Many countries and corporations around the world have had to learn the lessons of ICT revolution the hard way. The hitherto world renowned Encyclopaedia Britannica had to be sold for less one-half of its book value in 1996 after the CD-ROM dropped the cost of competing products to a tiny fraction of printed encyclopaedia in 1990.
Nigeria lagged behind for a long period and therefore failed to get ahead with its peers that have now emerged among the leading ICT nations in the world. Its backwardness in embracing ICT was to the extent that the nation was tagged a user of obsolete ICT products even as late as in the early 2000s.
A new phase of rapid development however followed as from the middle of the decade spearheaded by a number of men and women, who have in the various aspects of their roles within the sector, helped to place Nigeria in the league of the fastest growing ICT nations in the world. They, like a winning team, represent the propelling force for the massive embrace of technology by individuals and businesses in the country as a way of life.
The result is that Nigeria has succeeded in fast tracking the deployment of ICT, joining the digital world that analysts and historians have described as the third industrial revolution. This couldn’t have happened without the effort of these highly enterprising Nigerians that risked lives and money, working hard and long to make ICT facilities available to Nigerians.
Some of them have worked in the field of computers; some in telecommunications, some in microelectronics and others in biotechnology and have succeeded in transforming lives, businesses and the economy at large.
About the middle of 2003, the total number of computer installations in Nigeria was about two million. That was all that the country could show out of more than one billion personal computers that had been sold globally at that time. The emergence of Nigerian companies producing personal computers no doubt provided the drive that soon launched the nation into the information technology frontier.
The deregulation of the telecommunications sector in 2001 and the roll out of GSM phones marked the critical point of transformation for Nigeria. The country has moved rapidly from being one of the lowest in telephone density to one of the fastest advancing nations in the world. This has opened up a vast information technology highway and placed in the hands of Nigerians tremendous opportunities for ICT-driven innovations – waking up the nation to the competitiveness that ICT has made possible in every endeavour in life.
Nigeria’s initial complacency has it cost. A number of countries that were on the same development pedestal with Nigeria before have moved well ahead in development through early embrace of ICT. India is a typical example of this strategic advance in the ICT revolution. The country quickly churned out software experts and taking advantage of cheap labour, it has since created a large software industry that has made it an ICT hub for the United States. With a reserve of dominant software experts, India presently generates billions of dollars from software services exports.
Malaysia pursued an ICT policy that has enabled it to emerge as a leading ICT nation. Singapore’s miraculous transformation from a third world country to the first is a testimony to its massive development of ICT-based opportunities for its people.
Being functionally and digitally literate has become the key for individuals and businesses, even for nations to excel in the knowledge-based global economy and competitiveness of the present time. ICT has become the driver of business processes, as companies exploit digital tools to reinvent operations and excite the marketplace.
Bill Gates, in his book, Business @ the Speed of Thought, said such companies will lead the business of the future because they are able to make decisions quickly, act efficiently and touch customers positively. “Going digital will put you on the leading edge of a shock wave of change that will shatter the old ways of doing business”, Gates said.
The growth in the world leading economies and corporations is attributed to their embrace of ICT and its application in every facet of operating processes. Noah Samara agrees that behind the wealth of nations and individuals is information. Behind the poverty of individuals and nations as well is ignorance, he said.
The deregulation of Nigeria’s telecommunications sector has led to a rapid growth in the number of operators and service providers in the country. Private investment poured in and has grown geometrically for the development of Nigeria’s ICT infrastructures. This permitted a massive roll out of mobile telephone lines and a number of telephone-based services in banking and other services, including money transfers and electronic payments.
A number of indigenous investors have demonstrated confidence in the country, committing massive investments to ICT development. There have emerged a number of telecom industry intermediaries such as content providers, backbone providers, providers of co-location services and satellite transmission service providers.
These constitute big and small businesses, creating direct and indirect jobs that have added immensely to the wellbeing of Nigerians. With that also sprang have up service companies and sundry retail chains across the length and breath of the nation. The ICT sector has become one of the growth drivers in the economy and a major provider of jobs in the country.
The doors have thus been flanged wide open for Nigerians to move into various aspects of ICT products development and services. With enhanced communications has come improved work efficiency, increased productivity and reduced cost of operations. Company managers can simultaneously be chasing new business in the field and keep tab in the office as if they are right at their desks.
These and other value added service providers are not only creating direct and indirect jobs but have helped to enhance competitiveness within the ICT sector and improved efficiency and service quality in the general economy.
The confidence of domestic investors to invest in Nigeria has helped to attract foreign direct investments from renowned global players that have set up shops in Nigeria. The contributions of these patriotic Nigerian entrepreneurs in the country’s economic development are immense.
The ICT top 10 are the top grade of people who steered the wheel of ICT development in Nigeria and succeeded in brining home the infrastructures, facilities and services that have enabled Nigeria to become the fastest growing ICT nation in the world. From about 450,000 telephone lines at the beginning of 2001, Nigerian ICT sector boost some 152 million active lines presently. From less than two million computers in 2002, personal computer has become a common work tool in the country. The ICT top 10 are the core of Nigerians that made these happen!