• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

Boosting software development

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Globally, the software market has grown at an unprecedented rate, driving productivity, growth and innovation in the manufacturing, telecoms, financial services, construction and health sectors, and providing employment for young people as well as helping businesses perform better. Latest results by Worldwide Semiannual Software Tracker reveal that software market reached a total size of $342 billion in 2012, and global software market grew 3.6 percent year over year, in line with International Data Corporation’s previous forecast of 3.4 percent, less than half the growth rate experienced in 2010 and 2011.

As emerging markets experience solid year-over-year growth in data access, analysis and delivery, security software, system and network management software, Nigeria’s software industry has been a source of galloping income for many countries, losing about N18.9 billion in the last five years to capital flight from importation of foreign software, according to National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP).

In a bid to reverse this trend, iDEA, a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2013, is targeted at accelerating the development of the nation’s software industry by nurturing and helping Nigerian software technology businesses. Besides aiding entrepreneurs to create successful businesses, the initiative provides essential support to entrepreneurs to build software skills and solutions critical to their success, as entrepreneurs accepted into iDEA centres receive support in the way of physical work space, shared facilities, training, mentoring and access to capital. This move is in tandem with the plan to establish five software incubation centres across the country with the aim of accelerating the development of a commercial software industry by ensuring that appropriate support and funding are available to software and other IT entrepreneurs.

Until now, software practitioners complained of the absence of funding bodies focused essentially on technology. According to them, venture capitalists shy away from funding start-ups, more so technology ideas that seem complicated. Also, chronic problems of dependability (safety, reliability and security) and maintainability of software products have negatively affected the nation’s software industry.

A look at the USA reveals that the software industry in that country received considerable support from government through Research and Development (R&D) and procurement funding of software development during the 1950s. This deliberate action has paid off as the US dominates the ICT world, including the software industry, with top five software suppliers in the world – Microsoft, IBM Corp., Oracle Corp., Computer Associates International Inc., and Hitachi Ltd – all based in the US. In the last five years, there has been an explosion in the use of smartphones (Apple, iPad) whose organsations are domiciled in the US, with Apple paying as much as $6 billion in the last quarter to software developers.

We believe now is the time to act with Nigeria aiming to become one of the world’s 20 leading economies by 2020. There is need for a functional and properly/regionally implemented national ICT policy, with particular focus on software development. There is also need to earmark some areas as national IT parks, IT valleys or IT designated cities with appropriate policies on infrastructure, human resources, incentives and business policies. Placing huge emphasis on training to produce an army of highly trained and skilled IT professionals in various domains of IT and at various levels (tertiary and non–tertiary IT training institutions) is key if Nigeria is to become a net exporter of software within the African continent.

Besides encouraging Nigerian IT professionals abroad to come back to set up shop in the IT valleys, parks or cities, with appropriate policies, there is need to encourage new areas of IT such as IT project management skills, software assessment and certification skills, software quality assurance and metrication skills, and modern software engineering practices.