Getting better at something and developing a country both have one thing in common. Deliberate effort. You need deliberate effort to get better at a thing the same way a country needs to deliberately put structures in place for development to happen.
The 50 years vs. 100 years is just an analogy. My point is that it will take us twice as much time to become the technology hub we hope to become.
Another analogy. Imagine you work for this company whose vision is to dig the best holes in the country. Over time, you become the best digger on staff. Unfortunately though, this company has a bad PR machine. As such, every time you dig, a miscommunication by the PR department pushes some of the sands you have dug out back into the hole. You might eventually achieve your goal, but as a result of your company’s action, you will get there latter than sooner. This same analogy applies to Nigeria’s Technology drive.
Individuals, organizations, a handful of private companies are striving hard to put the country on the tech map. They catch them young, support developers, encourage start-ups and all that. However, the country’s (in)actions are making this job very difficult. If we really had a goal of developing tech manpower, our policies (local or foreign) will align with this goal.
It’s no longer news that MasterCard will be issuing every Nigerian a National Identity Card. Nigeria has a population of approximately 170M people. It doesn’t matter if this was announced years ago, people have made spirited efforts at discouraging this then, and we are still doing now.
Why this couldn’t be handled by an indigenous company still beats my imagination. In an age where every country protects the data of its citizens diligently, you wonder why we would willfully delivers ours to a foreign private company. The NIMC gave reasons as seen in the tweets below:
Field experience? Biometric functionality?
This project should have gone to an indigenous firm, or a consortium of indigenous firms. Interswitch, Valuecard and other indigenous players have been in the card business for many years. (Disclaimer. I used to work with Interswitch).
If its field experience, these guys have it. Biometric? Common…Patents to biometrics can be licensed. The NIMC has missed the point here. With a national IT policy, things like this should not have happened. Development is a deliberate effort. I would think the Ministry of ICT and even the NIMC would be the ones advocating for indigenous firms to handle this based on how critical the data is.
What difference does it make.
It makes a lot of difference. Creating National Identity cards for 170M people would also require skills and expertise of all sorts of people.
MasterCard would probably rely on the Chinese and Indians to pull this project off, from a cost perspective. Meaning this project will probably be outsourced. The finished product and the not so critical part will be done in Nigeria. On the contrary, an indigenous firm would need to expand its local talent pool to pull this off. If required, they would bring in a handful of expatriates for knowledge transfer.
Furthermore, in a country with weak data privacy laws, what are the economic and security implications of having the data of all Nigerians in the hands of a private company outside the shores of Nigeria. What happens when a foreign Government with Mastercard’s loyalty requests for this data? These and similar issues are the things that make the difference. While other nations protect their data assets, we give up ours so carelessly. Is this ignorance or naivety? or is someone being paranoid?
Countries all over the world give their own the opportunity to grow. They also support them to excel abroad. The Chinese still protect the interests of Chinese companies, so do the Americans. We need to protect our own.
Development is a deliberate effort.