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NIGERIA IT INDUSTRY : Developing Skills in Open Source Alternatives

Jan 27, 2006 - (Being the text of a paper presented at the ICT4NEED workshop holding at Federal polytechnic, Ado Ekiti by Mr .O .A .T .Aladesanmi of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife, Nigeria).



I intend purely for a reason of convenience to being this paper with a general assumption that majority of us seating here today are youths. This assumption is necessary in the lights of the overall theme for this gathering which is "Building Intellectual capacity for sustainable development in the new order of Economy" It is almost impossible to discuss development in whatever context outside the youth.


The youth represent the largest and most active percentage of any nation `s work force . The united Nations put the population of the country at roughly 115 million in year 2000. Of this immense population, the largest in any black world, youth account for 60%. Further statistic revealed that young people between the age bracket of 12 and 30 years constitutes 46% of the population i.e. almost 52 million people. This sheer huge size, of necessity, logically confers on the youth a prime position in the scheme of things of any nation.


Providing the right man power to nation building is a key sector that cannot be ignored by any segment of the society. It is the fulcrum on which development and nation building stands and the relevance of youths.


Nation building is an hydra headed concept entailing economic reconstruction, political transformation, cultural discovery and spiritual renewal. Development and nation building sprout from a seed of modernism that has been introduced, integrated and adapted to the traditional society. Youths generally the most feasible contact with the modern world and hence they are change-agents, the human vehicle through which seed of modernism are not only conveyed but sown.
They are the principal mechanism for unity and friendship which are essential ingredient for nation building.

Youth is about renewal, fresh ideas challenging old traditions (with humility) and yearning for the untried. Youths find change inebriating, not intimidating. youths are impetuous, sometimes unpredictable: with the promise of a better future comes a veiled threat to tear down the past. Youth breaks all the rules. We are vanguard of fashion, music, literature and popular culture. Youth is, in a word, energy potential dynamite set to be unleashed.

It is therefore for me, a pleasure for which I am sincerely grateful, to be part of this ICT4NEED workshop taking place in the town of Ado-Ekiti.

Nigeria IT industry; Developing the Skills in Open Source alternatives 

On March 15, 2004, the present regime released to the public the Nigeria National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) document. The document has the following as its ICT policy focus:

  • To develop and sustain a modern information and communication technology capacity that is conducive to private sector driven growth and economic development, improve quality of life and impact the level of poverty significantly.

  • Improve access to Internet connectivity and raise the level of computer usage and literacy

  • Facilitate the development of a national multimedia super corridor including provision of appropriate incentives for private sector involvement

  • Aggressively promote ICT as an instrument of mass education, growth and development.

In achieving the aforementioned objectives, the document identified the following issues as critical to improved information and communication services.

- High cost of private provision of power.
- Absence of local manufacture and maintenance of information and telecommunication equipment including development of a software development capacity.
- Absence of an effective and efficient postal communication and 
- Inadequate human capacity and indigenous technical know-how 

Our focus in this paper will be such to address the fourth constrained mentioned above: Inadequate human capacity and indigenous technical known-how. Our tool for addressing this problem is the Free and Open Source alternative.

What is FOSS?
FOSS is simply an acronym for Free and Open Source Software. Free software is that which the creators of computer software convey rights to others to freely use, redistribute, and modify their work. This results in a broad public collaboration on such works.

Tan T. and Kuala L. (2004) defined Free/Open Source Software as software that is made available along with source code as a distinctive feature. It is often available at no cost. Users can and distribute the software. And if they so wish, they can study the source code and modify it to suit their needs. The modified version of the software can also be redistributed. In contrast, proprietary software is licensed to users for a fee and the source code is usually closely guarded and not made available to users. It is illegal to make copies and distribute proprietary software without paying additional licensing fees.

There is a fine distinction between Free Software and Open Source Software. The Free Software movement focuses on moral and ethical issues relating to the freedom of users to use, study, modify and redistribute software. Open Source advocates take a more corporate approach, focusing on the advantages of the Open Source software development method. For most purposes including this paper, Free Software and Open Source Software can be considered to be the same. Free and Open software are simply put, two different sides of same coin.

Open Source, according to the open source initiative, is any software that complies with the following stipulated criteria:
- Free Redistribution:
- Source Code
- Derived Works:
- Integrity of The Author's Source Code:
- No Discrimination against Persons or Groups:
- No Discrimination against Fields of Endeavor:
- Distribution of License:
- License Must Not Be Specific to a Product:
- License Must Not Restrict Other Software:
- License Must Be Technology-Neutral:

Tan T, and Kuala L (2004) noted that Free/Open Sources Software (FOSS) is a recent phenomenon that has the potential to revolutionize the software industry. It has already gained a strong foothold in the server software segment, with a leading market share worldwide in some software categories. It is also gaining ground in desktop applications and it has been predicted that its use on the desktop will become significant in the near future.

