Founder of Programos Software and Programos Foundation, Emmanuel Amos, shares with IT Edge News, Oluwaseun Ajayi, his insights on how Nigeria could leapfrog its economy through innovation and building local digital capacity in its young people. Amos, a member of the Global Digital Foundation, says government must look more inwardly and have a vision designed to address local challenges through indigenous innovative efforts.
Where is Programos focusing on?
I want to seize the opportunity to share with you what Programos Software is currently doing and what it has been doing in the Nigerian economy over some time. Programos Software is the parent company for the ‘tranvision.’ Most of our activities are now channeled on our NGO and civil society works that Programos (aside business angle) has actually been doing in the society. Firstly, there is an innovation we call the InnovationBed Africa.
The InnovationBed Africa has been in the research pipeline for about 10 years now and is actually taking a new dimension in this decade of 2020. The Foundation directly involves the social impact of trying to see how Nigeria can see more of innovations, perhaps deliver more innovations to grow the Nigerian economy.
Programos Software and Programos Foundation have actually looked at the general problems within the Nigerian space as well as the Africa tech hub businesses. We have actually intervened by introducing new dimensions in the past and I will share with you some of these. One of those interventions has to do with our early research and development on what we call the SIDOL – Software Implementation Development and Outsourcing – Liberty designed to help express freedom in innovation.
Sidol Liberty was a research pilot that was used by the Programmos Foundation to empower the youths on the streets and engage them with the right set of skill dating as far back as 2007. It was coined at the early stage before InovationBed was initiated. Sidol Liberty was aimed to help people from outside ICT benefit from the project and most especially to help them figure their field and also to become support personnel. The Sidol liberty had to evolve looking at why graduates are roaming the streets when they are supposed to be fixed up in one form of workforce or another; and we were able to put up research to address the problem. Another is the area of trying to see how we can volunteer to grow more innovators in the country and that we do by representing Nigeria in the United Nations World Summit and Strategy between 2010 and 2021. It was a period that we were able to look for innovations all over the country and for the last ten years I must say Nigeria has been doing very well in the globe. This is based on the records of what we are going to see very shortly. The next in line is our volunteer on the United Nations ICT, a strategic and transformation process allowing us to impact significantly on Nigerian youths in terms of capacity more than the last ten years. Our vision for the next decade is to see how we can harvest these local resources.
“The Nigerian leadership still has no goodwill for software development in Nigeria. The political leaders blatantly have a high level of disrespect to the software development industry.”
Describe Amos Emmanuel and Programos Software.
I am Amos Emmanuel, founder of Programos Software and Programos Foundation. Programos Software is Nigeria’s pioneer stock broking software and by this, we offer indigenous software development and support services to capital market operators in Nigeria. We also do this to other African countries and we are very available in Ghana, for instance. This service is being used by over a hundred of capital operators years back and we are still here. It has helped so much in the automation of Nigeria’s capital market ecosystem.
Over the years Nigerian innovators have earned several achievements. How can the achievements affect the Nigerian economy positively?
On one hand, if you look at my early discussion, Nigeria is that system we have managed politically and democratically not so well. Leadership has to identify with its local capacities. It is very important because we have had an era, perhaps still ongoing, where leadership looks at the outside world for internal solutions. This may have helped them personally but then obviously, does not really help the economy and Nigeria as a society. The main reason why local innovation is key. The innovator is developing from the experience of the challenge he or she has experienced of local issues. For an innovator to wake up and think of an idea that can deliver solution, workable and acceptable to the economy means that society is changing for good. Government has obligation to support and promote things like these. But sadly, our politics lacks vision and politicians are gallery objects. They bring nothing so actually nothing is happening on the ground and there can never be any impact on the economy. If the local people are not impacting the economy, what manner of growth do you expect? . Now, this presentation is to let you know that if Nigeria is directly interested in a digital economy, that means that we are interested in realizing or seeing a fairer and more sustainable and more inclusive digital society and to do that, you need capable hands. Why is it difficult for government to recognize local players and not share propaganda? Why is it difficult to identify with local players because it will go a long way and give you the result that you desire? But they will choose to do these foreign processes and adopt foreigner relationships that are never auditable; and nobody can actually hold them responsible for whether the projects that they have engaged on failed or not. Nigeria has actually invested so much in infrastructure, in terms of broadband in terms of ministry abilities. But the Nigerian government and particularly leaders are looking at how much they are spending not at the attitude of sustaining what they have done with all the huge money. It will take the domestic innovators to sustain investment of government and broadband investment or other infrastructures and of course, several other things that we have done in this country, but do we have a sustainable template for this? In transportation; many governments are doing so very well, you can follow what Lagos state is doing recently, introducing new transport system by way of this technology-based taxes all over the place. It is not just about putting cars in the fleets, if your government is not managing that particular expenditure, that particular investments in taxes for the community to commit people to move from one place to another, if they’re not managing properly and innovatively, then we are looking at raising scandals, as usual. These investments will just go to waste. Our railways deserve long term security-bound innovations that can better protect citizens using these facilities. Those countries that have gotten right, they never purchased the digital economy. They built it and we have all that it takes to build a digital society, so it’s not about digital economy propaganda.
What are the plans and vision Programos has to improve the technology industry and increase the numbers of innovators in Nigeria?
We actually have an incubation setup and we’ve had several. We have done pilots across many dimensions. In tech, for instance, you have graduates just leaving the school and they are blank, you can’t blame them. What we did as a software developer, and I have my niche, like I told you my niches is the Nigerian capital market. Now, the capital market process is a labor force on its own so even in this sector, you have manpower problems, which is an opportunity for people looking for jobs. But guess what, young graduates don’t have what it takes to match the job. Yes! They are graduates but they lack skills. What we did was to invite these jobless graduates and we hosted them for two months; a kind of Big Brother Nigeria reality show. For techies. Free training, free exposure at workplace scenarios because if you want to take money, they may not have the money to pay for the benefits. In 2007 when we were celebrating our 10th year anniversary, we had graduated over 250 of them to become skilled people in the industry. We owe special gratitude to Mr. Anayo, former senior specialist at the US Embassy in Lagos, he was there with other experts when we unveiled them publicly to serve to various organisations to go and seek jobs as skilled people. It was easier to employ them because they already have knowledge.
Going forward, looking for job is not going to be anything attractive. It is not an attraction for somebody to be looking for job, because you should even look at creating it yourself. The question to address is: ‘why can I not create something?’ With that kind of mindset, the InnovationBed is in existence to further enhance your skill; to create digital citizens; to foster innovation, capacity development, incubation, etc.
“The main reason why local innovation is key. The innovator is developing from the experience of the challenge, he or she has experience of local issues.”
What are the current challenges facing the software industry in Nigeria?
The Nigerian leadership still has no goodwill for software development in Nigeria. They blatantly have a high level of disrespect to the software development industry. There is actually no goodwill, no serious mindedness in that direction. They focus on outspokenness and propaganda policies here and there but that’s not what policy software development is all about. Government does not know the problems and certainly, not the solutions in the industry.
Nigeria has that capacity, much beyond now, because even two decades ago, that it was attractive for many Nigerian banks to buy foreign banking solutions, the backend of what these people were using for their best of customer support and customer customizations, and all of that, were powered by in-house adept developers. who were 100 percent Nigerians. Many Nigerian development teams were internally correcting the problems of foreign software and added to the improvement of foreign software purchased through hefty capital flights. will also have to do with it. The innovation with development environment has always been there.