Nigeria: 2011 Budget and Calls for IT Ministry

Computing

The National Information Development Agency NITDA and the Nigeria Communication Satellite limited NIGCOMSAT were the only two government IT parastatals allocated funds in the 2011 budget proposal of President Goodluck Jonathan. Once again, the Information Technology sector is embedded inside the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The two sectors had however come with noticeable differences in figures when compared to allocations received from the nation's purse in the previous year with NITDA dropping by almost 31 million from N363,842,768m received in 2010 to N333,669,409m in the proposed 2011 budget.

NIGCOMSAT on the other hand more than doubled it's allocation from last year. A total of N2,103,749,624b has been proposed for the agency, more than 50% it's previous allocation of N997,823,148m. Even though the 2011 budget proposal has not yet been approved, it is already being kicked in at certain quarters which alleged claim it is a 'budget of consumption'. Like virtually every other sector in the country, the Information Technology sector had it's own fair share of rough knocks and back pats in the previous year.

At various IT engagements and assessment dinners, held at the tail end of the year, experts and observers who had keenly monitored the sector's activities had voted a "quite satisfactory" on the sector, but then, they unanimously agree that the challenges to be confronted in 2011 remain as gigantic as ever; a robust budget on IT may probably not be out of line.

But this has not quenched the thirst of stakeholders and industry practitioners pushing for an IT ministry. They have repeatedly said that the development of IT in the country will not be easily achieved should the sector remain buried in some other ministry.

Beginning from middle of last year, there had been a torrent of announcements on the sector, covering policy plans, amendments and blueprints from government through her relevant IT agencies to possibly harmonise these IT agencies into one body or 'ministry' but unfolding events had led to fears from stakeholders and infact, leaders of professional associations with claims that the usual bureaucratic bottlenecks that continually stifle government policy implementation may yet again come alive and hold the sector down. With this recent budget proposal, it is creation of the much-touted IT ministry may not be coming anytime soon.

The president of the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria CPN Ibrahim Tizhe at the Nigeria Computer Society merit awards night held just before the end of last year had said: "The Presidency had taken a bold step earlier in September by setting up a committee to harmonise and draw up a roadmap to the governing of IT in Nigeria. A major recommendation had been for the harmonisation of all IT agencies in the country. Major stakeholders were involved and high-reaching decisions had been made, documented and reported back but that nothing has been heard of it till today is a matter of great concern not only to those of us who were represented but to the whole IT economy in the country.

However, unconfirmed sources have it that some of those in power are not favourable to the recommendations for fear of losing their strangleholds on some of the parastatals. Again, we must be bold to point out that the nation's interest should not be sacrificed at the stead of self interest. Personal interest should not becloud our interest from the future of Nigerians."

Experts and observers who have reacted to Tizhe's comments insist that except these 'faceless' elements that continually leave clogs into the wheels of development in the sector are removed; then 2011 and this proposed IT ministry may yet again run a full circle without the sector moving an inch forward.