Leveraging Social Media for Youth Empowerment

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This year’s Social Media Week Lagos presented another opportunity for Nigerian youths and corporate organisations to leverage the power of technology and digital media in transforming industries and communities, writes Emma Okonji

The Social Media Week Lagos 2019 (SMWLagos), which ended last week, focused on ideas, trends, insights, inspiration to help both individuals and businesses across the creative, technology and financial industries understand how to achieve more in a hyper-connected world and engender good business practices and policies that leverage technology to transform industries and communities across Africa. The event also featured a mixture of presentations on a wide range of topics, including business, entertainment, education, technology and politics, all aimed at advancing the use of social media. Aside being dedicated to networking, co-working and interactive installations, one the sessions highlighted the dangers of fake news and how best to effectively use social media in broadcasting.
Organisations used the occasion of this year’s SMW to impact and set young tech start-ups on crucial path that would give them tangible deliverables in today’s competitive business environment.

Dealing with fake news

Worried about the potential danger of disseminating fake news through various social media platforms, some experts that spoke at the event came up with fresh solutions to address the growing trend.
Speaking at a session, the dangers of fake news were highlighted, and Nigerians were blamed for their gullible nature in accepting and disseminating fake news.

The experts described fake news as malicious stories or information that have no element of truth and are broadcast as mere gossips.

The panellists also blamed government for escalating fake news trough the hoarding of vital information that should be of public knowledge.
According to them, in an attempt to uncover such information, which are most times classified, people come up with different information that may not be correct about the subject matter.

The Group Head, Corporate Communication at Access Bank, Mr. Amaechi Okobi, cautioned on the dangers of fake news, which he said were most times misleading in decision making, but however advised that Nigerians must go the extra-mile in dissociating themselves from its spread.

In detecting fake news, he said Nigerians must verify the source of every information, and the credibility of such information, before re-broadcasting it.

A blogger, Oluwatosin Ajibade, stressed the need for media owners to provide training and re-training for staff so as to expose them to modern tools to verify fake news.

“There are technology tools online to detect origin of news, the authenticity of the news, geolocation where the news emanates from and the number of times a particularly news item has been re-broadcasted.

“Unless media practitioners are trained on how to source of the technology tools and how to use them, they may continually become carriers of fake news unknown to them,” Ajibade said.

Also speaking, a Senior Business Manager at HMD Global, Mr. Kolawole Osinowo, advised news carriers to make effective use of available technology solutions in detecting what could be fake actual news or fake news. Osinowo challenged technology start-ups to come up with more technology solutions that could address the potential dangers of fake news.
Another blogger, Laila Ijeoma Obiagwu, said fake news spreads easily and thrives because there are lots of people practicing journalism, without having any training in journalism.

She said with connected devices people post all manners of gossips and untrue information through various social media, to gullible Nigerians who are eager to accept every trending information.

She therefore advised that Nigerians should verify their source of information, before disseminating such information.

Head, Presentation at News Central, Tolulope Balogun, however said there could be element of truth in some information classified as fake news, but advised government to share useful information with the public, especially information that is classified as public information, and meant for public consumption.

Financial Literacy

The Stanbic IBTC had three sessions at the event. The platform presented an opportunity for the financial institution to offer financial literacy tips, investment masterclasses and tools and basics of formal career development, entrepreneurship drive and business management.

The Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, Mr. Yinka Sanni, led a team of wealth and investment managers, and technology experts to engage with the community at event on diverse topics centred on wealth creation and securing a promising future for the Nigerian youth.

The speakers dwelt on assisting the millennials to develop strong sense of financial literacy, especially investment culture and ready to invest in those with bankable ideas.

According to Sanni, Stanbic IBTC, as a financial services provider, remained the youth-centric financial institution.

The chief executive who spoke on ‘Preparing for your wealth journey’ said the bank views itself a critical stakeholders in the social media community in Nigeria.

He explained: “There are certain issues faced by the young people. Oh, they don’t get enough support; the government is not assisting enough. But the truth is if they have big dreams they can overcome the challenges”.
According to him, “Stanbic IBTC views itself as part of the community. The bank also recognises that Nigeria has youthful population, who are below the age of 35-years.

“They face some constraints and we have taken it upon ourselves to empower and sensitise that segment of our population through the SMW. While these vibrant and enthusiastic young people are embracing the social media with new thinking and innovative technology, there is need to encourage those who have bankable ideas – ideas that will help change our communities and country and impact the world,” he added.

He said Stanbic IBTC was keen in impacting young enterprise owners and believes that young entrepreneurs should develop attitude for financial literacy and management.

