‘Digital Technology, Innovation Key Drivers to Economic Growth’

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Emma Okonji

Participants at the Nigeria Innovation Summit 2019 has identified digital technology adoption, innovation and collaboration as key drivers that would boost economic growth in the country.

The two-day summit, with the theme: ‘Accelerating Nigeria’s Economic Growth Through Innovation’, stressed the need for the adoption of digital technology that is driven by innovation through well-defined collaboration that will breed trust among businesses.
The Chief Executive Officer, Emerging Media, organisers of the summit, Mr. Kenneth Omeruo, identified the importance of innovation among corporate and small businesses, adding that innovation does not happen in isolation, but needs a healthy ecosystem that is driven by great need for collaboration.

“Such an ecosystem is usually facilitated by the government in collaboration with the private sector, innovators and the academics, each playing their key role to build the ecosystem. It is therefore time to explore opportunities around emerging technologies and trends, research and development, entrepreneurship and investments, as key drivers to economic growth,” Omeruo said.

In one of the panel sessions, the Innovation Management Strategist at Neoma Business School, Paris, France, Prof. Vanhaverbeke Wim, who spoke on how small businesses could innovate and position themselves to remain globally competitive, said Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) must engage with other businesses of like minds to create the necessary awareness around their businesses.

The Vice Chancellor, Landmark University, Kwara State, Prof. Adeniyi Olayanju, who also featured at the panel session, said innovation remained key across all sectors of the economy, but highlighted the need for innovation in the agricultural sector in order to grow enough food for local consumption and export.

According to him, Nigerians must come up with innovative solutions that would enhance agricultural productivity.
Other panelists like the Acting Director, Centre for Information Technology Studies (CITS), University of Lagos, Dr. Victor Odumuyiwa, and the Head of Startups at the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), Tosin Faniro-Dada, also identified collaboration and awareness to innovation as key drivers. While Faniro-Dada stressed the need for SMEs to understand public procurement, Odumuyiwa said SMEs must learn how to innovate, collaborate and trust themselves.

The Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, who was a guest speaker at the summit, but represented by the Director, Research and Development at NCC, Dr. Ephraim Nwokenneya, said: “Given their collective prioritisation of digital technology, every company or organisation will eventually converge on the same turning point—one where digital-era technology, which began as a differentiating advantage, is something expected from every business.”

Danbatta spoke about the innovative ways by which new and emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), augmented reality, robotics, Cloud computing, Big data, Over-the-Top (OTT), Block-chain technology, advanced security systems, among others are deployed by companies looking for the next competitive edge to drive innovative products and services for the consumers.

According to him, such innovative ways becomes important since companies already face a new level of expectations from consumers, employees and business partners.

Citing the Accenture Technology Vision 2019 survey of more than 6,600 business and information technology (IT) executives, Danbatta said 94 per cent of respondents agreed that the pace of technology innovation in their organisations had either accelerated or significantly accelerated over the past three years.

“What this means is that today, digital technology is a strategic priority for every business. The survey identifies five technology trends that will shape business over the next three year and innovation stands out as a key pillar that will drive economic growth and development in any country,” Danbatta said.

Highlighting what the NCC has been doing as the regulatory agency driving digital transformation with regards to investment drive in telecommunications/broadband infrastructure, Danbatta said in line with its commitment to promoting innovation to drive digital transformation, the NCC disbursed millions of naira, in grants, to sponsor innovation-oriented research projects in tertiary institutions and other research institutes.

The NCC, he added, in May this year, announced N40 million endowment fund for Bayero University, Kano and the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, for innovation, research and development in the digital space with an ongoing commitment to expand the list of benefiting institutions.