Open Source vs Proprietary software
Proprietary software or closed software as distinct and different from Open source is that which user has to obtain license for it to be use. In almost all cases, the source codes for proprietary software are not publicly available. Microsoft and Oracle are the two world largest software vendors.

It has been argued for the under listed reasons that Open Source is technically superior to proprietary software. The reasons are:

>> Developments in a proprietary organization are mostly ill-targeted because developers are mainly not users, and therefore do not know which functionalities to develop or improve first, or simply where the bugs are. On the contrary, open-source communities benefit considerably from a "users as innovators" organization and attract numerous heterogeneous developers which, using their own idiosyncratic experience, correct various bugs and suggest various new developments. As a consequence, developments added to open-source software are considerably more efficient for a given level of adoption than for proprietary software.

>> Proprietary software producers get incentives to release improved versions only from time to time, so that users are in a way obliged to regularly buy newer versions. Free bug corrections are pretty rare, and usually limited to critical situations: proprietary software producers prefer to wait for improvements to be sufficient to support the release of a new versions, i.e. an extra price. On the contrary, open-source software is very regularly delivered to users through the release of successive versions which add new functionalities and correct bugs and add minor improvements. As a consequence, open-source software is also "continuously" more efficient than proprietary software.

>> Finally, the performance of a proprietary technology depends of R&D investments by its producer. These efforts tends to diminish for a monopolist i.e. when network effects drive adoption toward a proprietary standard. More generally, business-firms face a trade-off between investments and profits which has an impact on which share of extra earnings associated with increasing returns of adoption is dedicated to further R &D investments and improvements of their technology. On the contrary, open-source communities make no profits, while developers contribute for free.

Open Source development tends to attract numerous (very) skilled workers which prefer open organizational consequence, more developers will generally contribute to a piece of open-source software than to a piece of proprietary software than to a piece of proprietary software for a given level of adoption.

The practice and encouragement of the development of open source will drastically reduce the problems of piracy. The cost of software (proprietary) license is so high that it is unaffordable by most residents of the developing countries thereby leaving them to the criminal option of illegal duplication and distribution of software.

For those in academic community, the open philosophy of FOSS is consistent with academic freedom and the open dissemination of knowledge and information common in academia.

Developing the relevant skills in Open Source alternatives: the challenges ahead in most production environment, particularly in the academic community, Open Source is being encouraged more power the back end servers. 

The Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has identified three main FOSS development tools:
- Linux (Operating systems)
- MySQL (DBMS) and
- PHP (Front-End Scripting tool).

Most other FOSS tools centre around the above three tools, particularly Linux.

Building relevant skill in FOSS entails:
Human capacity building: investigating FOSS communities as informal skills development environments, with economic value for employment generation.
Software development: Taking active interest in software engineering to solve most tasks around us.
Government policy: what policies and behaviour do governments in the country adopt towards FOSS, open standards and interoperability?
Training and Workshops for further building of skill and collaboration.

In furtherance to this and in addition to the policy thrust of NITDA on Open source is the following:
>> Funding of workshop at each of the FOSS participating institutions to further sensitize the universities of the need for alternative software tools such as FOSS;
>> Development of guidelines and incentive for sustainable application of FOSS in software development to assure that local content is built into the Nigerian software market;

I therefore propose that an academic course in open source should be included at the undergraduate level of every university and at the HND level for Polytechnics for all Computer Science students or any of its related courses. More emphasis needs to be placed on software development in our tertiary institution. As a matter of pre-requisite, students from computer related discipline must have good knowledge of at least one programming language before leaving school. From Part three for the University students and the first year of the HND, student should be made to undertake projects in software development. The software developed must be such that it addressed local problem.

Unless and until this is done, developing needed skill in open source - and software for that matter will be a mirage.

Thank you.

Temitope Adegboye Aladesanmi B.Sc, CCNA

This paper was presented at the ICT4NEED workshop holding at Federal polytechnic, Ado Ekiti by Mr .O .A .T .Aladesanmi of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife, Nigeria).

 

 

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Comments

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Anne from Abuja says:

 

We all need to know more about Open source.

 

Dele from Lagos says:

Thanks but will the benefits of free open source be made possible if you consider the hostility from the proprietary companies who are presently benefiting?

 

Ejikeme  from Maitama, Abuja says:

Open source is the best thing that is hapening on the IT world. I use a lot of open source applications. Soon I intend to upload my application to open source sites for others to use.

 

 

Ali Umar Yakasai from NUNet Unit, Bayero University, Kano says:

 

Thanks alot for the article, I enjoyed reading it, keep it up.

 

 


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DISRUPT THE STATUS QUO!

     
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