The world has since discovered the contribution of technology, especially programming, to economic development. As a programmer, Segun Akano believes that Nigeria has a chance too, if only stakeholders, especially the government, will see the need to prioritise technology. Interview by Chima Akwaja
Money from software is more than the money on oil….
In the United States today, if you are not a citizen, tech companies like Google will still offer you a job as a programmer. But for other jobs they would prefer you have your citizenship before they offer you such. That exception for programmers is a key thing across the world. Indians have seen that money from software is more than money from oil because these are real dollarized items across the world and they go all out. Luckily, the crop of the new generation of students we have in Nigeria are also good in that line.
These students are already exposed to a number of all these gadgets in school. All we need to do is to have an enabling environment for them to be properly coached then, put our energy all on them. We have ample reserve for talent that can always fill in. I foresee that in the next five years, Nigeria will have a pool of talent that can migrate to other parts of Africa and form a formidable force to bring up software development in all these countries.
We have to invest in our own processes….
Software is not a tangible product. You can’t really see it, it is invisible and it is intangible.
However, so much money is still going out of Nigeria through software acquisitions. And we saw that as far back as four/five years ago. The solution is in developing our own capability to measure up and offer it at a low price so that a reasonable economic person will ask him/herself ‘if I can get these things for N10 million in Nigeria why am I paying $1 million for it from India.’ This is why we have to invest in our own processes.
We have Capability Maturity Modelling Integration (CMMI) Level 3 Maturity, which is the benchmark to measure efficiency of any software accumulation. Internationally, the highest level is Level 5, owned by very few companies around the world. But Level 3 is good enough and fit-for-purpose and quality for any software you want to decide on.
If the Nigeria government is serious and wants to export software, they must look inward…
Coding is not what you put in one man’s brain, there must be serious documentation. Many companies cannot afford to do that documentation because you can’t really measure the value of it. If the Nigeria government is serious and wants to export software, they must look inward, look at the different companies we have now in the different sectors who are struggling, who are at mid-level, who have about five to 10 staff, challenge them so that everybody does not have to struggle. The people who come from abroad come with good money and aura that would make anybody fall for them. As long as this continues they will keep exploiting our economy.
The development of any software must follow fundamental processes. And when you follow CMMI processing to do your programming, you can be rest assured that that software is fit-for-purpose and is protected from threats. .
So long as we give our customers what they need, when they need it in terms of speed and efficiency, we will continue to be in business…
We are close to our customers and we move together with them every step of the way. I believe that we are going to sustain the bond between us and our customers, which is very key. As a matter of fact, we ask for their input at every stage of the development of the solution.
When you see our application now, what it was in May 2018 is not what it was in January 2017 because of a whole lot of upgrade and expansion and this will continue. We believe anybody can come up with his own but so long as we give our customers what they need, when they need it in terms of speed and efficiency, we will continue to be in business.
Stakeholders need to come together to look at what they can do to catapult those who are struggling in the industry…
I think there is a new President for Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) who himself is a software developer. So I believe with him, there may be new focus of how to get that power and enforce our power maybe in terms of bargaining, persuasion, etc. On the other hand, ISPON, Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), National Office for Technology Acquisition Programme (NOTAP), National Communication Commission (NCC), the Ministry of Communication, other stakeholders need to come together to look at what they can do to catapult those who are struggling in the industry.
If you rush into agency banking, you may not get result…
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has put up a lot of resources in terms of agency banking. It is actually agency banking that will address this area because they have seen that the infrastructure that the banks need to spread is enormous. And if they have to put all these infrastructure in the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, it will slow down their capital investments.
Today, there is a plan by CBN to bring up about 500,000 agents across Nigeria especially in the northeast. When that happens, we will see a difference. But everything must be done thoroughly. If you rush into agency banking, you may not get result.
Upperlink is open to grow and grow even beyond Nigeria…
If you use technology to provide financial services, then you are also fintech. By and large, all PSSPs are fintech by nature and they are expected to be innovative. But in terms of size, in terms of strength, we all differ and Upperlink is open to grow and grow even beyond Nigeria and by God’s grace we’re outside Nigeria as of today, we are working in some African countries.
There are three major variables that would determine the acceptability of your product in the market: comfort, speed and security…
PayChoice philosophy is about self-service that gives comfort to the users. There are three major variables that will determine the acceptability of your product in the market: comfort, speed and security. If these three are there for you, there is no way people will not patronise you. When we talk of PayChoice, we talk about comfort at any point in time, anywhere to make transactions.
It gives that liberty of freedom for you to make use of the service without having to look for assistance and that’s the philosophy that we are trying to entrench in the financial landscape. The area we have tried to ease financial stress of the public is that as it is now, no matter how huge your transaction is, it doesn’t have to wait till Monday. And you don’t need to say that because I have a meeting here or there, I cannot make it to the office to sign those documents to take to the bank because PayChoice has taken care of that.
What we give the education sector is different from what we give the health sector…
Today, we have a product called EduChoice, which is to service the education sector. We have another one which is the e-Hospital, which is servicing the hospitals. So if any hospital wants an end-to-end automation of patient registration, patient consulting, ward management, laboratory testing and all other operations in hospitals, we have developed software that run end-to-end, including payment. This applies to the school too.
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