The Federal Government has approved a directive that only ‘Made in Nigeria’ software should run on the IT systems of the nation's public offices and institutions.

Technology Times checks reveal exclusively that the directive comes into force following a Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval by President Olusegun Obasanjo that all government agencies and institutions must run only ‘Made in Nigeria’ software.

The approval follows an intense lobby by the Nigeria Software Development Initiative (NSDI), an industry lobby group led by CEO of Zenith Bank Plc, Jim Ovia.

Significantly, the lobby group could not push through its controversial proposal that a 100 per cent tax be imposed on foreign software sold in the country. In a tacit move, the Council directed the Ministries of Science and Technology and Finance to address the implications of the tax levy being proposed by the lobby group.

However, there is a cache to latest directive as senior government officials told Technology Times exclusively that though government agencies have been told to run locally developed programs, they are still allowed to explore foreign alternatives their needs are not met locally.

It is another win for the local software development community as NSDI secured a 10-year lease on a wing of the old Federal Secretariat in Ikoyi, Lagos to house a proposed software park.

But within the NSDI fold, opinion varies on the issue of imposition of taxes on foreign software as some analysts reckon that it is a ‘protectionist’ policy that may actually undermine rather than grow the sector.

CEO, Computer Warehouse Group (CWG), which sells India’s Infosys software to mahor Nigerian banks, says the local software market is ‘not mature’ enough and that such policy proposal actually undermine the growth of the sector in a rapidly globalising market.

CEO, Socket Works, Aloy Chife, wants taxes to be imposed on foreign software to encourage the growth of the local market while adding that local companies ‘like Computer Warehouse who sell foreign software’ are the few kicking against it. It is done in most other markets like India, he adds, citing that it will benefit the overall long-term growth of the Nigerian software market.

A senior official of a multinational IT company told Technology Times that the local IT companies may not grow if they continue to expect policy measures that do not foster competition in the marketplace.

She cites the proposed Computer for All Nigerians Initiative (CANI) where only local PC makers were slated for participation in the PC ownership scheme backed by the Federal Government in alliance with major players like Intel, Microsoft hoped to increase IT usage and penetration across a broader spectrum of Nigerians.

According to her, multinational companies are now to participate in the scheme after they intensified lobby to have stake in the scheme hoped to push millions of PCs into the Nigerian market.

Meanwhile, the news of the government approval has largely received commendations among industry players who expected that it will stimulate the market for locally developed software.

CEO, Infographics Limited, Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu, who also says it is a positive development for the industry also see the NSDI ‘win’ from a slightly different angle.

“It’s the result of many years of work and dividend of industry harmonisation agenda. The power of One I call it. A single voice, a coherent platform that allows diverse opinion to contend”, Mba-Uzoukwu adds.

NSDI says it is working to establish software as a national priority sector and accelerate the process of creating an enabling environment for the sustainable growth of the software industry.

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