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INFOMATION TECHNOLOGY IN NIGERIA


Development of information technology in Nigeria

Michael A. Nwachuku


1. Introduction
2. Growth of information technology
3. IT policy
4. The computer service industry
5. Telecommunications
6. Applications of IT
7. Education and training in IT
8. Conclusion
References


1. Introduction

Nigeria, like most developing countries, is an “information-poor” country. The sparsity of published current information is particularly acute in the informatics area, which is still in its infancy. Ideally, this report should have been based on a recent nationwide survey, but such a survey could not be undertaken for lack of time and other resources. Consequently the author has had to rely on readily available material and on his personal observations and general impression of the informatics scene in Nigeria. It is hoped nevertheless that the picture drawn here is a balanced and reasonably accurate one.

This section supplies essential background information on Nigeria, gives an overview of IT activity in the country, and outlines the structure of the report.

Background Data on Nigeria

Geography

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is situated on the West African coast between latitudes 5�N and 14�N, and between longitudes 2�E and 14�E. Covering an area of some 924,000 km2, the country is bounded in the south by the Atlantic Ocean, and shares common borders with the Benin Republic in the west, with Niger to the north, with the Chad Republic to the north-east, and with the Cameroon Republic to the east. Nigeria is the most populous state in Africa, with a mid-1985 population of 95,198,000 (one out of every six Africans is a Nigerian), and the tenth largest in the world.

The climate is wholly tropical. There are basically two seasons: a wet season lasting from April to September, and a dry season lasting from October to March. All the rainfall occurs in the hot and humid wet season. In the dry season, the harmattan wind blows from the Sahara desert, bringing a cloud of very fine dust to most areas.

Politics

Nigeria emerged from British colonial rule in 196O, and for 19 of its 29 years of existence as an independent state has been under military rule – a legacy of no fewer than six coups d’�tat. The present military regime headed by a president, General Ibrahim Babangida, came to power in 1985 after toppling a military predecessor. The government has embarked on a transition programme to return the nation to civilian rule in 1992.

Economy

The major economic indicators are summarized in table 3.1. The most significant economic event in the country is arguably the discovery, in 1956, of crude oil in commercial quantity in the area of the Niger delta. Thereafter, exploration and mining operations, carried out initially by international oil companies such as Shell and BP, were intensified, and the first consignment of crude oil was exported in 1958. In 1976, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) was incorporated to engage in exploration, production, and processing activities side by side with the multinationals. Soon, oil became the nation’s principal dollar earner, contributing, since the 1970s, to more than 80 per cent of total export revenue (95.1 per cent in 1984).

Table 3.1. Economic indicators

Area: 924,000 km2
Population (mid-1985): 95,198,000
Average annual growth rate of population: 3%
Labour force (1981): 38,240,000
Scientific & technical manpower (1980): 133,750
GDP (1984): US$61.4 billion
Total export earnings (1983): US$11.654 billion of which, Petroleum: US$9.24 billion

Average annual growth rate of GDP (%):

1965-73 1973-79 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984
9.7 3.9 -2.9 -2.9 -1.9 -6.4 -0.6

Currency exchange rate (1US$ = XN):

1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
X 0.55 0.61 0.67 0.67 0.79 0.89 3.3 3.3 7.2

Average annual wage (1989):

Minimum Senior civil servant University professor Managing director, private sector
N1,500 N12,000 N20,000 N40,000

Source: Europa Yearbook, vol. II (1987); UNIDO, Nigeria, Industrial Development Review Series, 1985.

However, with the collapse of the international oil market starting about 1982, the economy entered a period of rapid decline. For example, GDP per capita declined in real terms by more than 27 per cent in the five years 19801985, and export earnings fell to less than half in the same period. The nation is overburdened with a huge international debt, interest payments on which account for as much as 50 per cent of the country’s total foreign exchange earnings. The national currency, the Naira, has been devalued by more than 90 per cent since 1980, and inflation is running at the rate of more than 50 per cent per annum. (The value of the Naira is subject to considerable fluctuation; in July 1989, its value in relation to the US dollar was $1.00 = N7.22.)

In 1986, the Babangida administration, in a bid to address the ever-worsening economic situation, introduced a package of austerity measures, which have come to be called the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). Whatever the theoretical merits of SAP, it has brought about a severe lowering of the living standards of the Nigerian wage or salary earner, a fact that triggered the anti-SAP riots that swept the whole country early in June 1989.

Education

During the period of the oil boom, Nigeria experienced a tremendous boost in the provision of educational institutions, though this was not actually matched by the provision of relevant physical facilities. Thus, between 1975 and 1983, primary school enrolment more than doubled while the enrolment in both secondary and tertiary institutions increased nearly five-fold (see table 3.2). Today there are more than 25 universities, most of which are federally supported. There are also scores of polytechnics, technical colleges, and colleges of education.

Education has been badly affected by SAP. Institutions at all levels are today too ill equipped in terms of physical facilities and recurrent funds to serve their educational purpose with any degree of credibility.

Table 3.2. Growth in enrolment in educational institutions, 1975-1983

Year Primary Secondary Tertiary
1975 6,165,547 745,717 44,964
1980 13,760,030 2,345,604 150,072
1981 14,111,608 2,880,280 176,904
1982 14,654,789 3,393,186 193,731
1983 14,383,477 3,561,207 208,051

Source: Europa Yearbook, vol. II (1987).

Industry

The prosperity brought about by the oil boom stimulated a high level of demand among the Nigerian populace for modern consumer goods. This in turn led to the setting up of a large number of manufacturing industries operating on an import-substitution basis. By 1980 there were well over 3,000 industrial establishments engaged in a wide spectrum of activities, ranging from the extraction and refining of minerals, through food processing and brewing, to the manufacture of a variety of intermediate goods.1 The impressive list of goods manufactured in Nigeria includes: dairy products; canned fruit, fruit juices, and preserves; refined vegetable oil; processed foods; beers and stout; sugar and confectionery; tobacco products; drugs and medicines; textiles and leather goods; paper products; industrial chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides; paints and cosmetics; rubber and plastic products including tubes and tyres; cement; structural steels and other metal products; motor vehicle assembly and spare parts; electrical appliances, electrical cables, radio and television sets.

In the prevailing climate of economic recession, marked by scarcity of foreign exchange and a rapidly depreciating value of the Naira, many industries have had to either close down, or operate well below capacity, for want of raw materials or spare parts. A recent survey carried out by the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria showed that the average industrial capacity utilization in the second half of 1988 was 40 per cent, compared with 35 per cent in the first half of the same year.2

Agriculture

Agriculture, which in the 1960s used to be the mainstay of the economy, suffered a considerable decline in the 1970s and early 1980s as a result of the expansion in the oil sector. In 1982, agriculture contributed only 1 per cent to total export earnings. The decline in agriculture was accompanied by a massive growth in the food import bill. Ironically, the vast majority of Nigerians still live in rural areas and are dependent on peasant farming. Successive governments have, since the 1980s, sought to restore agriculture to its former role and make the nation once again self-sufficient in the production of the staple foods. The importation of grains such as rice and wheat has been banned, without viable alternatives in some cases, e.g. wheat.

