Chinenye Anuforo, [email protected]
The need for Nigeria to harness the potential of emerging disruptive technologies has become imperative, especially if government is serious about its plan of a digital economy.
Digital revolution has transformed economies and societies. First came the development of a connected economy, characterized by mass take-up of the Internet and the roll-out of broadband networks. This was followed by the development of a digital economy via the increasing use of digital platforms as business models for the supply of goods and services.
Now the movement is towards a digitalized economy whose production and consumption models are based on the incorporation of digital technologies in all economic, social and environmental dimensions.
Emerging disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), 5G and robotics have increased the pace of change in the economy and society. They bring significant benefits -facilitating more productivity, efficiency and convenience. All sectors, trade, manufacturing, SMEs, health, agriculture, finance, education and government benefit. Industries are already being transformed, societies and structures are set to be transformed at incredibly fast rates.
According to an ICT expert, Jide Awe, emerging technologies are critical to accelerating digital economy growth. He said that economic activity is produced by digital engagement and connections among people, organizations (private and public sectors), devices, data, and processes.
Awe said, “The change of conventional structures creates new services, practices, products and processes, while also changing economic behaviour, interactions and notions and creating new value streams.”
He pointed out the rollout of 5G is expected to meet the massive demand for mobile broadband and increasing mobile video needs that the digital economy requires; as well as the needs of smart initiatives.
“Blockchain will play more of a role as digital currencies emerge and as various actors attempt to exploit their supply chain and security possibilities,” he said, adding, “Big Data fosters data-driven, customer and strategic intelligence and analytics as well as revelation of patterns and insights for organizations in business, government and education.
“IoT enables the increasing adoption of smart devices and internet-enabled devices and growth in automation and the rise of innovative and smart initiatives, products, services and processes. AI improves productivity and advances in image and voice recognition technologies open new economic growth possibilities. AI supports digital economy growth by meeting the growing demand for intelligent services, virtual assistants and automation of services and industries.”
Continuing, Awe noted that the outcomes of digital economy growth include significant improvements in poverty reduction, economic growth and productivity and quality of life. In addition, these disruptive technologies will create many job opportunities along their value chains and in transformed sectors.
The nation, the private and public sectors must invest in these technologies and other resources, to be competitive and make progress in fast changing digital era.
However, the ICT guru stated that there are concerns and risks associated with the exploitation of emerging technologies, including “job loss, AI bias, lack of digital capabilities, digital exclusion, skill shortages, cyber threats, citizens’ digital rights, absence of innovative mindset and culture, etcetera.”
He said managing the risks means maximizing the possibilities while mitigating the effect of concerns and challenges.
“We must mitigate the risks associated with rapid digital adoption. In the absence of the right and effective culture, policies and leadership, disruptive technologies can cause more harm than good. For example, existing societal gaps could be widened and inequalities will be reinforced and increased.
“Digital ICT and STI policies and strategies are, therefore, critical. Policies should cover disruptive technologies in a meaningful manner for the purpose of achieving sustainable development and should be in line with the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA-2024),” he said.
Another tech professional, Ikechukwu Nnamani, CEO of Medallion Communications, explained that a vast majority of Nigerians were not aware of the tremendous benefits of AI and IoT, and the diverse applications.
He said, “A decade ago, people had to commute for hours before reaching their workplaces and commute for long hours back to their homes. Technology has devised easier, more convenient ways to work from home, attend virtual meetings and conduct financial transactions on the go.
“With just a click, you can order food, purchase items online, buy stocks, etcetera. No need to go physically. This is because Nigeria is gradually transitioning from a traditional position to a modern viewpoint in conducting business activities, a shift to a digital economy.”
However, the pace at which this transition is taking place is slow, hindered by several impediments and “lack of digital infrastructures is a major challenge towards growth in the digital economy.”
Nnamani stated that “for digital technologies to impact the digital economy, appropriate policies must be put in place to eliminate the obstacles preventing emerging markets from fully engaging in the digital economy and optimising the benefits.
“The digital economy runs on digital infrastructure. The more digital infrastructure that is deployed, the faster the country can make the transition from the traditional economy to the digital economy. Priority should be given to the improvement of infrastructures, like power development, data centres, and solar energy explorations among others.”
A tech expert, Mr. Olatayo Ladipo Ajai, manager/country head, InfoBip Nigeria, speaking at the Titans of Tech 2021 Roundtable, with the theme “Harnessing the Potential of AI, IoT for Transformation of the Digital Economy,” stated that IoT has become one of the most important technologies of the 21st century.
He said, “Human beings can now connect everyday objects—light bulbs, kitchen appliances, cars, thermostats, televisions—to the Internet via embedded devices, and conversational AI, which enables seamless communication between gadgets, people and processes.”
He also noted that the world was moving towards digital trade, health, education, agriculture and digital security and Nigeria needs to grow in these aspects so that it is not left behind.
Mr. Lare Ayoola, CEO of IoT Africa and Tranter IT Infrastructure Services, stated that the combination of mobile computing, analytics, and cloud services, all of which are fuelled by AI and IoT, was going to transform the digital economy.
He said, “By means of low-cost computing, the cloud, big data, analytics, and mobile technologies, physical things can share and collect data with minimal human intervention. In this hyper-connected world, digital systems can record, monitor, and adjust each interaction between connected things. The physical world meets the digital world—and they cooperate.”
Ayoola outlined the impact of IoT on the various supply chains in Nigeria, and how IoT management could transform inventory, logistics, manufacturing, distribution, construction, agriculture, security companies, and more.
He cited examples of how IoT could signal agronomists and farm owners on the state of livestock, how crops are faring on a farm site or a rise or decrease in temperature of a storage grain silo.
He noted that “the applications of IoT are limitless. It saves time, eliminates waste, maximizes profits, reduces anxiety, monitors environments, enhances security, and optimizes businesses to achieve maximum profits. It will save Nigerians from agricultural losses, post-harvest losses, financial, operational and resource losses.”