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March 28, 2022

NITDA explains challenges with ASUU, claims 156 out of 687 UTAS test cases failed

By Upfrontdigital News 0 238 Views


By Adeyemi Adepetun

THE National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has explained its issues with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Recall that the leadership of ASUU had accused NITDA of “peddling lies” over the status of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).

NITDA disclosed its position in a statement, at the weekend, signed by its Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs. Hadiza Umar, and titled: ‘NITDA’s Engagement with ASUU on UTAS: Putting the Records Straight’.

The agency said its establishing Act mandates it to create a framework for planning, research, development, standardisation, application, coordination, monitoring, evaluation and regulation of Information Technology (IT) practices in Nigeria.

As such, NITDA said, over the years, it had issued series of regulatory instruments including the Software Testing and Quality Assurance Framework and Guideline, released in 2016. It stressed that this instrument, currently being reviewed, provides guidelines for the design, development and testing of software projects in Nigeria. It also pointed out that Section 10 of the Guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in ICT, 2019 provided detailed guidelines and expectations for Indigenous Software Development and Software Enabled Products and Services.

NITDA said: “In line with its mandate, the agency has been registering indigenous software solutions. Part of the registration process requires that solutions are subjected to tests, in line with the requirements of the Software Testing and Quality Assurance Framework and Guideline and the Guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in ICT.

“It is common knowledge that ASUU has been engaging the Federal Government on a number of issues including payment of promotion arrears, earned academic allowance, funding for revitalisation of public universities, and adoption of UTAS as payment platform for universities.

“On October 14, 2020, NITDA was invited to participate in an interactive session between ASUU, Federal Government and the legislature. The session, held at the Conference Hall of Accountant General of the Federation’s office, was to avail ASUU opportunity to demonstrate the UTAS platform.”

As part of the conditions for acceptance of UTAS as payment platform for public universities by Federal Government, NITDA said it was directed to subject the platform to an integrity test and advise government appropriately. In doing so, the agency decided to carry out three of the eight tests specified in the Software Testing and Quality Assurance Framework and Guideline.

These tests are: User Acceptance Test (UAT); Stress Test; and Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Test (VAPT). NITDA said it held its first meeting with ASUU on October 22, 2020, and discussions centred on modalities of the assessment. Further, NITDA said documents necessary for effective planning and execution of the tests were requested. As critical stakeholders to implementation and deployment of the Solution, both the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation were also engaged.

“Upon receipt of the documents from ASUU, as well as access details of the UTAS platform in January, 2021, the agency’s team carried out basic Functionality/User Acceptance Test on the platform. As NUC conducted UAT, NITDA felt it could use the report produced by NUC for its report. However, upon review, it was observed that the Solution was demonstrated to the principal officers in a similar way it was demonstrated at the Accountant General’s Office.

“The agency decided that further UAT be carried out with actual end-users from the university system. As a result, arrangements were made and 46 staff members from 28 federal universities, mainly from Vice Chancellor’s Office, Human Resources, Accounts and Bursary participated in the UAT, held at NUC, on August 10, 2021.

“Although the UAT was carried out as planned, challenges were encountered that negatively impacted on outcome of the assessment. For instance, although the invitation emphasised the need for prospective participants to come with ICT tools for the exercise, very few of the participants had these tools. This resulted into grouping the participants and very limited hands-on interaction with the Solution was possible. Furthermore, there was limited connectivity, thereby, making it difficult for the participants with the relevant tools to follow the demonstration by ASUU. These issues were adequately reported to key stakeholders.

“The agency’s team also carried out series of Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Tests on the UTAS platform. One of these assessments revealed five high-risk vulnerabilities that are likely to negatively impact on the platform if exploited. Further, two low-risk vulnerabilities were identified. These were discussed with the ASUU team. And a further assessment carried out on the updated version of the Solution revealed that the High-Risk Vulnerabilities have been addressed. However, one medium risk, three low risks and 44 informational risks were identified. These, also, were adequately communicated to the relevant stakeholders including ASUU.

“A detailed Functionality/User Acceptance Test on the platform was carried out by our team. A total of 687 test cases were generated, in which 529 passed, 156 failed and two had cautionary warnings. As some of the failed cases are critical to the overall functionality of the Solution, the agency could not recommend for the Solution to be deployed in production environment.

“ASUU was, therefore, requested to work on the Solution and submit it for further assessment. Furthermore, a comprehensive report outlining all the tests carried out and issues identified was submitted to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy on December 3, 2021. This was, in turn, submitted to the chief conciliator, the Minister of Labour and Employment, as well as other stakeholders in ASUU,” the statement reads.

NITDA claimed that during the conciliation meeting held at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Employment on February 22, 2022, it resolved that NITDA work with ASUU and subject UTAS to re-assessment. It said it was resolved that key members of the conciliation team be in attendance during the Technical Team’s sessions as observers.

“It may interest the agency’s stakeholders to know that NITDA, as a responsible agency of government, made all arrangements to ensure that the exercise was carried out successfully. The interaction commenced on March 8, 2022, with discussion on the methodology to be used as specified in the Software Testing and Quality Assurance Framework and Guideline.

“Upon reaching agreement and starting the actual test on the Solution, a critical error occurred and the test could not continue. As a result, the interaction had to be postponed to enable the ASUU team rectify the issue.

“Considering the challenge encountered, the assessment methodology had to be reviewed to facilitate daily remediation of critical issues as they occur. This, although not in NITDA’s Standard Operating Procedure for exercises such as this, was adopted. Consideration was made to the national importance attached to the exercise as well as the need to complete it in a reasonably shorter period of time.”










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