IT Overview

For the purposes of this report we shall adopt Drew’s definition in chapter 1 of this volume (p. 10) of the term information technology (IT) to include all those computer-based activities that derive from the convergent disciplines of micro-electronics, computing, and telecommunications, and that have led to the reorganization of the processes of production, distribution, and circulation in society. Implicit in this definition is the notion of information as an important resource that may be generated, shared, and utilized in decision-making. Drew further groups the application of IT into four categories summarized as follows:

(1) applications that introduce computing power to the industrial process;
(2) use of digital techniques in communications;
(3) office automation including banking;
(4) micro-electronics in consumer products.

In Nigeria hitherto, the first category has not occurred in any innovative, self-reliant way. Advanced factory installations built in Nigeria, usually on a turnkey basis, frequently involve process computers as an integral part of the plant. Examples are found in the oil industry and in the iron and steel plants. Their influence on indigenous technology had until recently been fairly limited. There are signs however that, pressed by SAP, industries are beginning to show more interest in this area.

Public data communication services have not yet arrived in Nigeria. Private companies are meeting their needs for data transmission on a “do-it-yourself” basis using the analogue facilities of the Nigeria Telecommunications Co. (NITEL), the nation’s postal, telegraph, and telephone administration.

As for the fourth category, namely consumer electronics, there is as yet no autonomous electronics industry in Nigeria. Consequently, in the context of innovative and self-reliant uses of IT in Nigeria, this report will, in the main, be concerned with the first and the third categories.

Outline of the Report

Section 2 of the report discusses the growth of information technology (really, the growth of computer usage) in Nigeria. Information is given on the diffusion of computers in various sectors of the economy, the number of installations, and the types and brands of computers in common use.

Section 3 discusses the issue of a national IT policy. It is shown that, while the use of computers has been growing steadily in the public sector and government has from time to time made pronouncements on computers and related subjects, there is no IT policy in Nigeria that can be properly so called.

Section 4 is devoted to a discussion of the status and prospects of the computer services industry in Nigeria. Ideas being floated on the manufacture of computers or related hardware components and the setting up of a software industry in Nigeria are also discussed.

Section 5 is devoted to the telecommunications infrastructure. Data on the current state of the telephone network are given, as are current developments in the area of data networks in the banking and the oil industries.

Section 6 focuses on the pattern of application of IT in the various sectors of the economy with special emphasis on industry and the service sector, and section 7 deals with the important issue of IT education and training in Nigeria.

Section 8 contains the summary and the main conclusions of the report.



2. Growth of information technology

Historical Perspective

It is on record that the electronic digital computer made its first appearance in Nigeria in 1963, in connection with the analysis of the 1962/63 national census data.3 In the 10 years between 1963 and 1973, the total computer population in the country stood at 20-25, with 6 or so of these being associated with the multinational companies. By 1977 the total number of installations had grown to around 70. It was by this time that many universities, government departments, and parastatal organizations, including the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), and the Federal Office of Statistics, as well as many banks and commercial firms, began to show interest in computers.

Up to 1977 there were only three computer vendors in Nigeria. They were JCL, IBM, and NCR, and all three were the local subsidiaries of overseas computer manufacturers dealing almost entirely with mainframes and minicomputers. In 1977, the government promulgated the indigenization decree, which set apart some categories of industrial activity exclusively for participation by Nigerian nationals, while stipulating a minimum of Nigerian interest in others. One of the three original vendors, IBM, did not want to comply with the decree, choosing instead to pull out of the country.

The decree produced two other important effects. First, there was an influx of indigenous vendors in the computer business. Secondly, the keener competition in the industry led to more aggressive marketing policies. As a result, the number of computer installations in the country rose sharply. Whereas 39 computers were installed in 1975-1977, 1978-1980 witnessed the addition of 197 new installations. There were 149 new installations in 1981-1983, and a further 99 in 1984-1986.4 Already by the end of 1982, the price of crude oil was beginning to drop sharply in the spot market; and this marked the beginning of the foreign exchange debacle and the attendant import restrictions.

Table 3.3 lists some important milestones in computer usage in Nigeria.

Computer diffusion

The Federal Office of Statistics (FOS) has conducted periodic but unpublished censuses of computer installations in Nigeria; the latest of these gives the position at the end of 1984.5 Published computer statistics began to appear in 1983 when the first edition of the Nigerian Computer Users’ Directory (NCUD)6 was published. The second edition of the NCUD appeared in 1985 and the third edition in 1988. The availability of this directory permits more accurate statements to be made regarding computer diffusion in the various sectors of the economy. The data contained in the directory must, however, be treated with caution.

Table 3.3. Milestones in IT usage in Nigeria

Year Event
1948 Visible record computer sold to Nigerian Ports Authority by ICL
1949 NCR incorporated
1961 IBM incorporated
1963 Computer hired to assist in the processing of the national census data (operated by expatriates)
1963 IBM African Education Centre set up at University College, Ibadan (renamed U1 Computing Centre, 1966)
1972 Computer science courses instituted at University of Lagos, University of Ife, and University of Ibadan
1973 Computers used in 1973 national census
1975 Computer science courses instituted at more universities, including the University of Nigeria, Nsukka
1977 Indigenization decree promulgated
1978 Computer Association of Nigeria (CAN) inaugurated
1978 Computer vendors Data Science, JKK, Datamatics, and Debis established
1981 Many more computer vendors established
1982 Banks begin to computerize
1982 Import licensing started
1983 First microcomputer exhibition at Lagos by Ogis & Ododo- 33 vendors exhibited
1984 Anambra State Government Ministry of Finance places order for locally manufactured microcomputers
1985 Committee of Directors of Nigerian Universities Computing Centres (CDNUCC) inaugurated
1987 NNPC optical fibre computer communication network

Table 3.4. Growth of industrial computer installations since 1977

Industrial installations

Year Total no. of installations No. As % of total
1977

115

20

17.4

1980

235

45

19.1

1983

390

80

20.5

1985

496

110

22.2

1988

754

177

23.5

Source: Ref. 6.

Fig. 3.1 shows the growth of computer installations from 1974 to 1988, broken down into three categories, namely:

 

  • (1) government installations, including parastatals and educational institutions;
    (2) the service sector, including commerce and banking;
    (3) industry (manufacturing and production).