On his part, the Portfolio Manager, Micro Finance Banks/Non-Banking Financial Institutions/Technology, Personal and Business Banking, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr. David Adebayo, urged participants to develop savings culture.
“You need to have money before you can invest it. From the business you are doing, pay yourself and save some. You must cultivate the culture of saving”, he said.

He advised youths on the need to be conscious of the silent thief called inflation, which he said would always affect individual savings.

“There is inflation every year because what you bought last year is likely to appreciate this year. So, try to invest in a ‘vehicle’ or ‘instrument’ that is bigger than inflation, and Stanbic IBTC is here as your partner in these areas,” Adebayo said.

He also emphasised the need for young people to embrace mutual funds as collective investment that can serve as safety net for the rainy day.

Era of disruptive technology

Most of the banks and other corporate organisations that were present at this year’s SMW, spoke on the need for Nigerian youths to be more innovative in this era of disruptive technology that is changing the face of financial transactions across banks. Head, Business Development at Stanbic IBTC Asset Management Limited, Mr. Gbemisola Shobowale, advised tech start-ups and young enterprises to learn to try new ideas, adding that while thinking global is good, it has been proven that solving needs in one’s immediate environment helps to nurture and sustain businesses.

“Technology is creating and recreating something. You don’t need copy-paste kind of business. Find out the immediate needs in your environment and solve them,” he said.

Most speakers also advised Nigerian young enterprises to always think of doing innovative things that are new. Think bigger. Looking at Nigeria’s budget for 2019, which stood at N9.1 trillion whereas Google report released in 2018 shows it spent $25 billion, which is almost same as Nigeria budget as a country, the speakers called on youths to always look inwards to see opportunities in Nigeria, and make efforts to address them, using innovative technology.

Google, they said, was a start-up few years ago, but has grown to become a global giant today, because Google is solving problems.
They also, emphasised the need for startups to embrace improved customer service, and to always listen to customers’ needs, while taking care of the product design and development that meet their needs.

Another key discussion that took the centre stage was how robotics, driven by artificial intelligence (AI), is changing the financial sector.

The United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc’s head of online banking, Augustine Abolusoro, in a presentation disclosed that the bank’s chatbox, Leo, is a multi-lingual chatbot with capability to speak languages like English, French, and Portuguese. The company plans to include Yoruba and other Nigerian languages very soon, he said.
“Leo was developed with best in class AI technology: Natural language processing and machine learning,” Abolusoro said, adding that “It enables financial inclusion.”

He added: “As we continue to advance our work on AI-driven developments, it is important that we listen to our users today and further enhance Leo to align to client feedback in order to better meet and anticipate needs and even give them increased value as Leo clocks one.”

This milestone, according to him, reflects the bank’s continued focus on providing industry-leading digital capabilities as part of its high-tech, high-touch client experience.
“Everything learnt over the last one year of Leo’s work will help UBA improve on its digital offerings,” Abolusoro said.

Abolusoro noted that as a result of its features, Leo which is also available on Facebook-owned WhatsApp has gained one million subscribers. Till date it has hosted 70 million conversations.

The AI-driven virtual assistant, which also has Facebook and WhatsApp banking capabilities, was first unveiled in January and today, one year later remains the preferred chat banker in Nigeria and across Africa where UBA is present, because it has clinically leap frogged others in every sense of it.

Abolusoro, said Leo was developed in partnership with some global giants, like Facebook.
“The formulation of this product is consistent with the bank’s customer first philosophy, where we are doing things not the way we like, but focusing on what the customer wants, where they want it and in the exact platform they want it,” Kennedy Uzoka, UBA’s managing director said.

Head, Business Process Improvement Unit at Stanbic IBTC, Mr. Wale Ojo, who spoke on how the bank is using robotics to drive banking operations, said: “We have SAMI and Robo Advisory as our Chatbot. SAMI is a virtual banker that helps with banking products and service. Robo, on the other hand, helps to identify the offerings you need to put your money in. Therefore, when you view our mobile #APPyness, you will be able to view all our business offerings.
“We have invested a lot in building solutions to help us satisfy our customers. We do this by building systems that give personalised experiences to our customers. the future is bright and as an organisation w reassure our customers that we will not lag behind. All our solutions are built to make life seamless for our customers, so watch this space as we have better solutions we are building at the bank end.”

He said with the help of AI solutions, the bank was able to reduce man-hour spent on banking activities, especially with regards to returned cheques and other issues associated with cheques confirmation.

The deployment of new technologies, Ojo said, greatly assisted the bank to deliver on its obligations like credit cards management; fees analysis and anti-money laundry compliance.