The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is the fourth major industrial era since the initial Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres, collectively referred to as cyber-physical systems. Nigeria must narrow the gap between the technological potential and the policy agenda required to realize it. Nigeria must focus on exploring innovative approaches that are being tried and tested to harness the benefits of technological advancement in the world.
In the context of the rapidly spreading Fourth Industrial Revolution, the engagement of key stakeholders has never been more important than today. Reaping the benefits of new technologies while maintaining trust requires the collaborative efforts of government, businesses and other actors in society. Recent technological advances have the potential to fundamentally redefine Nigerian economy. Nigeria should address necessary policy challenges in three key areas: E-commerce, data flows and new technologies.
Nigeria’s digital divide refers to the inequality of Nigerian individuals, groups, or organizations with regards to access to Information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure or to the internet for municipal use within the Nigerian community. Education, lack of electrical infrastructure, income, and urban drift and a variety of other social and political factors contribute to Nigeria’s growing digital divide. The digital divide has led to skill gap and massive unemployment in Nigeria.
The development of digital skills for employability and access to a digital society is at the core of cohesion and social policy. Developing digital skills for Nigerian young generations to respond to the challenge posed by the digitisation of the labour market, education and training need to become a joint responsibility of employers, employees, educators and policymakers at local and national level
We have a great challenge of boosting Nigeria’s digital development. We must face the fourth technological revolution by boosting our country’s digital development. We need a more modern state that enhances the use of new technologies to facilitate people’s lives and promote knowledge, development, welfare and trade. For this we must implement the future agenda that promotes a digital transformation from the state, with modern regulations, infrastructure and digital education.
Nigeria missed out of the First Industrial Revolution which is widely taken to be the shift from our reliance on animals, human effort and biomass as primary sources of energy to the use of fossil fuels and the mechanical power. Nigeria missed out of the Second Industrial Revolution which occurred between the end of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century, and brought major breakthroughs in the form of electricity distribution, both wireless and wired communication, the synthesis of ammonia and new forms of power generation. Nigeria missed out of the Third Industrial Revolution which begun in the 1950s with the development of digital systems, communication and rapid advances in computing power, which have enabled new ways of generating, processing and sharing information.
Nigeria is about to miss out of the Fourth Industrial Revolution which can be described as the advent of “cyber-physical systems” involving entirely new capabilities for people and machines because those who are agitating for restructuring are focusing on the components of first industrial revolution in the 21st Century. While these capabilities are reliant on the technologies and infrastructure of the Third Industrial Revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolution represents entirely new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even our human bodies. Examples include genome editing, new forms of machine intelligence, breakthrough materials and approaches to governance that rely on cryptographic methods such as the block chain. The agitators of restructuring in Nigeria have lost focus of 4th industrial revolution because they are focusing on the 36 states and 774 local governments and their natural resources without paying attention to the fourth industrial revolution. The agitators are making statements base on regional resource control in line with first industrial revolution in the 21st century.
Nigeria needs innovations in rapidly changing times where the definition of schools and learning has shifted radically; where brick and mortar schools are being challenged by borderless learning, and educational curricula must change rapidly in response to the current dynamics. The Internet has become the world’s number one classroom, without walls and boundaries; an internet enabled device is a school of incomparable value. Today, we live amongst people who carry degrees and certificates from schools and institutions in geographies they are yet to step on.
Nigeria needs innovations because the top 10 in-demand jobs of 2010 did not exist at all in 2004; that the United States was currently preparing students for jobs that yet don’t exist, using technologies that haven’t yet been invented in order to solve problems they don’t know yet are problems. Nigeria needs innovations because the information age we live in today requires us to prepare our children more effectively to compete against others from all corners of the planet. We owe them that duty.
Nigeria needs innovations because global boundaries are shrinking and the world is now a truly global village. In business, we no longer compete against our neighbours and countrymen but against unknown entities in some remote parts of the globe. The hunt for skills and talents traverses national boundaries. Our children will have to compete against other children from China, India, Ghana, the United States, South Africa and a whole lot of others for jobs and opportunities.
Nigeria needs innovations because we need to revamp our schools to create a new learning culture, increase our investments in education, review our curriculum and equip our children with real world problem-solving capacities.
Nigeria needs innovations to properly articulate and agree what kind of communities and society we need to live in the next five, 10, 20 and 50 years. What human, financial and material resources do we require to build our vision? Where do we want to see our people?
Nigeria needs innovations that will review our educational curriculum to favour skills and competencies as demanded by the modern world. Nigeria needs innovations that will raise leaders in technology, innovation, energy, power, agriculture, genetic engineering, banking and finance, environmental management, climatology, machine intelligence, medicine, sports, entertainment and the arts amongst other areas.
Oil has saved us but it is on its way out. The next wave of growth will be fuelled by 4th industrial revolution with higher mental capacity of our people; what they can see; what they can create and what they can give to the world. That is why we must invest aggressively in 21st century education. A computer is not a toy; every child in school today should have access to one. The Internet is not just for Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat; it is the platform for exponential knowledge and information that will help our young people to develop real world problem-solving skills.
We must teach our children to code and write programmes from a very early age so that they can develop technology solutions for the challenges that are specific to our environment and beyond. This means emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, First, if technology is the core resource of the information age, programming and coding literacy becomes the currency of trade in that world.
Donald writes from Benin City via [email protected]
Nigeria needs innovations to capture new opportunities out there and Nigeria needs innovations for our young ones to conquer new territories: Nigeria needs innovations to acquire creative, versatile knowledge and transformational leadership. Innovation is a key element in economic competitiveness and progress in the 4th industrial revolution.
Inwalomhe Donald writes from Benin City [email protected]