Fig. 3.1. Growth of computer installations in Nigeria, 1974-1988 (Source: ref. 7 and ref. 9)

As can be seen in table 3.4, the proportion of total installations going to the industrial sector rose steadily from about 17 per cent in 1977 to 23.5 per cent in 1988. It seems that this showing has been won at the expense of government installations, which from fig. 3.1 appear to be levelling out. (The government share of installations is probably set to rise with the present computer sales drive targeted at the local government administrations, which are now beginning to function effectively as the third tier of government.7)

Geographical Spread

The state-by-state distribution of computer installations in Nigeria, using data from the NCUD (1988), is shown in table 3.5. Lagos State leads the field with 72 per cent of all installations, followed by Oyo State (5.0 per cent), Kaduna (including Katsina State) (3.9 per cent), Bendel State (3.1 per cent), Anambra (2.9 per cent), and Kano State (2.2 per cent). The other 14 states share less than 11 per cent.

Table 3.5. Distribution of computer installations by state, 1988

State No. of installations Percentage
Anambra 22 2.9
Bauchi 5 0.7
Bendel 24 3.1
Benue 3 0.4
Borno 2 0.3
Cross Rivera 7 0.9
Gongola 4 0.5
Imo 13 1.7
Kadunab 30 3.9
Kano 17 2.2
Kwara 8 1.0
Lagos 550 71.7
Niger 1 0.1
Ogun 10 1.3
Ondo 12 1.6
Oyo 38 5.0
Plateau 5 0 7
Rivers 13 1.7
Sokoto 3 0 4

Source: Ref. 6, 3rd edn.
a. Includes Akwa Ibom State.
b. Includes Katsina State.

The position of the Lagos metropolis as the political, commercial, and industrial capital of Nigeria, as well as being the base of practically all computer vendors in Nigeria, easily explains its dominance in computer usage. Oyo, Kano, Kaduna, and Bendel states, each with more than 2 per cent of the installed computer capacity, are also known to have a significant concentration of industries.

Computer Types

Table 3.6 shows the percentage distribution of types of computers used in Nigeria (all sectors) from 1979 to 1988. The growing population of microcomputers is hard to estimate, as has already been noted. It is however certain that the trend is towards the increasing use of microcomputers: “the trend in computer sales in Nigeria indicates that older computerized companies and institutions with mainframes, as well as those newly computerizing (with or without mainframes or minis), are all investing substantially in desktop micros.”8

Table 3.6. Types of computer installation, 1979-1988

Year

Microcomputers % of total

Minicomputers % of total

Mainframes % of total

1979

50

50

1983

10

57

33

1985

24

58

18

1986

24

41

35

1988

41.5

44.6

13.9

Sources: 1979 – ref. 10; 1983 – ref. 5; 1985 – ref. 6, 2nd edn; 1986 – ref. 4; 1988 – ref. 6, 3rd edn.

Computer Brands

Using figures compiled by the NCUD, the distribution of installed computers among the leading brands (1988) is shown in tables 3.7-3.9. With the mainframes, the most popular computers are NCR (22 per cent), IBM, and ICL (each with 21 per cent of the total). Others are Wang (18 per cent) and Cyber CDC (13 per cent).

With minicomputers, the leading brand is NCR (24 per cent), closely followed by ICL (23 per cent). Monroe (LC) (15 per cent) and Digital (PDP and VAX) (12 per cent) are also well represented.

In the area of microcomputers, the IBM personal computer (PC) is the clear leader (43 per cent); Apple (20 per cent) and Tiger (16 per cent) are also well represented. The figures need to be adjusted to take account of undeclared micros. The journal Computers in Africa estimated that there were 350,000 microcomputers in Nigeria in 1988.9 This figure, which includes home computers as well as microcomputers used in institutions and commerce, is probably an overestimate.

Source of Imports

Table 3.10 shows the importation of digital computers by country of origin in the first six months of 1988; table 3.11 gives the importation of off-line data-processing (DP) equipment for the same period.

The total value of computer-related imports for the first six months of 1988 is N90,616,100, made up as follows:

Digital computers N

71,357,300

Analog and hybrid computers N

15,393,300

Off-line DP equipment N

2,064,200

Peripheral units N

1,393,400

Central storage units N

407,900

Total N

90,616,100

Table 3.7. Brands of mainframe computers in use, 1988

Make No. installed % share
NCR

32

21.6

IBM

31

20.9

ICL

31

20.9

Wang

26

17.6

Cyber CDC

20

13.5

Eclipse

6

4.1

Prime

2

1.4

Total

148

100.0

Source: Ref. 6, 3rd edn.

Table 3.8. Brands of minicomputers in use, 1988

Make No. installed % share
NCR

99

24.0

ICL

96

23.2

Monroe

60

14.5

Digital

49

11.9

Microdata

31

7.5

Hewlett-Packard

24

5.8

IBC Super Cadet

14

3.4

Nova/Olivetti

12

2.9

Wang

12

2.9

IBM

11

2.7

Texas Instruments

5

1.2

Total

413

100.0

Source: Ref. 6, 3rd edn.

Table 3.9. Brands of microcomputers in use, 1988

Make No. installed % share
IBM

206

43.3

Apple

94

19.7

Tiger AT

76

16.0

Tandy

36

7.6

ICL PC

21

4.4

Wang

16

3.4

Commodore

9

1.9

Amstrad

2

0.4

Atari

1

0.2

Sanyo PC

1

0.2

Total

476

100.0

Source: Ref. 6, 3rd edn.

Table 3.10. Imports of digital computers complete by country, January-June 1988

Country Value kg No. N’000
Japan

310,337

46,381

46,525.3

United States

35,895

699

15,057.6

United Kingdom

18,444

468

4,395.2

Germany (West)

2,022.8

Netherlands

1,052.0

France

2,089

202

891.6

Switzerland

636.3

Korea (South)

2,134

210

461.0

Ireland

1,772

191.9

Italy

302

19

85.6

Australia

268

12

22.8

Hong Kong

106

2

11.4

Free Zone

38

1

3.8

Total

N71,357.3

Source: Federal Office of Statistics.

Table 3.11. Imports of off-line data-processing equipment by country, January-June 1988

Country Value kg No. N’000
United Kingdom

3,635

43

786.3

United States

9,383

202

609.2

Israel

2,000

70

158.7

Germany (West)

455

13

132.6

Belgium

2,953

48

103.4

France

33

6

85.8

Hong Kong

3,320

6

66.4

Italy

61.3

Japan

1,654

40.8

Switzerland

33

1

11.7

Austria

8.0

Total

N2,064.2

Source: Federal Office of Statistics.

3. IT policy

Nigeria does not as yet have an IT policy, although at almost every gathering of computer people in Nigeria there is a call for a national computer policy and a high-powered executive authority to give effect to the policy.

Government has however from time to time taken a stand on some specific IT issues and these are discussed in this section.

