Founder/CEO, New Horizons Nigeria, Mr. Tim Akano, spoke about technology trends that will shape economies in 2019. Emma Okonji presents the excerpts:
You predicted the emergence of robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI), long before they were introduced into the technology space. What are your predictions for 2019 and beyond?
Thanks for going down the memory lane. As you rightly pointed out, the first world Artificial Intelligence (AI) news broadcaster was unveiled by the Chinese Xinhua News Agency on November 9, 2018, and millions of people around the world did not know immediately it was not a human being. You will also recall the Japanese Pop Star, Eiguchi Aimi who took Japan by surprise and for 17 days nobody knew in Japan that Ms. Aimi was not a human being singer but AI.
You will also recall that in April 2017, a Chinese AI Engineer, Zhang Jiajia built and married a Robot Spouse for himself named YINGYING in a wedding that was well attended by his parents and friends and conducted in accordance with the Chinese marital culture and custom. Also, in October 2017, Saudi Arabia made a first, when they named SOPHIA, a robot, as Saudi citizen with human rights. What does it all add up to, where are we and where are we going technologically speaking? In my lecture in December 2018 in Nigeria at the Centre for Management Development (CMD) on AI and the future of learning, I submitted that Homo Sapiens is in transition, and on a one-way evolution ticket to becoming something else.
We have bought the ticket, unfortunately- it’s one way, with zero chances of returning to who we are. But I would like us to look at the digital crystal ball this year differently from what we used to do in the years past. I believe it will be more beneficial for everyone- journalist, entrepreneur, job seekers, parents and governments, if we break it down into sectors. Let’s look into 10 areas: Unemployment, FinTech, Telecom, Education, Agriculture, Media, Manufacturing, Homeland Security, Trade and Governance.
What do you then see as the intersection between technology and the future jobs, given instances where robotics and AI are replacing workers, thus leading to job loss?
In response to your question on job loss based on the emergence of robotics and AI, I will say yes and no at the same time. A friend of mine put it poetically in an article recently in the newspaper ‘’how technology stole our breakfast and is about to eat our lunch.’’ But I disagree with him, because technology did not steal anybody’s breakfast rather technology changed our breakfast menu and gave us a new breakfast menu and technology has equally announced that a new lunch and dinner menu list is on the horizons. It is by putting issues in the right perspective that we can take full benefits of what is and what is to come. My answer in this sector is relevant to anyone ages 10 to 69 and business organisations as well.
There are new menu list of skills that technology wants that can make anyone or organisation to be relevant in the new technology space that we are entering. The latest LinkedIn research on skill and employment shows that there are 50,000 professional skills in the world today. But most of these skills will be obsolete in a matter of three to five years. Most of the traditional skills will decline in value. Banking/Finance, Architecture, Accountant, etc will decline because of new technologies.
What are your predictions about technology trends that will shape individuals and organisations in 2019?
I see 10 hot technology skills that will drive demand and shape organisations in 2019 and beyond. They include: Creativity, Innovation and Analytical Reasoning; Persuasion, Collaboration, and Adaptability; Cloud Computing; Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and Cyber Security; People and Time Management; Mobile Application Development; Sales Leadership, Customer Service, Digital and Social Media Marketing; Animation, Video, Audio, and Game development; Business Analytics and Competitive Strategies, and the tenth is Data Science and Big Data.
The demand for these 10 skill-sets by the industry will grow geometrically because we have shortages and businesses are developing along these lines exponentially. If you have children or cousin or brothers or sisters and you don’t want them to be hungry in the new technology age, these are the skills that will be in the greatest demand. Dr. Robot will be a better Surgeon than human doctors in few years time. AI will be a better pilot than human pilot, AI will replace drivers and cars will be electric without engine. AI will do some Accounting, Architectural, Journalism, Military, Teaching and Engineering jobs. Everything we are doing will converge on mobility like mobile devices and our mobile phones will become part of us in a new form. It will be engrained in our flesh- this will drive the demands for experts in mobility and internet of Things. Then when robot produces in the factory- Peter James and John have to sell to Steve and Florence. A Buhari or an Atiku will always need the services of Digital Marketing professionals to sell their candidacy to the electorates. So selling skill, customer service, digital and social medial skills will be in hot demand.
What are you predictions for FinTechs in 2019?
Obviously, the banking and financial industry are the biggest consumers of technology. Therefore, using past years as a guide, FinTech will continue to dictate the speed of innovation in technology. Some of the top 10 variables for the financial industry in 2019 and beyond, include: digital banks will grow faster than the legacy brick and wall, high street banks; There is bound to be bigger cash injection by banks into digital transformation in order to reduce overhead cost ultimately; massive deployment of AI in customer profiling for credit transaction will happen in 2019 in the banking industry. Due to the stringent and thick regulatory requirement and compliance for the financial sector- more banks will make use of AI technologies for compliance purposes; 2019 is the year of surgically implanted Near Field Communication devices (NFC); Block chain and Crypto currencies diversification will be massive consequent upon the rise and fall of Bitcoin- we have not seen the end of crypto; Quantum computing will become mainstream because of Big Data and Internet of Things(IoT); GDPR and digital marketing for banks will drive the data mining sales model, as a way to reach customers; Decentralised App for payment- online payment using decentralised apps will grow because of their relative security vis-à-vis the legacy payment model; Cyber security.
What is your view about the growth of telecommunications industry in 2019 and beyond?
2019 is the fifth generation technology (5G) year. The massive deployment in advanced countries of extra supper fast internet is this year. Towards the end of 2018 a few smart nations tested the 5G technology and the outcome was awesome. Finland was the first country in the world to make 5G mobile internet available to individuals and businesses. US AT &T delivered a super-fast internet as a test run for about 5000 visitors using its own hardware and the result was great. In South Korea, Ericsson, Intel and Korean Telecom connected a moving car to live 5G network as it drove through Soul and the experience of the customers was out of this world. MTN, Vodafone are two other major players in the 5G race.
However, there is one major ‘’BUT’’, Since 5G technology makes use of virtualisation and IoT, it therefore opens itself up to a wider range of attacks surface. Cyber security will become a major cost- centre for telecommunications companies in 2019 and beyond. And both the breakfast and lunch of telecoms will continue to end up in the stomach of Skype, WhatsApp and those social medial stuff that offer communication at reduced prices to customers. My message to telecoms operators in 2019 is: “Innovate fast or die suddenly.”
What will all these add up to and where will it put New Horizons Nigeria?
We have discussed and analysed four sectors: Jobs, Fintech, Telecommunication and Education. The remaining six sectors are going to witness the impact of AI, IoT, Cyber Security among others in different ways but equal measure. With regards to New Horizons Nigeria, you will recall that we are the first company in Nigeria to introduce ICT certification- based training into the Nigeria education curriculum 13 years ago. As at today, we produce about 50,000 students yearly under our certification programme. Our determination to add value to Nigerians has always been our driving force. This is why we are the first company in Information Technology (IT) training Industry in 2018 to launch a comprehensive robotics education in high schools which includes curriculum on 3D printing technology, AII, IoT, Big Data, Cyber security and Graphics design among others. Several schools in Abuja and Lagos have signed in for this programme. This will help our children to acquire 2019 ICT skills that will make them to be competitive globally. I can confidently tell you that the schools we partner in Nigeria receive the best of ICT education like their counterparts in Europe and America. For the rest of us, we definitely cannot beat technology or slow it down- our best option is to join technology and provide the skills it wants. This is the only way for prosperity in the new technology space that is about digital transformation.