Lack of synergy, collaborations and unhealthy rivalry among ICT parastatals under the Ministry of Communications in the past, have been identified as impediments to rapid penetration of ICT in the country.
This view was shared by the Chief Executive Officers of the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami and Galaxy Backbone, Mr Yusuf Kazaure when the latter paid a courtesy to the Agency’s headquarters in Abuja.
The MD Galaxy Backbone maintained that “there is so much work to do in developing the nation’s ICT sector with limited resources hence, the need to form a synergy and collaborate with one another rather than wasting time on the issues that hinder our development.”
He said the issues preventing synergy among the parastatals under the supervising Ministry have been broken down in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed, to streamline the functions of each Agency adding that it was on the import of the new approach he decided to visit NITDA to identify areas of possible collaborations.
Mr kazaure recalled that Galaxy came into being as a result of inter-ministerial advise in which NITDA played a crucial role in establishing. He added that it was in the wisdom of government to register it as a private Liability Company. He said the company has recognized NITDA as the regulator of the IT sector in the country and it is ready to work with the Agency to provide services that are determined by the users.
He lamented that in spite of the robust infrastructure of the company, a lot of Ministries Departments and Agencies have not complied with the directive of hosting their data locally, adding that duplication of Data Centres by various MDAs makes it difficult for government to take any e-government initiative, urging the Agency to roll out regulations that would compel the MDAs use a common platform provided by Galaxy so as to deepen the ICT market for people who want government service.
“It is normal to make Galaxy a monopolistic entity because, it has the capacity to provide a common platform for Agencies to communicate with each other, stating that the company has hosted 250 government websites and created 40,000 e-mail accounts for staff of the federal government.
In his response, the NITDA DG stated that looking at the ICT sector, it is practically impossible for the Agencies to work in silos and called for proper synergy and understanding among them. He added that what is important is the development of the nation not personal credit.
He said the main focus of NITDA is to regulate the IT industry because one of the challenges he identified on coming on assumption of office, was that the sector is not properly regulated adding that it also accounts for the capital flight and pressure on foreign exchange.
Pantami revealed that most MDAs have turned IT projects to conduit pipes with which they siphon public funds because it requires limited scrutiny in the National Assembly. He affirmed the readiness of NITDA to stop the unholy practices.
The NITDA boss explained that his effort in repositioning NITDA as the clearing House of all government IT projects has started yielding the desired results as the Federal Executive Council recently rejected some proposed IT projects due to lack of proper clearance from NITDA.
“We have written to MDAs that NITDA is the clearing house for all government IT projects and we are ready to take any violator of the law to court. Our Act empowers us to imprison any violator between one to three years,” he said.
He said the importance of obtaining NITDA’s clearance is to do ‘a value-for-money analysis’ of the projects and reduce wastage of public funds which helps the nation in saving considerable funds.
The DG informed the Galaxy Backbone Management that NITDA as a regulator, would support the operator. ‘We are not the operator, we are the regulator and there is need for the regulator to support the operator. We have directed the MDAs to host their website on Galaxy backbone infrastructure except where is absolutely necessary because doing contrary to that is compromising the security of the nation.
“We have the power to design guidelines to make sure all the MDAs patronize galaxy backbone and improve our drive to develop our local content.“
He however, suggested that a standing committee should be set up between NITDA and Galaxy Backbone with the mandate of looking at issues of common interests that affect the two organisations.