Central Computer Committee

In the late 1970s the federal government set up a committee known as the Central Computer Committee, charged with the task of assembling available national data on computing. The committee was expected to develop standards for users, vendors, and consultants on computer projects as well as to develop inputs for a national policy on computing. As this was a period of import restrictions, the committee had the additional function of reviewing all applications for the importation of computers and making recommendations to the Ministry of Finance for the grant of import licences. The latter function tended to dominate the activities of the committee. But, with the advent of import deregulation (one of the gains of SAP), the committee can now be fairly said to be moribund. One of the former members of the committee has stated that the committee succeeded in making recommendations for a computer policy;’10 if so, the recommendations do not seem to have seen the light of day, nor is there any apparent policy action stemming therefrom.

Committee on Micro-electronics

In 1986, an advisory panel set up by the minister to discuss micro-electronics development in Nigeria made a number of far-reaching recommendations, which included:

  • a programme of short-term activity directed towards the development, design, and fabrication of prototypes of microprocessor-based systems;
  • the creation of activity centres for the implementation of the short-term plan;
  • the foundation of a Technology Development Centre;
  • the formation of a national committee on high-technology microelectronics.

The recommendations came at a time when a National Science Fund was being set up, and so funding seemed to have been assured. Although the plans are still at the gestation stage, there is evidence that they are being vigorously pursued.

Overall there are signs that the federal military government and state governments are taking the computer question very seriously. For example, the Anambra State Government has been at the forefront of giving moral and financial support to the initiatives at the state’s University of Science and Technology to develop a computer manufacturing capability.

Research Institutes

Of the nation’s 22 or more federally funded research institutes, two are being designated centres of excellence for high technology. These are the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO) at Lagos and the Projects Development Institute (PRODA) at Enugu. These two centres are expected to play an important role in IT developments, especially in manufacture.

Assessment

However encouraging these government initiatives may be, they are not a substitute for a coordinated national strategy for computer development in the country. The case for government intervention is all the stronger because, in a developing nation, government, by tradition and sheer resource base, plays a preeminent role in all aspects of national development. This issue is discussed in Foster et al.11



4. The computer service industry

Nigeria imports virtually 100 per cent of all its IT equipment, and a diversity of firms exist to supply, service, and maintain the imported equipment. There are however problems associated with poor vendor performance and the high cost of computing equipment. Local manufacturing is under discussion.

Computer Companies

There are over 200 registered companies in Nigeria offering a broad range of computer-related services. Most of them were set up between 1977 and 1982 to take advantage of the indigenization decree and the then prevailing economic boom. Table 3.12 lists some of the more notable ones.

A partial survey conducted in 1986, involving 47 computer companies, showed that 88 per cent of these were vendors; 79 per cent were consultants; 70 per cent offered training services; 68 per cent had maintenance facilities; while 45 per cent offered bureau services.4 There is a lot of overlapping as many firms offered three or more services.

As is to be expected, the companies vary widely with respect to available capital, experience, and technical expertise, and the quality of maintenance and after-sales service provided. The weakest link in the chain is in the area of a reliable maintenance service to reduce the incidence of down-time in installations. Even where service facilities exist, replacement parts may not be readily available. The quantity and range of spares carried are not enough, and waiting times for imported spare parts are usually very long. The problem is aggravated by a proliferation in the different makes of imported computers – especially micros – available in the market. User complaints about vendors are more often than not associated with the great difference between claimed and actual maintenance capability. But, as one speaker at a recent symposium and workshop said, “the area of operation of fraudulent vendors is becoming narrower than before”; the speaker went on to predict that in time these vendors would disappear. 12

Table 3.12. Some major computer firms in Nigeria

Name of firm Year Head office Remarks
Advance Micro Technology Lagos Hardware sales & service
Arit of Africa Ibadan Hardware sales, CAD
Avant Garde Holdings Ltd. 1977 Lagos Power supplies & equipment
Baico Computer Ltd. 1987 Lagos Data processing & training
Computer Link Lagos CAI software & training
Data Processing & Maintenance Service Ltd. Lagos Represents IBM interests
Data Sciences (Nigeria) Ltd. 1974 Lagos Hardware sales & service
Data Systems (Nigeria) Ltd. Lagos Systems analysis, software design, sales & service
Debis (Nigeria) Ltd. Lagos Systems analysis, software design, sales & service
GICEN Technical Services 1978 Lagos IBM PCs sales & service
Haven Nigeria Computer Ltd. 1976 Lagos Hardware sales & service
Inlaks Ltd. Lagos Sales, service & training
International Computer Ltd. Lagos Manufacturer’s reps, sales & service
IPBC Nigeria Ltd. Lagos Peripheral equipment & supplies
Joint Komputer Kompany Lagos Hardware sales & service
Kittel International Systems Ltd. Lagos Hardware, sales & service
Leventis Technical Ltd. 1972 Lagos Hardware sales & service
Louisson Data Systems Ltd. Lagos Hardware sales & service
Management Information 1981 Lagos Hardware sales & service
McPAT Ltd. 1980 Lagos Hardware sales & service
Micro Products International Ltd. Lagos Micro sales & service
Modellor Design Aids Ltd. 1978 Lagos Micro assembly & service
National Cash Register Ltd. Lagos Manufacturer’s reps, sales & service
Ogis & Ododo Assoc. Ltd. 1980 Lagos Sales, training & service
Peat, Marwick & Ogunde Lagos Software consultants
Resmund Nigeria Ltd. Lagos Hardware/software sales, training & recruitment
Rimax Computer Services 1976 Lagos Education & training
Rinsa Lagos Maintenance specialists
Technology & Systems 1983 Lagos Hardware/software sales, consulting, data processing
Universal Computer Ltd. 1978 Lagos Hardware sales & service

Source: Ref. 4.

On the whole the companies are doing a creditable job, in spite of their numerous handicaps, in supplying the growing need for computer equipment and services in Nigeria. The next few years will see a vast improvement, as suppliers take advantage of the liberalization of foreign exchange and the increased volume of business expected from growing computer usage. Already a new development has started with the setting up by NCR of a Rework Centre at Lagos for the refurbishing of ageing equipment.

The Cost of Computers

Without doubt, the single most important factor contributing positively to the growing popularity of computerization in Nigerian industry is the availability of the microcomputer, which has greatly reduced the cost of owning and operating a computing facility. At prevailing prices, anyone wishing to install a minicomputer in Nigeria will have to be looking for a sum of about N1 million, with perhaps a similar outlay in the cost of supporting facilities including software. On the other hand, a network of micros that can handle the data-processing needs of most medium-sized companies will be available at about one-tenth of this amount. Sources in the trade suggest that total mainframe and mini sales in Nigeria are running at about 30 units or less per annum.

Unfortunately, micros are still highly priced in Nigeria relative to their international prices. Although one frequently reads about falling prices in the international press, the prices of the same goods in Nigeria seem to be always on the increase. This discouraging situation is explained partly by the low and ever-falling dollar parity of the Naira, and partly by the high mark-ups that have always been a feature of the Nigerian hardware market.

