Buhari: Digital Technology will Boost Economic Transformation

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Ndubuisi Francis and James Emejo in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday urged Nigerians in all professions to embrace digital technology in order to take advantage of the enormous opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, towards achieving economic growth and sustainability.

Buhari said despite claims that the advent of technology would lead to job losses as well as rendering professions, including accounting and audit services redundant, there are “uncountable opportunities for those with knowledge of the new world order triggered by digital technologies.”

Speaking while declaring the 50th annual accountants’ conference with the theme: ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Boom for the Accounting Profession and Panacea for pandemic’, open in Abuja yesterday, Buhari said though the fourth industrial revolution would inevitably affect industries across economies, it could greatly engender the country’s economic growth in the future, given its developing services sector.

Specifically, he said trade, transportation, and other market segments could benefit from disruptive technology, especially given that new rewarding jobs will be created.

However, the president’s admonition came on a day the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, said the lack of capacity building remained a major hindrance to the country’s developmental objectives.

Buhari said even though there were possible challenges of workers being displaced due to automation and widened income inequality, “Nigeria must realistically anticipate and be positioned to harness the opportunities embedded in the current industrial revolution as well as adopt policies to cushion the negative effects of these technologies in order to maximise the net gains.”

Represented by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Buhari, however, assured the participants that his administration would continue to work closely with all stakeholders to design initiatives that would engender economic growth, improve contribution to GDP, wealth and job creation.

To this end, he pointed out that the federal government had made tremendous efforts and progress in its digital transformation journey as a country, adding that a lot of resources and commitments have been invested in the digitalisation of public finance management processes.

The president also noted that the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), project lighthouse, biometric identification infrastructure such as Tax Identification Number (TIN) among others were part of reforms aimed at improving the overall fiscal conditions with respect to revenue generation and optimisation.

He said: “As we move into a new digital age which the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated by five years, Nigeria must not and cannot afford to miss the immense opportunities the fourth industrial revolution provides across industries.

Among other benefits, Buhari said the industrial revolution would render production much more flexible and enable companies to meet individual customer requirements with low or negligible additional costs.

He added that this could also connect billions of people in less developed regions to digital networks and provide them access to knowledge and services.

The president said the industrial revolution could tremendously increase resource productivity and efficiency, create value opportunities through new services and new forms of employment and offer significant opportunities for SMEs and start-ups which already play an important role in the industrial revolution.

He noted that the federal government had been fostering and nurturing enduring relationships with professional bodies, including ICAN, towards the realisation of its vision of managing the country’s finances in an open, transparent, accountable and efficient manner that delivers on the country’s development priorities.

Nonetheless, speaking during a roundtable on ‘Redefining a New Model of Accountable Leadership in Nigeria in the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, at the conference, the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Emmanuel, argued that other than unemployment, capacity building remained a greater challenge for the country.

While calling for action, Emmanuel maintained that the current educational system cannot support the country’s aspirations towards maximising the potential of the fourth industrial revolution.

However, President of ICAN, Mrs. Onome Joy Adewuyi, earlier pointed out that economies across the world are at various stages in their adoption of the technologies driving the fourth industrial revolution, adding that developing economies appeared more disadvantaged and not as well positioned to participate competitively in the global technology space.