I Need A Developer Like Yesterday – Part 2

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You may want to read the first part of this post first.

Following my initial post, there has been an interesting take from a developer@Ajibz’s on Techcabal here and another on bootstrapping to bridge the developer deficit with seemingly low budgets here.

Both posts buttress the fact that we are not there yet and there remains a deficit of developers to drive the ecosystem. Poco a poco? Perhaps.

It was also good to hear Sim Shagaya’s speech on inshoring some of Konga’s development activities at the just concluded Techcabal Battlefield.  Sim was clear about one thing, if we don’t build it, the Amazons of this world will.

The 170 million jigsaw puzzle

There is abundant chaos and commotion to be tamed with technology in Nigeria and Africa in general. From the farmer in the village to the city worker living the dream, there remain countless untapped opportunities.

No surprise, these markets did not just appear – there is nothing new under the sun as they say. What is new though is a great opportunity to tackle age-old problems using technology – a new perspective to the same problem.

The 170m jigsaw puzzle however will only be solved with the right calibre of technical subject matters to drive the ecosystem – developers being one. The 170m bucket is just one market. a bigger market I see is the human capital and technical prowess we can export to other countries and be the go-to place like India.

The world is becoming increasingly competitive. Human capital will no doubt become the next prized commodity — transferable skills that know no physical country boundaries. I would like to see Nigeria and indeed Africa building awesome stuff beyond our shores.

Who will bell the cat?

It would take a combined effort of both the private sector and government to drive this change. There is great stuff being done by private hands like the CcHUB so I focus on the role of government in accelerating the ecosystem.

Now governments don’t necessarily create markets. They can however create the enabling environment for markets/ecosystems to thrive. Their role is to recognise there is a budding potential and provide the nurture and support required to grow an industry. After all, the Nigerian government should in reality have vested interests in seeing this ecosystem succeed and reducing our reliance on black gold.

I hear a “hmmm, but…”. Either way, we cannot excuse the fact that government have a crucial role to play.

They can add value in a number of ways

1. The Nigerian government must put their money where their mouth is. Governments are big spenders anywhere in the world and you expect them to play a key catalytic role in gingering the shoots that are appearing within the ecosystem. Globally, governments are undoubtedly some of the biggest spenders on technology with the USA reportedly spending $3.6 trillion on ICT in 2012. These amounts have a massive trickledown effect in ensuring the right skill sets are trained and available to meet the demand side.

According to this article, Nigeria spends $550m on ICT related expenditure with the bulk of this going to foreign providers. This had to change. The Government of Nigeria must encourage local players by using locally sourced software solutions. They cannot speak with two mouths. As a nation, we spend over $7bn on ICT imports.

An added incentive to invest in technology is using it as a tool to help fight corruption (if there is a willingness to do this). Whether or not there is an appetite to create these controls remains questionable.

2. Providing incentives to start technology businesses in Nigeria is a move that must be embraced. From tax breaks to job subsidies and technology grants, these are simple tools to encourage technology houses kick-start. I am not necessarily talking about big players here. I am keen to see SMEs grow, the small software houses that employ 2-3 people.

3. One key role of any government is being a sales representative and ambassador – yes a PR job. We have done a particularly woeful job in selling the Nigerian story. The FDI numbers in my previous post provide evidence of this. We must get better at selling our story. India and Brazil remain classed as a ‘risky nations’ to travel to because of crime etc. However, it does not stop companies from going to do business there by the truckload.

The Indian success story is as a result of heavily driven PR started in the early 1990’s, selling how good it is to do business in India. We can learn a thing or two from them. We can start now.

4. Education will remain a key ingredient in achieving the objective of building a skilled workforce, like my developer friend Vlad. Now this is a difficult nut to crack due to years of neglect and depravation. However we can begin to rewind these effects by making a conscious effort to invest in educating the next generation. It is a long-term play after all? We can start now.

In addition, I would like to see the focus shift away from university education to producing well rounded SSCE holders as a starting point. The Nigerian government should first look to produce a cadre of high quality school leavers who are ready to take on the world. University education should be a bonus for those who seek to follow this path.

We are not all built for the university path right after secondary school and for many it adds little value. I for one did not take this path and I do not have a 1stdegree – a story for another day. We must encourage apprenticeships – those looking to learn on the job. People should be willing to finish off as school leavers (SSCE) and go straight into a technology houses to learn the trade. However they must be well equipped to make these decisions. Government can play a key role in selling this as an alternative.

This post first appeared on Peter’s blog.

16 Comments

  • Tola says:

    IMHO and in the sake of being very controversial, this post is very patronising and views like this pushes the wrong message! Government or education has nothing to do with developing local talent as we live in a capitalist world. I can bet that if some low-life in Ajegunle learnt how to write apps in his face-me-i-face-you and his app was acquired by Facebook then drives his Lamborghini to Moremi Hall every night to do Aristo, everybody in Nigeria will want to be a developer. In fact, parents will start teaching their kids how to code before they can even read ABC. This was the same story for 419ers, musicians and comedians some years ago in Nigeria now people what to become Dbanj or Davido. What role did the government play in that? India BPO and IT industry was not built or enabled by their government, the government came on later in the equation. The boom in India was started by some fast folks in the US (hardcore capitalists) that wanted to make a quick bucks and they headed to India because labour was very cheap there. Google search “Infosys Mysore” and see what they do there. They convert Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants – the brightest brains in all the IITs in India to developers. This is just one of the companies that do this. You also have Tech Mahindra, Wipro and even Accenture doing the same thing all over India. Bangalore that you mentioned is just the aftermath or should I say the Hollywood where everybody comes to chase a dream and it’s not just Indians. Your Ajay friend could have even been Chuks from Aba that went to Bangalore to chase the same dream that you are preaching and probably working in an hotel on MG road pimping out naija *cough cough*. So my guy don’t blame any government if no one in Nigeria is smart enough on how to cash in on all the jobless people in Nigeria. Government’s job is to come tax people like Jason Njoku – as per his current Kosofe LG saga – if he does not like the tax bill (owo omo onile) handed over to him then he should move to India. I tire…..