One approach to finding a solution to the problem of the high cost of the micro is the development of computer manufacturing in Nigeria. This issue is dealt with below.

A Home Computer Industry

Nigeria is developing a local computer manufacturing capability for several reasons. These include the high cost of imported equipment, the need to standardize on hardware (and software), and the question of maintenance.13 Assessing these arguments, Pryce expressed the view that “the evidence points overwhelmingly to the local production of a clone of the IBM PC – a machine-type (rather than an individual machine) with a vast store of cheap software, with ample power for 95% of Nigerian computing applications for the next 5 to 10 years, and capable of being periodically up-graded in memory and speed by exploiting US and Japanese advances in chip technology. ” 13

One computer firm claims to be assembling the Modellor version of the IBM PC. But experience of the motor car assembly industry in Nigeria suggests that the nation should, from the start, look beyond mere assembly of computing equipment. The Nigerian government seems to have taken a stand on the issue. Dr. Chu Okongwu, the Minister of Finance, was quoted as telling a computer workshop at Owerri in Imo State that “the government is looking forward to the day when a 100% indigenous [computer manufacturing] company will be built and maintained in Nigeria.”8

A development that can be expected in the near future is the appearance of software houses producing application software for local needs. Many of the experts at the symposium reported on by Pryce believe that all requirements for indigenous production of quality software are already met.13 A commercial software venture can only be viable in Nigeria if it is preceded by a degree of standardization of microcomputer types, and, possibly, local manufacture. It may also be useful to consider the Iraqi model, where an information processing centre under the Ministry of Industry undertakes the development of software relevant to the needs of Iraq and distributes them at low cost to government-owned industries, all of which use standardized equipment.14

5. Telecommunications

The Telephone Network

An efficient telecommunication service is an important requirement in the development of computer-based technologies in any country. In Nigeria, responsibility for the public telecommunication service is vested in Nigeria Telecommunications Ltd. (NITEL) (a new limited liability company created in 1985, in succession to the now defunct Post and Telegraphs Department, to run the telecommunication service on a commercial basis). The network has several limitations including inadequate trunk facilities, low grade of service, frequent system breakdown, and a long waiting list for new connections.

NITEL is aware of the need to improve the quality and range of its services. As President Babangida himself has said: “today, the telecommunication network is unreliable and inadequate to meet the demands in the country. In order to improve this situation, a programme of expansion and modernization of the network is being planned.”15

To date, the Nigerian telephone network uses electro-mechanical equipment. Current estimates are that there are 205,000 connected telephone sets in the country, giving a density of 2 telephones per 1,000 persons, which is among the lowest in the world. (The comparative figure for the United States is 500 per 1,000 persons, and Ghana has 7 telephones per 1,000 persons. )

In an effort to evolve a coherent telecommunications policy, two national symposia have been held.16.17 Despite much debate, a decision has yet to be made on the introduction of digital switching and transmission systems, although a Minister of Communications once said: “the conclusion of the various submissions overwhelmingly pointed to the fact that Nigeria has to go digital.”18

Data Communications

The Nigerian corporate computer user is beginning to demand facilities for wide area computer networks as well as data communications. Examples are the banking industry, NITEL, NEPA, WAEC, and the military. At present, the demand is judged insufficient to warrant the establishment by NITEL of a data communication service using the existing voice facilities,19 although availability can also induce greater demand. Dial-up facilities and leased data lines are in use in the Lagos area, but, as pointed out by Denloye,19 an operator of a leased line “is left pretty much on his own to attach whatever equipment he chooses to the line. He can expect no help from NITEL in determining the quality of the line he leases, and has to ensure correct operation himself.”

The oil industry has taken a lead in establishing their own data network with or without the involvement of NITEL. Shell has installed an X-25 packet switched data network between Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Warri using trunk lines leased from NITEL. On the other hand, the NNPC has recently completed a private telecommunication network said to be the largest in Africa.20 The all-digital network incorporates 875 km of optical fibre cables, and will come under the Integrated Data Services Company, one of the 12 new subsidiary limited liability companies established by the NNPC in 1988 as part of its new commercialization programme. The NNPC installation is an interesting development since it is a chink in the armour of monopoly invested in NITEL.


6. Applications of IT

This section discusses IT applications in Nigeria under three sectoral categories, namely: manufacturing industry; the service sector, including banking, transport, and commerce; and the public service sector, including government, education, and medicine. This categorization follows that used by Drew in chapter 1 of this volume.

Manufacturing Industry

As Drew has pointed out, there are three distinct spheres of activity in industrial production. These are the design sphere (which includes research and development), the manufacturing sphere, and the coordination or management sphere. These divisions also exist in a developing country such as Nigeria, except that, in a technological environment heavily dependent on imported technology, the design sector is either non-existent or grossly underdeveloped.

NCUD (1988) lists about 200 computer installations in industrial establishments. This is a considerable underestimate however, as there are probably hundreds or even thousands of undeclared micros. Among the manufacturing industries to computerize are: oil sector (35), pharmaceuticals (16), textiles (12), flour milling (7), cement (6), vehicle assembly plants (7), tyre manufacturing (3), and food processing (3).

Table 3.13. Results of an industrial application survey of 12 firms

Computer application No. of firms using Percentage
Financial operations 8 67
Inventory & stock control 4 33
Production planning & control 5 42
Design engineering 3 25
Manufacturing engineering 2 17
NC machine tools

Source: Ref. 21.

Table 3.14. Use of computers in industry in a survey of 60 firms

Computerized function Percentage
Accounting 100
Administration 57
Production management 49
Word processing 26
Process control 15
Computer-aided design/engineering 6

Source: Ref. 22.

A limited survey of the use of computers in Nigerian industry was carried out by Tulien in 1985.21 The results, which are summarized in table 3.13, confirm the belief that the bulk of all computer installations in Nigeria use the system for financial accounting, including payroll. Nevertheless, the results also indicate that, in the Nigerian environment, examples of computerization in all three spheres may be found. The same conclusion may be drawn from table 3.14, which was obtained from a rather biased sample of 60 firms.22

The use of computers in manufacturing – with the exception of certain high-technology process industries in which the process computer is essentially a part of the process machinery (e.g. petroleum refining and the steel mill) – is only a recent phenomenon. It is in the area of coordination, or management, that the greatest advance has been made.

Design

The design function is not highly developed in Nigeria, no doubt (as has been observed earlier) on account of industry’s heavy dependence on imported technology and product licensing. Computer-aided design (CAD) in Nigeria is limited to a few engineering consultancy firms, especially civil engineering, as well as the oil sector, including refineries.

Computer-aided Manufacturing (CAM)

It is estimated that 3.3 per cent of all computer installations in Nigeria are used for the manufacturing function.4 If we allow that only 20 per cent of the installations are for industrial use, we may infer that only about 15 per cent of industrial computer installations are being used for manufacturing. The application area includes stock control, works order processing, production monitoring and control, and process scheduling.

