Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Nigeria Needs A CIO

goodluck First it was word that the President was going to use Facebook to communicate with the people. Then it was the announcement about a plan to spend a significant amount of money making internet infrastructure available to schools across the country. Now I hear the government is also going to be using Youtube (unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the link to the news item).It seems someone in Abuja woke up and discovered all these tools of the 21st Century.

All this sudden interest in modern information technology is a good thing and should be applauded. As long as the government’s interest is awoken, let me use the opportunity to make a suggestion. The Federal Republic of Nigeria needs a Chief Information Officer, a Federal CIO.

I work in a fairly large organisation with thousands of workers and the what keeps the organisation functional and profitable are the information technology tools that the workers use to do their jobs. Providing that technology, helping to develop and implement technology policy and strategy is an IT department headed by an IT Manager otherwise known as a Chief Information Officer. This IT department doesn’t do technology for technology’s sake. The IT function is to provide technology to achieve the organisation’s goal.

Nigeria needs an IT department. I know we have a Ministry of Information and a Ministry of Science and Technology, but their portfolios are too broad for this. While it is possible for someone in either of these organisations to fulfil this role, I believe this is a role that belongs in the Presidency, pretty much the same way the Department of Petroleum Resources is in the Presidency.

The United States of America has such a role. Vivek Kundra is the Federal CIO and his job is described as follows:

The Federal Chief Information Officer is responsible for directing the policy and strategic planning of federal information technology investments as well as for oversight of federal technology spending. The Federal CIO establishes and oversees enterprise architecture to ensure system interoperability and information sharing and maintains information security and privacy across the federal government. According to President Obama, as Chief Information Officer, Kundra "will play a key role in making sure our government is running in the most secure, open, and efficient way possible."[1]

Kundra has made it a priority to focus on the following areas: (1) ensuring openness and transparency, (2) lowering the cost of government, (3) cyber-security, (4) participatory democracy, and (5) innovation.[32] One of Mr. Kundra's first projects was the launch of Data.gov, a site for providing access to raw government data.[33] Another project launched by Mr. Kundra in June 2009 was the Federal IT Dashboard, which gives an assessment (in terms of Cost, Schedule and CIO ranking) of many large government IT projects.[34]

Nigeria’s CIO should have a similar job, specifically, I would recommend the following:

  • The CIO should be responsible for developing an information technology platform to be used by all tiers of government in running their operations. This platform would specify a standard set of procedures for collecting, creating and storing government information, a set of tools for accessing and transforming that information for actionable intelligence, and security policies to ensure the integrity and availability of that information.
  • The CIO would define a set of standards that would use information technology to enable government operate more efficiently reducing bureaucracy, wastage, duplication of effort, cost of running the nation and time to get things done. These standards would also have make provision for the prevention and detection of fraud and corrupt practices.
  • The job would involve developing a simple mechanism to enable the people of Nigeria engage their governments in any form, shape or fashion using telephony and internet technologies. Similarly this mechanism would enable the government aggregate information about what is happening in the lives of ordinary Nigerians in order to formulate policy and proper deployment of resources.
  • The CIO will serve was a resource to the various ministries and parastatals in the execution of IT projects. Indeed the law establishing the office will require that all projects that have an IT component over a certain naira value to include the CIO’s office as part of the project.
  • The CIO will also guide the Senate and the House on the formulation of laws that regulate and promote information technology, ecommerce and internet privacy and that enable law enforcement agencies battle cybercrime.

Nigeria is long past due taking IT seriously as a tool to run the government. While various government agencies have a variety of initiatives, internal and citizen-facing, there needs to be a top-down unified approach to incorporating IT into the fabric of our nation. A federal CIO, who does the job well, will be a potent force in bringing our country into the league of nations making their people’s lives better by using modern technology.


Picture of President Goodluck Jonathan courtesy of OnlineNigeria.com