What is the difference in IT Convergence, or ICT Convergence or Digital Convergence or Technological Convergence? In this expose Olubayo Abiodun captures the attempt by the Director-General NITDA, Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), at perceptive definition
PANTAMI is a man who is not afraid of courting controversies. And he likes to do this with intellectual inclinations for positive societal trajectories. In another breath, he is a very deeply spiritual being literarily embellished with humility. He was first lifted into national consciousness when he was appointed the substantive Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in Q3 2016 to replace Peter Jack who was relieved of the position by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Coming from the academic environment, being previously a Professor of Computer Information Systems at the Islamic University of Medinah, Saudi Arabia, Pantami did not leave anyone in doubt about his immediate profiling as an academician in his dissection of the topic of his keynote presentation at the West Africa Convergence Conference (WACC) 2016 organised by Knowhow Media and Market Intelligence International Limited at the Ikeja Sheraton Hotel, Lagos.
The organisers of WACC 2016 had saddled him with the theme: Convergence, IT Regulation and Promotion of Local Content. But by the time he started to dwell on the assigned topic, he had reprogrammed the subject matter, as a lecturer would, in order to give further clarity to the thematic focus of his presentation.
Before dwelling on the responsibility of presenting the keynote speech, Pantami laboriously explained his mission in government and tutored all those present about his desire to be the ‘servant-leader’. Aside his opposition to the special seat at the ‘high table’ as a keynote presenter and more importantly as the Director General of NITDA in a gathering where NITDA is a functional key stakeholder, he chose to give a brief tutorial on the tenets of public service.
“I personally consider this position I occupy so far as a burden. If you are a boss in any agency it is not an indication that you are better than anyone; it is nothing but trial! It is very important for us to realize that whenever we are elevated to serve, it is not an indication that we are better than all. But we are only put on trial to see how we can deliver. And it is very important for us to make our sacrifice, to use our time and make a difference. Because of this I always inform any gathering I attended, like this one for example, that I don’t consider my position to be greater than many other people. And it is not a privilege or a position for you to be employed but to serve your nation and you can only do that by making sacrifice. And that is why in many occasions that I attend I try to maintain low profile, because I don’t like to feel that I am better than anyone. I am only on trial and I need your support, advice, suggestions and even constructive criticism on how to deliver. And that is why usually I turn down VIP treatments in many occasions that I attend. I always like to be here with all of you feeling that we are the same because I have been put on trial and I need your support to deliver and I believe I can’t do alone,” he enthused without equivocation.
Having settled the issue about his disposition to public service, he embarked on a clinical dissection of his keynote presentation as assigned by the organisers of WACC 2016. The topic given to him was Convergence, IT Regulation and Promotion of Local Content. But in the inner recess of his medullar oblongata, Pantami felt something was missing in the thematic structure of the subject matter.
“By saying just Convergence I had been contemplating Convergence of what? Convergence of IT stakeholders, including West Africa Convergence Forum or Conference, or IT Convergence? My mind is more inclined to IT Convergence. But I think it is very important to insert that into the topic: IT Convergence, Regulation and Local Content Promotion. That is better actually. But just discussing Convergence without looking at the theme and the stakeholders converged here it is difficult for you to understand what the Convergence is all about. So I feel it is better to be IT Convergence, or ICT Convergence or Digital Convergence or Technological Convergence, Regulation and Local Content Promotion. This is just an observation,” he clarified.
Like most astute academicians, restructuring the keynote theme itself is not the end point of the intellectual mind refining. To him, a further breakdown of the concepts requires tact in ensuring proper verbiage in the ecosystem. “If you are looking at Digital Convergence or ICT Convergence or Technological Convergence briefly what I can say on this… If we say Technological Convergence we are talking about how technologies are coming together trying to perform a similar task. The task you had been performing with your telephone, particularly, landline, you can use your computer today or tablet and perform it. So you can look at it slowly but surely technologies have been coming together; they are being interwoven together; or to put it more nicely, some of them are sneaking to others. But if we are talking about Digital Convergence it is a situation where four technologies converging or four industries that converge together or in a situation where some of them sneak into each other.
Stirring the Honest Next
Is this a direct battle between the Information Technology experts and Telecommunications Technology connoisseurs? Pantami ensured that there is a cushion for bruised egos on his submission that it was Telecommunications Technology that sneaked into Information Technology. “With due apologies to the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON),Telecommunications Technology is slowly sneaking to Information Technology. But we are talking about Convergence. In the real sense, it is the Communications Technology that is coming and sneaking to Information Technology because of the fact that whatever we had been doing with Communications Technology now we can do it with Information Technology. So it is Telecommunications Technology that comes to Information Technology. Now with computer at your disposal you can make phone calls, with your Facebook for example, you can download messenger and make phone calls and this is something that is very important. And at the same time you can send text messages, you can even download WhatsApp and many other things and send text messages. You don’t need maybe, sometimes independent telecommunications gadgets; you can only use your IT gadgets to do whatever you had been doing with telecommunications gadgets.
Defining Digital Technology
So if we are talking about Convergence and I always say this: that in the real sense, Communications Technology is slowly but surely coming into Information Technology. So it is not just about convergence but about one coming into the other. However, this is something that I think is very important with due apologies to my colleagues here from Communications Technology: At least four industries are coming together for example: Information Technology, Telecommunications Technology, Consumer Electronics and even Entertainment.
Now we are moving into a situation where even entertainment is becoming part and parcel of ICT. And that is why in many fora you can count even our representatives and at the same times our experts. For example, for the media to be part of ICT stakeholders. Why? Because these technologies are coming together and some of them are sneaking to others and that is what brought about the convergence we are talking about. And this is what is referred to as Digital Technology. So we have Technological Convergence, or Digital Convergence and you can have ICT Convergence, where in the real sense, IT was independent of CT and CT was independent of IT but now you can see they are being brought together, they are being reconciled and even being married together where you have information and communications technology (ICT) instead of having IT on the one hand and CT on the other hand. But now they come together to the extent that and some of us prefer to even use ICT instead of IT and CT.
Bridging the Gap
What we learn from this which is important indeed is that the more technologies are being converged, it is an indication that relevant experts, agencies and parastatals should collaborate and work together. Otherwise, it could be difficult to perform their own responsibilities effectively, because they are becoming more and closer together. That is why it is very important for us stakeholders to work together, to collaborate together, to have good understanding of their mandate and what they represent and this is very important.
So ICT Convergence or Digital Convergence or Technological Convergence is an indication that the stakeholders must always have good understanding and they should try to work together, they should collaborate together and they should have selected fora where they meet together to discuss about their mandate, about their responsibility and the need for them to work together wherever they be at least their mandates somewhere intervened or may be converged together. However, the issue of IT and ICT even in developed nations is more inclined to sometimes political differences. In other nations they prefer to have just as Information Technology; in other places they prefer to have Information and Communication Technology. All their arguments are valid.