A number of firms that have taken a lead in this area are already working on the computerization of their maintenance set-up. One factory at which the programme is very advanced (a vehicle assembly plant) is placing emphasis on maintenance cost control, and the integrated scheduling of preventive maintenance with regular machine operation.

Numerically controlled (NC) machines and industrial robots are for the most part unknown. Quality control, a much neglected art in Nigerian industry, is not computerized, although, in the case of a steel mill, computers are used off-line for product monitoring and quality control.

Coordination and Management

The management function includes the following tasks:

  • financial administration,
  • office automation,
  • personnel management.

Financial Administration

Computerization has been most widespread in the area of financial management, including payroll, accounts, general ledger, sales, and invoicing. In fact the accounting task is frequently the motivation for installing the computer in the first place. More than 80 per cent of computer installations are used in this way. There are also many instances of companies that have not installed computers but have their accounts and payroll batch-processed on a bureau computer owned by a vendor or an agency. A reasonable estimate is that more than 50 per cent of all Nigerian industry is using computers for accounting, either in-house by their own DP staff, or with the help of external computer agencies. The software used for this purpose is usually a commercial software product. The companies often do not have expert systems analysts; there may be one or two programmers to maintain the software.

Some firms are reluctant to use a computerized invoicing and billing system. The usual reason given for this is the fear of fraud. In this regard, the public perception of the NEPA and NITEL computerized billing systems as being fraught with absurd errors as well as being often hopelessly inaccurate has not helped to win public confidence.

Table 3.15. Use of programming languages in a survey of 60 firms

Language Percentage
COBOL 68
BASIC 63
FORTRAN 17
RPG 11 11

Source: Ref. 22.

Office Automation

Office automation is not widespread. Microcomputer-based facilities have word-processing software. Table 3.14 shows that only 26 per cent are using word processors, but this usage has not displaced the familiar secretary behind a typewriter. Companies with only mainframes and/or minis are, not surprisingly, still relying on the manual typewriter. Fax machines are found only in the most advanced offices, but the telex is more widespread. Electronic mail and teleconferencing are virtually unknown.

Personnel Management

Once a company has computerized its payroll, it quickly goes in for computerized personnel administration, making use of the same database employed for payroll.

Database and Spreadsheet

Databases and spreadsheets as software genres are used on micros by technical and general managers who may have a microcomputer installed in their private offices as stand-alone systems. One company plans to integrate these micros with a mini that holds the company’s parts database.

Programming Languages

COBOL is the most popular language used, closely followed by BASIC. FORTRAN and RPG 11 are also used. Table 3.15 shows the reported usage of these languages among the 60 firms polled by Ezechukwu. The percentages are assumed to be applicable nationwide.

The Service Sector

The term service sector is used to describe an amorphous group of economic activities that vary in size, scope, and financial capability. For convenience, the sector is further subdivided into three subgroups, namely: banking and other financial institutions; the distributive subsector, including wholesale and retail trade, and hotel and catering; and technical services, including engineering consultancy, building and civil engineering contracting. transportation, and communication.

Banking and Financial Institutions

Nigerian banks are under pressure to computerize23 and many are doing so with considerable financial outlay. NCUD (1988) lists 142 banks that have computer installations. These include both head offices as well as branches in major cities. The economic climate engendered by SAP, which has brought about huge profits and increased competition for the banking industry, has encouraged computerization in the industry. The need to computerize has arisen from operational reasons, for example the complex Interbank Foreign Exchange Market procedures, which necessitate good communication on a daily basis between headquarters and branch offices. But there is also an element of image-building to project computerized banks as progressive and forward-looking financial institutions.

In general, computerization in Nigerian banks is still limited to ledgers, communication, and current account management. There are no automated telling machines, nor are multi-branching facilities available. However, the service to the customer is improving in many respects, including “quick service” cash counters, and prompt and regular monthly statements of account. One area in which service seems to have deteriorated on account of computerization is that it is virtually impossible to obtain information related to a specific transaction outside the bank statement.

The thrust in computerization in banks is in the direction of more automation and networking, but the rate of progress is limited by the inability of NITEL to provide reliable telephone facilities.

There are 22 computer installations in other financial institutions such as insurance companies and investment houses. These use computers for management, in much the same manner as described under the manufacturing sphere.

Distribution

In the distributive trades, the highest number of computer installations is found, not surprisingly, among computer vendors (162), with motor vehicle dealers (24) coming a distant second.

Microcomputerized point-of-sale check-out machines so common in the developed world have yet to make their debut in Nigeria. A few department stores, especially those linked with multinational companies, use computers for management. Computers are not in use in the hotel and catering business.

Technical Services

Here we consider such technology-based services as telecommunications, electricity supply, the construction industry, and transportation (including airlines, shipping, railways, and road haulage).

Communications

In the communications field, NITEL, the national carrier, is heavily computerized, with a huge installed capacity including mainframes, minis, and micros. These computers are located in four regional headquarter offices as well as in the national headquarters at Lagos. The machines are used for administrative purposes and for the management of the telephone network. At present they function on a stand-alone basis, but it is known that NITEL is interested in interconnecting these machines in both local and wide area networks for greater efficiency and increased flexibility.

The National Television Authority (NTA) is computerized, as are the leading telecommunication outfits represented in Nigeria such as ITT and TCas. Computer-assisted postal sorting offices are as yet unknown.

Electricity Supply

The National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) has a virtual monopoly of the power supply industry. NEPA was among the earliest public institutions to be computerized, having acquired its first computer in 1976. Today there are more than 18 computer installations owned by NEPA and these are located at its various offices throughout the country. The computers are used for administrative purposes as well as for load despatching and customer billing.

Construction Companies

Construction companies and civil engineering consultants account for more than 30 computer installations in Nigeria. Computers are used for estimating, document preparation, and structural design.

Transportation

Three airlines, including the national carrier, Nigerian Airways, have computers. Major airline booking centres are computerized, some in network with their Lagos head office. Among the shipping lines, 16 installations are listed by NCUD (1988), with several of these belonging to the Nigerian Ports Authority. In road haulage only one private company owns a computer.

Government and Public Corporations

Government departments are rapidly computerizing. As many as 13 federal ministries have computers; the Ministry of Defence alone has 9 installations. The Ministry of Works operates a computerized maintenance system. The Federal Office of Statistics, the national body responsible for the gathering and compilation of statistical data ranging from trade statistics to commodity prices and population data, is fully computerized.

Among the state governments, it is usual to install a central computer facility in the Ministry of Finance. There are 10 such installations, which are used mainly for financial administration.

There are 45 computer installations in the educational sector. In almost all the 25 universities there is a well-staffed computing centre equipped with a timeshared multi-user mainframe computer used for teaching and research. In addition, several departments and faculties have their own computer facilities, consisting mainly of micros.