    • Sola F. says:

      Well said

    • niyoma says:

      You may want to read about India’s economic liberalization and how India became an open economy in the 1990’s. Also read about what role Manmohan Singh played in pushing “we are open for business” and USA relations. India grew from ~ $132 million in 1991–92 to $5.3 billion in 1995–96. Per my previous post you can see the impact of these reforms on FDI inflows.

      Really concerns me when people dismiss the role of any government in driving reforms.

      “education has nothing to do with developing local talent as we live in a capitalist world”

      Are you really for real?

      • Tola says:

        BPOs were in existence as far back as the late 70’s and early 80’s, I will suggest that you ask folks like Romney that cashed on it big time. The FDI says nothing but the fact that people like Romney has laid the process down to get anything done in India and like any hot cake the government and other folks came to the table late, very late. The government played little or no role in India’s past or current success, they are just adapting with times just like any sensible government will do. Build a $1bn economy in Nigeria and government will start passing various bills and laws which are by the way funded by by people that want a chunk of the cake. Also, I stand by the point that education has nothing to do with developing local talent, if the rewards are high people will go and learn themselves or Universities will teach them. The India government that you are praising is about to put a law in place to stop people like InfoSys converting all their Doctors and Lawyers to developers. This because BPOs pay the highest and why will I want to be a doctor earning £300/month when I can be a developer that earns £700/month, with free training, free accommodation and I get to travel around the world?

        Bottom line, its not the government’s responsibility. If a company wants local talent they should develop it. If they can’t afford to develop the talent then they should bring in InfoSys or Wipro if it make economic sense to them. Oh wait, that is already happening! Was it not StanbicIBTC replaced a whole floor of staff with InfoSys staff in Lagos…Hmmm, why did they do that?

        • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

          Did they bring the info sys staff to Lagos? Or did they take the jobs to india? Can you provide perspective. Very interested.

        • niyoma says:

          Not the government’s role solely as I pointed out in the post. However make no mistake the govt has a key catalytic role to play. Govt’s make or break countries as you have noted. The BPO industry you refer to was close to zilch before the economic reforms in the 90’s.

          You may also want to also read about Software Technology Parks of India. There was a conscious strategy to drive this industry. You don’t have to agree 🙂

          • Tola says:

            I understand that you wrote the post and will like to defend your position 🙂 So, with all due respect, you are right that I don’t have to agree. I still think you are missing the point. STPI’s came as a way for the government to regulate the IT and BPO market with an incentive of tax breaks. Who lobbied and benefited the most from the STPI laws? The InfoSys and Wipros. Am I lying? You can check out how it played out at http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2009-05-26/news/27647706_1_tax-holiday-stpi-scheme-stp-units

            As I said, leave the government out of it and build an viable economy, they will definitely come and when they come they usually do more harm than good unless the entrepreneurs are paying for their election campaigns.

          • Taiwo J Orilogbon says:

            Some days ago, I came across this article http://aguntasolo.com/2014/04/15/an-open-letter-to-ngozi-okonjo-iweala-and-olusegun-aganga/ while it had nothing to do with Software Development, I was awestruck at the fact that Dangote Cements doesn’t have to pay taxes (at least that’s how I interpreted it) as an “incentive”. When will the government give such incentives to local technology companies?

    • Taiwo J Orilogbon says:

      “Government or education has nothing to do with it.”, I don’t know much about government, but as a trained computer scientist, I will tell you education has a lot to do with it! There are things you can’t learn on the job and there are things you don’t learn in the four walls of the classroom. Mark Zuckerberg could have built a minimal version of Facebook without having a degree in computer science (even self he had taken programming classes and had a tutor prior to getting into Harvard), but there’s no way he could have scaled Facebook to what it is today without people with good education and research background. Today, Microsoft, Google and Facebook are the largest employers of PhDs, do you see the education in that ? I could go on and on ranting about how education shapes ones mind, but let me save you that stress.

      Look up the history of computers and see how what you have today was borne out of mostly research laboratories.

      On a final note, I have had cause to work with developers that are both graduates of computer science and those that are not, and there’s a great deal of difference between both. I’m not saying it’s the CS that made the former a good developer, but that with a background in CS, they become even better better developers.

  • ajibz says:

    I don’t mean to sound cynical, but i would not hold my breath for
    government to solve this problem, the private sector can probably
    jumpstart this and get help along the way from legislature, but not the
    government spear heading because with changing landscapes that they have
    no experience in their assumptions are likely to be poor. Lets face it,
    the landscapes they have tons of experience in, they are making crap
    decisions at. Adequate education is really the key here.

    Most importantly be the change you want to see, i.e. hire the SSCE school leaver, take the time to train your devs etc.

    • niyoma says:

      Govt’s seldom create markets. They can however recognise and provide the frameworks to grow them.

    • Taiwo J Orilogbon says:

      AJibz, I don’t think anybody is waiting for them to solve these problems, people just need them to create the enabling environment. Do you know how much companies spend on generators alone every month ? Is that not part of what is driving the local cost up ? As a freelance developer, I used to consider “fuel money” as a major factor when calculating the amount I would charge a client. There are several other policies that can be put in place to encourage local development, for example ensuring that companies reduce software importation to a certain limit, and many more.

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