By Nume Ekeghe
The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami has said that in the last 11 months since he assumed the position, broadband penetration in the country has grown by 10 per cent, from an average growth of two per cent annually since year 2000.
According to the minister, the federal government remains committed to digitalising the Nigerian economy, saying the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the need for the government to aggressively achieve a digital economy.
Pantami, made this remark at the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria’s (CIBN), 2020 Graduates’ Induction/Prize Awards day, which held virtually over the weekend. The CIBN inducted 1,311 new members and awarded the best performing students in its different professional certification categories.
Speaking on the feat recorded by his ministry, Pantami said: “In less than a year, when I came on board, the broadband penetration was a little higher than 30 per cent, from year 2000 to 2019. But, by the end of July this year, broadband penetration was over 42 per cent. We achieved almost 10 percent increase in less than a year.
“With all sense of humility and modesty, before we came on board, the penetration annually was averagely less than two per cent. But this year alone, the penetration is 10 per cent which is highly unprecedented.”
He further said the growth of the digital economy was reliant on continuous innovation and entrepreneurship.
“COVID-19 is clearly showing us why it is important to fast-track the digitalisation or rather the digital transformation of Nigeria. To drive digital economy, there are two components that are key. One is digital innovation and digital entrepreneurship.”
In her presentation, A Professor of Information Systems/Academic Director, Lagos Business, Prof. Olayinka David-West, noted that the digital economy was birthed alongside the information age and represents the levels of economic activity from digital connections between people, businesses and extending to devices, data and processes.
According to her, such connections or interactions depend on the interconnectedness of people, organisations and machines facilitated by the internet, mobile technology and the internet of things (IoT).
“We have seen jobs transition from place to space, where work is not just a place we go to but an activity we carry out. Given that not all work is digitally enabled, the value of some roles in the organisation will be re-validated. An example of this is in the civil service, where workers below a certain grade have been away from work and unable to work for months.
“Digitally enabled work means that work activities or business processes are executed digitally (without paper) end-to-end (inter-departmental and inter-organisation).
Related to this is that organisations are distributed and aggregating quality digital infrastructure at one location is inefficient because now, our homes are our workplaces and our organisations have to accommodate this shift.
“This also raises the issue of the digital tools we buy. Because our models have been place-based, desktops have dominated the workplace; but how portable are those desktops? Again this raises the dilemma of information security and data theft when organisational information is dispersed across machines. The digital infrastructure and tools deployed in our homes require hard infrastructure like electric power and housing conducive to home-based work,” David-West said.
She noted that the digital transformation in the banking industry was an interesting journey that started in the 1990s when the new generation banks introduced online real-time banking enabled by core banking applications and communications networks.
This evolution, according to her, has evolved beyond branch banking and spans digital financial instruments and delivery channels.
“While our financial services ecosystem has recorded significant progress in areas like the bank verification number (BVN) and instant payments, the surge on bank branches after the first phase of the lockdown presented some interesting challenges to the financial services ecosystem and the digital transformation of financial services. There’s still work to be done,” she added.
On his part, the President/Chairman of Council CIBN, Mr. Bayo Olugbemi, in his opening remarks said: “COVID-19 has accelerated the face of digital revolution and it has become imperative for our country to rethink our approach to the digital economy which has become the new normal.”
“In recent times, technology has cause significant disruption in the financial services sector and the implication of this revolution for professional bankers is that our people would need to acquire new skills.”
“I believe that highly qualified, knowledgeable skilled, dedicated customer focused banking professionals will shape the future of baking as much as the technologies that are transforming the financial services industry. The institute remains committed to building capacity for the industry. We would continue to foster and uphold ethics and professionalism of the banking industry.”
The recipients of awards were Sulaiman Adewale Muyideen and Kassama Fatou for the best students in Business Law; Best Students in Information were Didigu Chizoba Emmanuella and also Emmanuel Oladele; and the prize of the best student in international trade and finance went to Obiejesi Chinedu Henry.
Some others were the best Student in Strategic Management and Leadership which went to Azoribe Uche Theophilus and Kelvin-Nuekpe Omowunmi Oluwakemi, while Bebenimibo Doubra Nerissa won the best student in corporate financial management.