Leveraging on Technology to Advance Nigeria’s Economy

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With the evolution of modern technologies across the globe, the government and the private sector must leverage on new technologies to boost the Nigerian economy, writes Emma Okonji

 

The large population size of Nigeria has always been a good factor for technology advancement of the country. But  the paucity of specialised information communications technology (ICT) personnel like cybersecurity personnel, coupled with the poor state of ICT infrastructure in the country, tend to pose some difficult challenges to technology advancement.

Recently, the Country General Manager at Cisco, an information technology (IT) security networking company, Mr. Olakunle Oloruntimehin, decried the shortfall of trained cybersecurity personnel in Nigeria, and called for increased effort on the part of private organisations and government agencies to begin to look inward and invest in people, processes and technology, especially in people that will help mitigate cyberattacks, which he said, was on the increase.

In a related development, the country is challenged by poor ICT infrastructure rollout, a situation that is affecting the speedy expansion of telecoms networks across the country, hindering technology growth.

However, the success of technology advancement of a nation is hinged on the ubiquitous spread of ICT infrastructure and the volume of technology savvy people who are willing to leverage technology to develop themselves and the entire nation. It is for this reason that industry stakeholders have continued to stress the need for greater participation of government and the private sector to leverage technology to advance the Nigerian economy.

Seedspace passion 

In line with its global mission to develop a hub that is focused on growth, technology and entrepreneurship, Seedspace Lagos, an affiliate of Seedspace Global, has continued to display its passion for technology advancement in Nigeria. Recently, it organised the second edition of its Media Hangout, where it showcased the Founder/Principal Partner of Mobility.ng, Mr. Adegboye Oluyomi as the guest speaker to discuss new technology trends and how Nigerian government and the private sector can leverage technology to further advance the economy.

With over 60,000 community members all over the world, Speedspace is a global hub where expertise are trained, who will in turn leverage technology to further advance economic growth of nations.

 

Call for technology advancement 

Citing recent projections about future technology development in the Nigerian technology space, Oluyomi said such projections are not always accurate because the technology landscape changes fast with technology evolution.

“Before now, the country used to talk about 3G, 4G technologies, and the Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology; but today we are already talking about 5G technology, even though I do not know when that will take effect in Nigeria,” Oluyomi said.

According to him, new media is constantly being redefined and Nigeria must take advantage of it.

“When I started digital technology in early 2000, it was yahoo messenger that was in vogue then, and all of a sudden, nobody is taking about yahoo messenger today. This shows the direction and pace at which technology solutions are evolving.

Instant messaging, for instance, is fast developing and will continue to grow until another form of technology overtakes it. WhatApp is doing well today and has taken over the business space of social media across globe. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are technologies that people are currently looking up to and one strong factor that will enhance the growth is affordable access to these new technologies. Today, the Google Map has taken over Nokia Map and technologies are evolving by the day. Initially people thought the mapping and navigation system will not work in Nigeria, but today many people are using Google map to navigate their ways, and it has helped the transportation business like Uber, Taxify, Oga Driver among others, who now develop apps around the Google map to help them navigate various routes in cities. Investing in infrastructure will therefore help the ease of use of evolving technologies,”he said.

How the media can advance technology 

In the views of Oluyomi, the best way by which the media can advance technology is by putting up the right content that are useful and relevant to the readers. “Technology is advancing but the media and technology solutions provider must do well to demystify technology and keep it simple always. Majority of people are not interested about the technical Jargons in today’s technology world. What they are interested in is how the technology works and how it can improve on their businesses or jobs. Users of technology solutions are not interested in knowing technical jargons, like gigabytes, megabytes, interoperability of technology solutions, among other jargons. The only thing they love to experience is in the use of the technology and how easy it is for them to deploy it. So as media practitioners, there is the need to make technology as simple as possible when writing about it.

“We need to encourage more people into technology. App developers should also try to keep their apps simple in terms of usage and in addressing challenges. When that is achieved, it will help reduce technophobic behaviour in our youths and bring in more people into the world of technology,” Oluyomi said.

“The taxi drivers, the market men and women, artisans, must all understand technology and for them to understand  it, the media and technology solution provider must demystify technology to their levels. Until we do this, lots of people will be excluded from the ongoing technology development. Most times in an attempt to hype a technology solution, people push out false narrative that will not actually address the true situation. For example, there is this hype about smartphone penetration in the country, which dishes out false information about the actual number of smartphone penetration in the country. The media must learn to say things they way they really are,”Oluyomi added.

 

Patronising locally developed apps

Oluyomi spoke on the need for Nigerians to develop interest in locally developed apps that are designed to solve specific challenges, and patronise them.

“Today, apart from financial services apps, locally developed apps are not being patronised. Even church apps are not been downloaded by church members and this goes to show that locally developed apps are grossly underutilised in Nigeria, and something has to be done to address that. We must move away from hype and learn how to provide factual and useful information so that people who want to do real business, will have the right information to plan better,” he said.

 

Government’s role in tech development 

The guest speaker said although government has greater role to play in leveraging technology to advance its economy, he advised that people must not wait for government to provide all the infrastructure needed to grow the economy. “Government is slow to act, so individuals and the private sector should begin to see the need to add value without waiting for government. We know that government is big time spender but government could be slow in various ways. Those currently in government are not digital natives, they are not born  in the technology age, they are digital migrants who are only trying to learn technology. But the digital natives who are born into the world of technology, understand  better, the way technology works,” Oluyomi said, while calling on government to support the youths who are the millennials and digital natives.

 

The role of InfraCos 

Commending government for the licensing of Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) to achieve faster infrastructure rollout, the guest speaker said such efforts must be sustained to further advance technology development in the country.

He said the challenges of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and InfraCos are immense and thus affecting fast rollout of telecoms infrastructure. He, however,  said the way out of the challenge is through acquisitions and mergers.

He called on government to come up with policies that will empower Nigerians and the same time speed up technology development in Nigeria.

“Government should begin to look at how it can use technology it drive development and create policies that will drive technology development in today’s new digital media. If all Nigerians are empowered with technology skills, and there are adequate technology infrastructure on ground across the country, the people will develop fast and the economy will grow faster. But in the absence of these, individuals must keep pushing and contribute their own quota to national development.

Some governments are getting it right. Donald Duke of Cross Rivers State, when he was the governor of the state, got it right when he conceptualised Tinapa Business Resort Centre in Calabar. Although it was a laudable initiative that could have advanced technology and trade in Nigeria, but subsequent governments failed to see the need for continuity, even though government is a continuum. Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State got it right in Lagos State as well, by automating all government processes in the state and today Lagos State is a good example of a digital state. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State is currently trying to revolutionise education in the state, using technology and all these are different initiatives from different state governments that other governors should emulate,” Oluyomi said.

He also commended former President Olusegun Obasanjo, whom he said, opened up the telecoms sector in his time, when he approved  the GSM auction licences for the rollout of telecoms services in the county in the year 2000.

“Nigerians need more of such initiatives from various governments, but the private sector must not wait for government to develop and implement new and workable initiatives all alone,” he added.