evolved software to put the Nigerian micro finance bank on e- payment platform, I don't see the need for any Nigerian microfinance bank to search for solution elsewhere. Maxi-pro had already demonstrated its competency by putting about 125 microfinance banks on e-payment platform. With our collaboration, we are expanding the horizon. SystemSpecs is currently working on foreign package to accommodate foreign payment for microfinance banks. We would conclude arrangement with our foreign partners in that area very soon. It is a step to boost the end to end payment concept. That would boost our operation beyond naira to naira transaction.