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Government approves Nigeria's Technology Valley
The Federal Government recently approved the establishment of a Technology Village for software and manpower development in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), in Abuja, Nigeria's federal capital. The tech village is expected to cost N52.8 billion, with government committing N5 billion seed money into providing infrastructure, and the balance coming from the private sector.
According to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir el Rufai, who appears to be prime motivator behind the initiative, "what we hope to do with the village, which is going to cost us between $300 to $400 million, is to have the highest quality infrastructure attracting the best brains in information and bio-technology, pharmaceutical and IT research". The technology village is expected to provide employment for about 40,000 people, with the eventual aim of boosting growth and performance through information technology.
The Minister said though the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology had been working on the village since 2001, Nigerians in the diaspora interested in the village made it a reality by investing about $100,000 to do the business plan and feasibility study.
One of the aims of Nigeria's IT policy is for Nigeria to be an exporter of information technology products. India, which has already led other developing nations in this regard, benefits tremendously from the performance of its information technology industry. India is today the recognized and leading IT outsourcing hub in the world. With the global trend indicating phenomenal growth in outsourcing Nigeria can't afford to be left behind.
Some have dubbed the technology as Nigeria's Silicon Valley. The aim of the National IT policy and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is ensure Nigeria as a nation not just benefits from the advances in information technology, but also becomes a key player in information technology.
Outsourcing is an attractive option for a country like Nigeria. But apart from the technology village, for outsourcing to make sense for Nigeria, other issues such as standards, public power supply, project management expertise and incentives for professionals and investors need to be addressed .
While information about the technology village mentions the involvement of Nigerians in diaspora, reports indicate that it is largely a government affair with little or no input from local IT professionals. Also the details of infrastructure and assets that would constitute the village and how the village would be run have not been made public.
Interesting some active participants in Nigeria's ICT sector are not too enamored with the choice of Abuja. For instance, the Computer and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria would have preferred a development of Ikeja technology market - also known as the computer village - in Lagos which is Nigeria's current IT hotspot. And for many involved in IT, Lagos and not Abuja is where most IT activities are currently concentrated.
However, to make a meaningful impact, it is expected that the tech village will be a collaborative effort that addresses issues involving all stakeholders. It certainly appears to be a positive step for information technology empowerment in Nigeria.
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April 30, 2008
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