Many university computing centres provide computer services for the administrative departments, such as the bursary, the registry, and the library.

Computerization is lagging behind in hospitals. Four private hospitals and a WHO Foundation in Nigeria have computers.

Problems and Prospects

We have seen from the discussion in the preceding sections of this report that computerization in Nigerian industry has advanced considerably beyond the stage when it was a monopoly of a few rich, multinational oil companies and business conglomerates. Computers are now being used by middle-sized companies under indigenous management. Establishments in the latter category are turning to the computer in ever-increasing numbers as an answer to the challenges posed by the economic recession in a new, largely deregulated, and more competitive business environment.

The trend will most likely continue, with the computer diffusing in greater numbers to the medium-sized and, perhaps, to the smaller-scale industries. It is also possible to foresee the computer being put to more complex uses. But the rate of progress will be determined by actions taken to remove the constraints to development present in a number of crucial areas. In this section, we look at these issues in turn, and attempt to predict the prospects for the future of informatics development in the country.

Problems of the DP Departments

All companies with mainframes or minis, and those with a sizeable number of microcomputers (whether stand-alone or connected in network), have data-processing (DP) departments under the control of a data-processing manager who reports either to the technical manager or to the general manager. In general, the staffing levels in those departments is far from satisfactory. One finds a handful of supporting staff- a systems analyst, one or two programmers, and some data entry personnel (who have generally been converted from a lower staff cadre) – and an operator. This staffing level is often adequate to handle only routine data-processing tasks using accounting packages that may have been modified and are maintained in-house. In these circumstances, there is little time or encouragement to engage in original software development aimed at extending or intensifying the degree of computerization.

The problem of inadequate staffing is not primarily due to a lack of qualified personnel in the country. Indeed, unemployment among qualified and trained computer practitioners has become a fact of life in Nigeria today; there is however a dearth of experienced high-calibre personnel. The poor staffing levels seem to have been necessitated by management policies that do not accord a high priority to the DP department in a period of economic recession and job insecurity. As one DP manager put it: “How can you ask for more staff when you are lucky to keep your job?”

The issue is compounded by a lack of cooperation from personnel in departments slated for computerization. There is the fear that computerization will, at worst, lead to mass retrenchment, or, at best, to a loss of earnings from institutionalized overtime perquisites.

Management, on its part, sometimes appears only tolerant of the DP departments, and can justify their existence only by saddling them with other responsibilities outside the strictly data-processing function (one DP manager is also in charge of the procurement and maintenance of office equipment and supplies).

The problems faced by the DP departments are thus: low status; lack of management support; poor staffing levels; and lack of cooperation bordering on outright hostility from departments “in danger” of computerization. As a result, there exists a severe underutilization of computing equipment, as well as low productivity among the staff. As one DP manager observed: “It makes you and the computer seem dull.”

An improvement in the situation discussed above can come about only with the development of a better attitude to computers among decision makers, managers, and the general workforce. There is no indication at present that the representatives of the labour unions are being confided in by management, when computerization is being planned, to get their support. Efforts by individual industries in this regard must however be accompanied by a national informatics education campaign.

Infrastructural Deficiencies

The problems associated with the inadequacies of the infrastructural factors as they affect computer development in the less developed countries are very well known. A leading member of the computer community in Nigeria has observed: the environmental situation in Nigeria has remained, resulting in considerable additional cost to computer installations. It is true that computers have become more tolerant to adverse conditions as they have be come smaller, but none-the-less, any installation still has to be supported by a generator, or an uninterruptible power supply system, high quality air-conditioning and, above all, a dust-free atmosphere. I fear that this expense will continue to be with us for some years to come.24

These issues can bear further elaboration.

Electric Power Supply

The most acute problem arises from an erratic power supply. PC users are the greatest sufferers as very often they cannot justify spending large sums of money, perhaps greater than the cost of the PC installations, on stabilizers and UPS (uninterruptible power supply). The cost in frustration when, in a session of about two hours, the power supply fails three or four times, or remains down for an hour or more, has to be experienced to be appreciated.

Apart from a general qualitative appreciation of the power supply problem, there has been no attempt to quantify its severity in terms of extra cost to the user, loss of data, personal frustration, and equipment malfunction. NEPA ceased long ago to publish statistical data of faults in the power system; but the sources of its problems are only too well known:25

  • power supply to the “grid” from only one main source,
  • single transmission lines to the load centres;
  • single transformers at the substations;
  • system overloading owing to uncontrolled and uncontrollable expansion of consumer connections;
  • gross mismatch between the rate of acquisition of new consumers and the rate of capital investments to reinforce the system.

The attitude that these things will always be with us pervades all strata of society, from the user to the supply authorities. And this is probably justified if one thinks merely in terms of the enormous capital investment that would be needed to bring about a change. This is where a national body supervising the problems and progress of computerization can come in. Such an authoritative body would be in a position to quantify the cost to the nation of an erratic power supply as it affects both the computing community and industry generally. It may well be that the annual cost of enduring an erratic power supply is far greater than the annual cost of the capital investment required to bring about an improvement in the reliability of the supply. The issue of reinforcing the national grid to achieve greater reliability must be seen as a national priority.

Summary

In summary it may be observed that the rate of diffusion is fastest in payroll and other accounts-based functions, slower in office-based coordination applications, while manufacturing and design applications come out a poor third.

A similar pattern has been observed in Ireland, and seems to conform to wider international experience. It has been explained in terms of the need for rationality (defined as “the existence of unambiguous and documented procedures by which work is performed”) as a precondition for effective computerization.26 In this view, payroll, accounts receivable, general ledger, and other accounting-type tasks are among the most rational processes for all organizations, and are consequently the earliest to be computerized. As a corollary, it may be observed that a general weakness of small-medium-scale industries in Nigeria is that they cannot boast of having the degree of rationality conducive to effective computerization. The diffusion of computers to these areas could be impeded as a result.

7. Education and training in IT

Computer Education in Tertiary Institutions

Computer education in Nigeria has come a long way since the foundation of the IBM African Education Training Centre at the University of Ibadan in 1963 for the training of computer personnel to operate, program, and, to a limited extent, service IBM 1461/1620 machines. Today there are fully fledged computer science departments in Nigerian universities and other tertiary institutions teaching a range of subjects including computer organization; software engineering; programming and programming languages; numerical computations; and systems analysis. Studies at these institutions lead to degrees or diplomas in computer science (see table 3.16).

In addition, electrical and electronic engineering departments of Nigerian universities are teaching courses in microprocessors, digital design, and computer interfacing.27

Computer Education in Secondary Schools

Computer literacy camps have been organized for secondary schools in Lagos State. Lately the government has been showing considerable interest in the need for greater computer awareness and literacy in the country. For example, the Federal Ministry of Education in October 1988 announced a programme to spend a sum of N20 million to equip 45 Federal Unity secondary schools with microcomputers. To turn out teachers for the programme, 40 micros will he installed at the National Teachers’ Institute, Kaduna.

