The 2012 CPN Information Technology (IT) Assembly has blamed the country's security challenges on inadequate manpower and poor infrastructural facilities.Emma Okonji writes on the need to develop human capacity and IT tools in order to address the challenges
The just-concluded annual Information Technology Professionals' Assembly of the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN), raised issues on intelligence gathering and national security, as well as the opportunities and challenges that abound in cashless transactions.
The CPN IT Assembly is a yearly gathering of Information Technology practitioners in Nigeria and Diaspora with the objective of discussing and strategising on emergent issues in IT in order to come up with recommendations and decisions that will impact positively on the industry and the nation.
The theme for this years' assembly: "Information Technology and National Transformation", was informed by the need to highlight the country's drive for development in the area of Information Technology.
Lead speakers presented papers on different topics that were focused on national security challenges and the opportunities of a cashless society, before the assembly broke into interactive sessions for a comprehensive discussion of presentations made. At the end of the sessions, a communiqué providing solutions to identified challenges was released.
- Combating Security Challenges with IT
Addressing the issue of intelligence gathering in tackling the current security challenges in the country, the IT assembly insisted that information technology tools were indispensable in the collection and processing of intelligence information, but regretted that IT contribution to intelligence gathering in Nigeria had been hampered by the poor infrastructural facilities, inadequate manpower, as well as absence of a national database for the country.
Since information technology profession is knowledge-based, CPN said it would be extremely difficult for the IT profession to play the role expected of it in intelligence gathering and national security without a concomitant human capacity development. It therefore called on government at all levels to invest more in the IT education system, so as to develop the right human capacity needed for intelligence gathering that will address national security. The present low level of human capacity development is actually giving little or no input to the development of IT tools for intelligence gathering, CPN said.
- Addressing National Security
Delivering a paper on National Security at the CPN Assembly, Director-General of the Nigeria Governors' Forum, Abel Okauru, said "As the nation continues to face rising national security challenges, it is critical to embrace a digital transformation process that will help in tackling the national security challenges and achieve economic and social policy goal of a 21st century nation."
He listed areas where Information Communications Technology (ICT) could improve national security in the country to include financing, communication, surveillance, identification, intelligence gathering, and coordination, among others.
For financing, Okauru said ICT remained a vital tool for tracking, tracing and investigating suspected financial transactions. "With the recent introduction of cashless society, transactions will be forced to electronic platforms where suspicious cash movements can be identified and questioned. This would go a long way in curbing the financing of activities that constitute a threat to national security," he said.
In the area of communication, Okauru said intercepting communication between and within terror groups and enhancing interaction within security agencies could be achieved through the deployment of ICT, and for surveillance, he said computer surveillance involving the monitoring of data and traffic, such as phone calls and broadband internet traffic, should be available for unimpeded real-time monitoring by Federal law enforcement agencies. "So many forms and technologies can be used such as surveillance cameras, social network analysis, biometric surveillance, data mining and profiling, corporate surveillance, satellite imagery, among others.
In the area of intelligence gathering, he suggested the use of ICT Tools to engage the public in acquiring information that has the potential to enhance national security. The internet, print and electronic media are useful in gathering useful information to assist in the nation security efforts, he said.
- The Way Forward
Due to the importance of security for the survival and corporate existence of any nation, there is the need for CPN and other Information Technology-based organisations to collaborate and reach out to security agencies and intelligence gathering organisations with a view to developing a purpose built software and hardware to enable the nation enhance its security and intelligence gathering. This is very important for the profession and the nation.
CPN advised on local development of IT tools that would be useful in intelligence gathering and national security, and condemned the continual patronage of foreign tools, which it said, could compromise national security.
The IT professional body insisted on the need for adequate attention to be paid to human capital development in IT profession so as to enable it to be impactful in intelligence gathering and national security.
It suggested that necessary machinery be put in motion for the setting up of a national database, since the absence of a national database has been hindering the gathering and monitoring of intelligence report in the country.
The session concluded that the information technology profession and the security agencies have not created a synergy that is required to solve the nation's security problems, and called for proper deployment of information technology in tackling the security challenges in the country.
- Importance of Cashless Economy
In the area of cashless economy, CPN noted that cashless policy was a good concept capable of saving the country several billions of Naira in transaction cost that could have been expended in cash transactions, which constitute about 80 percent of the total transactions of Nigerians in the banking industry.
Delivering a paper on 'Cashless Transactions: Platforms, Challenges and Opportunities', Group Head, Remita Services at SystemSpecs, Mr. Demola Igbalajobi, said there was need for proper integration of rural people into the Nigerian banking system and the cashless policy, as well as the need to step up customer education on the cashless policy of the Central Bank.
According to him, the phobia for electronic mode of payment remained real, explaining that most people still prefer the usage of the traditional and manual system of carrying physical cash around to transact financial business that they are used to.
Addressing the challenges of cashless economy, Igbalajobi said some people are still uneducated and may not be able to read, write or compute financial transactions.
He mentioned the issue of data protection, privacy and confidentiality as another challenge that needed to be addressed.
He said the issue of digital signature and the challenge of identity were issues that should be properly addressed in the cashless transactions.
The entire CPN IT Assembly, however, agreed that information technology professionals as well as students of Computer Science in tertiary institutions should rise up to the challenge of the cashless policy. They advised that more IT solutions that will assist in the acceptance and sustenance of the cashless policy, be developed.