In this interview, OMMO CLARK Founder & CEO Of iBez, a software testing facility in Lagos talks about software testing, collaborations with Nigerian universities and the need for the IT education to be reviewed in order to many the graduates compete globally. Anthony Emeka Nwosu captures this in this interview.
Ibez can be said to be a team of techpreneurs, software enthusiasts. What is unique about your IT solutions that sets you apart from the crowd?
We are software developers which means that we build software solutions. Our solutions are custom-made to the unique needs and requirements of our clients. In addition, we have a consumer internet product in the market – Handy-Jacks which is an online platform for homeowners and businesses to find repair and maintenance people (handymen, tradespeople, artisans etc) around them. We plan to launch our second product by called ‘Lets-Share’ by the end of this year. Lets-Share is a secure online platform for homeseekers to find spare bedrooms to rent in a house or flatshare. Lastly, we train would-be software developers on the software development process and help start-ups design their products and build MVPs.
A lot of industry watchers have complained that we lack the required manpower to drive ICT in Nigeria. This has made the country to fall on the foreigners such as Indians and Chinese. How can this narrative be changed?
ICT is broad, it covers telecoms, software, hardware, networks, infrastructure and so on. So I will focus on Software which is my area of specialty. It is true that there is a huge skill and manpower gaps in our Software Development Industry. One way this narrative can be changed is by training and development. Universities ICT curriculum needs to be reviewed and overhauled to make it fit and relevant for 2017, also, ICT education needs to start right from primary school. On our part we have begun to offer classes in Software Development focused on Business Analysis, Design & Architecture, Testing and Application. We have very deficient in these areas and but they are key to producing functional and usable software applications. Otherwise, we will continue to have coders that to code products that no one can use. We must look at ways to over haul our education system ad make this globally competitive.
Lately, the communication minister wants to have a specialized ICT university, but as it seems, a lot of industry watchers are against this move, it has advised that the existing universities should be equipped rather than having a new one. What’s our take on this ?
I agree with industry watchers that we do not need another university. What we need to do is boost ad build the capacity of ICT courses in the existing universities. I think they should choose one of the existing Technology Universities to develop into a world class ICT focused university and be a model for other universities to follow. Having a new ICT university will be duplicity and this is a waste of resources, now the country is trying to do everything to ensure that wastages are limited.
A lot of university lecturers in the various departments of Computer Engineering in Nigerian universities are antiquated and haven’t upgraded their skills, especially in the area of software development. As a developer, how did you up your game and how can this anomaly be rectified?
I am fortunate to have learnt ICT / Software Development in the UK. I have been to a number of Nigerian universities and interacted with Nigerian Computer Science Students and I must be frank here, we are lagging behind! The good thing is that IT moves very fast which means there’s no need to learn the legacy languages / systems so it is very easy to catch up and overtake with the right resources and training. And learning is extremely easy these days with the internet.
As a software development firm, what are the areas of your competence and which of the areas of software are you good in ?
We focus a lot in Analysis, Design and Testing because if you do not get these right, you cannot build good, functional and usable software. And incidentally, these are the crucial areas where we are lagging behind in Nigeria. We as an organization are trying to fill in the gap or the void here. We have been into this area of IT for some time and we have developed some level of advantage here.
NITDA, is a government agency that is overseeing tech space in Nigeria, has the agency reached out to firms like you and what is their level of engagement with software development firms like yours?
Formally NITDA has never reached out to us as a firm. However, I have met a few of their representatives at conferences. We are very open to any form of collaboration be it in the public or private sector. Most importantly, the public sector is important because they are the regulators of the ecosystem and we are very open to any collaborations from them.
What are the peculiar challenges that you face as an organization ?
Like everyone other small business, finance and power are our key issues. To combat this we do a lot of virtual work to keep costs down. However, finding staff with the right set of skills has been very tough. This one huge area , we are having challenges. Our attitude to work is something that we must improve on and this is one sore point with us and also most employers.
The country is in dire need to diversify, ICT and Agric has been earmarked as the revenue earner. Do you feel that government is doing enough in the area of creating an enabling environment for IT firms like yours?
I think the government can do a lot more. Software Development is knowledge based so the right education and training is key. As I alluded to earlier on, the software development should be taught right from primary school and then the right curriculum is required.
Can we know a bit about your green mile project ?
The Green Mile is not a project. It is a section on our website where we listed some of our products. These products are Green in the sense that they are innovative and new. We can say that we have tried to disrupt the ecosystem with these innovative solutions and they are doing well in the market.
I think they should choose one of the existing Technology Universities to develop into a world class ICT focused university and be a model for other universities to follow. Having a new ICT university will be duplicity and this is a waste of resources
Founder & CEO Of iBez
Ommo is the Founder and CEO of iBez, a technology company that provides software development services and also owns a number of web-based applications. She is a qualified IT Practitioner, entrepreneur and public speaker with many years of experience gained from working for a string of well-known investment banks and software companies both in the UK and Nigeria.
Ommo is an Alumnae of London Guildhall University UK with BA (Hons) Business Admin, and Brunel University UK with MSc Information Systems.