It is important, however, to place the government’s latest initiative in perspective. Assuming that the programme will purchase up to 500 micros, this works out at slightly over 10 micros per school. The Federal Unity schools have no more than 2 per cent of a total secondary school enrolment of about 2 million (on a population base of some 100 million). This effort may be compared in relative scale with a similar programme in Singapore (total population 2.5 million), which as far back as 1981 flooded all secondary schools in that country with 200 mini and micro computers.28

Training

Computer education and training are also offered by a number of private academies (some with government recognition), vendors, and consultants (see table 3.17). These are usually profit oriented and are limited in scope. In many of the major towns there are now computer bureaus, equipped with one or two micros and which offer short-term courses on operating systems (mainly MS DOS) and commercially available application software, e.g. Dbase, spreadsheets, and word processors, in addition to other services.

Table 3.16. Computer education in tertiary institutions

Institution State Course title Award
Ahmadu Bello University Kaduna Math with Computer Science Degree
Anambra State University Anambra Electronics/Computer Science Degree
Bayero University Kano Computer Studies Degree
Federal University of Technology, Abeokuta Ogun Computer Science Degree
Federal University of Technology, Bauchi Bauchi Computer Science & Computer Technology Degree
Federal University of Technology, Owerri Imo Communication Computer Engineering Technology Degree
Obafemi Awolowo University Oyo Computer Science Degree
Rivers State University of Technology Rivers Computer Studies Degree
University of Benin Bendel Computer Science/ Data Processing Diploma/degree
University of Ibadan Oyo Computer Science Degree
University of Lagos Lagos Computer Science/ Electronic Data Processing Degree/certificate
University of Nigeria, Nsukka Anambra Computer Science Degree
University of Port Harcourt Rivers Computer Science Degree
University of Sokoto Sokoto Computer Studies Certificate
College of Science & Technology, Port Harcourt Rivers Computer Science Certificate
College of Technology, Calabar Cross River Computer Science Diploma
Ibadan Polytechnic Oyo Computer Science Diploma
Institute of Management & Technology Anambra Computer Studies Diploma
Kaduna Polytechnic Kaduna Computer Studies Certificate

Source: Ref. 6, 3rd edn.

There is a general consensus that the quality of training, especially in software, is good.13,24 Nevertheless the broad-based educational programmes offered at the universities and polytechnics concentrate on hardware and software issues. There is only a limited exposure to industrial problem-solving. Despite the difficulties in providing training courses in application areas relevant to the needs of a developing country,29 there is a need for greater efforts in this direction. Without doubt, the products of the existing programmes are adequately trained to man routine DP departments and computer centres; and they will always be needed in limited numbers as the base of computerization in the country widens. However, it is emphasized that the country needs a crop of application-oriented computer experts with a firm background in applied science or engineering, and good training in computing and computer-interfacing, to harness the higher capability of the computer to transform a nation’s industrial economy.

Table 3.17. Computer training provided by computer vendors and consultants

Course title No. offering Percentage
Commercial programming 21 100
General programming 21 100
Scientific programming 21 100
Systems analysis 19 90
Real time programming 16 76
Computer operations 15 71
Data processing 13 62
Systems programming 13 62
Audit of computer systems 11 52
Key punch operation 11 52
Languages for micros 6 29
Software project 6 29

Source: Ref. 6, 3rd edn.

Other bodies, including the universities and computer consultants, also organize conferences, workshops, and seminars on computing themes. Ogis & Ododo, a computer consultant, has pioneered computer publishing in Nigeria with the Nigerian Computer Users’ Directory. Ogis & Ododo also publishes a monthly trade journal called Computing and Computers. Another computer directory, The Nigeria Computer and Telecommunication Buyers’ Guide, is also available. A new trade journal, The PC Digest, was launched in March 1989 by a computer vendor.

That avenues for disseminating technical and semi-technical information (through books, and international journals and periodicals) are still limited is a sign of the immaturity of computing in Nigeria.

Professional Activities

The first professional body on computers in Nigeria was the Computer Association of Nigeria (CAN), established in 1980. CAN holds widely publicized annual conferences on computers and computer applications at which papers on relevant topics are presented. Adeniran found that, of the 165 papers presented at conferences from 1965 to 1985, no fewer than 89 were presented at CAN conferences.30 Conference proceedings are not generally available in published form.

In 1975, the Committee of Directors of Nigerian Universities Computing Centres (CDNUCC) was formed as a “forum for the sharing of experiences, exchange of ideas and general cooperation” among Nigerian university computing centres.31 A biennial series of conferences was initiated in 1985 and the proceedings were published; there has been no further publication since.

8. Conclusion

Nigeria has made a good start in the adoption of IT but the pace of computerization has been affected by the economic situation, especially the falling revenue derived from crude oil export. IT development in Nigeria has passed through three distinct phases, namely: the early phase from 1963 to about 1975, a period of rapid growth from 1977 to 1982, which was followed by a period of relative stagnation from 1982 to 1986. Currently, there is a new upsurge in the acquisition and use of computers. With the removal of import restrictions and foreign exchange controls, and given the pressure on the management of industrial and business concerns to adopt more efficient methods of production, the use of computers is expanding rapidly both quantitatively and qualitatively.

The pattern of computerization is shifting from mainframe and minicomputers to systems based on the microcomputer. The area of application is mainly in the management field, with emphasis on payroll and other accounts-based functions. CAD/CAM is practiced mainly in the bigger concerns, such as those in the oil and motor vehicle assembly subsectors.

IT has been adopted in many sectors of the economy, particularly industry, banking and other financial institutions, and business. The most common use of computer installations is for administrative and management functions. Considerable IT activity is also taking place in the universities and other tertiary institutions, and in research institutes. However, growth in the applications of IT is hindered by the shortcomings of the computer supply and service industry, as well as by deficiencies in the infrastructural facilities, particularly in the area of electric power supply and in telecommunications. These deficiencies are not being tackled speedily enough.

There is also a need to ease the cost of owning and maintaining a microcomputer. In this regard, due consideration should now be given to the local manufacture of a standard brand of the micro, and the establishment of software houses, possibly with the backing of the federal government. In the educational field, emphasis should now be placed on the production of graduates with experience in applications-oriented areas.

Progress in dealing with these matters will be faster and better coordinated, and will extend the use of computers to more fundamental areas of application, if developments are mediated by a national informatics policy. A national informatics authority should be set up to plan and regulate the process of informatics development. As suggested by Foster et al.,11 the national informatics authority should, among other functions, promote informatics applications in all sectors of the economy; monitor the progress and trends in informatics development in the nation generally; and set national targets for all sectors.


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