There is need for collaboration with government to protect intellectual property says, Adeniji-Adele
Technology is where the world is going and Nigeria should not be left behind. But the rising cases of piracy and breach of intellectual property are undermining Nigeria’s plan to bridge the technological gaps in the country. Hakeem Adeniji-Adele, Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft speaks to DANIEL ANAZIA on what the company is doing to empower Nigerians and deepen the use of technology to achieve developmental goals.
What is your impression of Nigeria’s utilization of technology to drive development?
I disagree with you that Nigeria is not technologically advanced. Do we evangelise enough? No we do not. Do we have the capability? Yes we do. Do we have enough youths that can actually do what others do around the world? Yes. Do they have enough support? No we don’t. As a Chief Technology Officer for Microsoft Nigeria, I basically evangelise for technology in Nigeria. We basically come into Nigeria and try to localise technology to the taste of Nigerians. I have passion for technology, and ensure we enable Nigerians with technology. We need to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots. I do not think it is financial; it is more of technology.
As a super brand, what is Microsoft doing to address digital gap in Nigeria?
The truth is that education will help to bridge the technological gap in Nigeria. We believe that for any technology company to make products for the next generation to use, it needs to start incubating them early. As one of the biggest and popular tech-brands in the world, we are innovative. Microsoft is not just a technology company; we are a lifestyle, because we tend to touch every facet of human interaction. In Microsoft, we have several education products, from young people all the way to the university level. I believe that education plays a key role in enlightening the people. We need more collaborative efforts between government and businesses. Those are some of the ways we can bridge those gaps.
The digital gap in Nigeria can be reduced with only one single policy, and that policy is data sovereignty — meaning no data should be domiciled out of Nigeria.
I agree Rome was not built in a day. And for you to make policies that will bring about technological advancement, you have to look at your environment. Most countries want to reduce that gap by ensuring that most of the things we do are done in a platform that does not need you to put in much capital expenditure. Using technology empowers more people to get more jobs. In Nigeria, we have issues with power, and keeping the infrastructure running.
What are the challenges with knowledge transfer in Nigeria?
We are democratizing technology. In the new world, technology should not be something you legitimize to use. It needs to be something that ensures that the lower denominator can also access technology. We have partnered some telecommunications companies, and we are also educating the grassroots on technology usage. If you are saying that you cannot use computers because you are disabled, that is not correct. In Microsoft, you can speak to the computer. I believe there are no more barriers. You do not need to have fingers to use a computer; you can speak to it. We help you to do anything normal persons can do. In Microsoft, we call it accessibility. If you go to our Campus in Ciato, you will be surprised how many people are using simple tools to work. They are coding, they are speaking to technology.
For us in Nigeria, when you talk of knowledge transfer, I think it is about empowerment. It is about making sure that when we are developing technology, we take consideration of our ecosystem. I am not among those that think of bringing technology into Nigeria and forcing the people to use it. Now, the codes that doctors use in Nigeria is the same they use in other countries. If you bring in a coding system from another country, you will not be able to use it unless you bring an expert to handle that. In Nigeria, it is about ensuring that we reduce the cost of ownership so that people can easily train those using that product.
How do you handle piracy in the industry?
There is need for us to work together with government to protect intellectual property. Let’s ensure that when you have built anything, we protect your intellectual property right. If everyone decides to make use of Microsoft for free, it will stifle growth. That is a big problem for us in Nigeria. Most people do not believe in intellectual property right. They believe that once you have created anything, everybody can just use it for free. Now, we have Windows 95, we also have Vista. If everybody around the world downloaded Vista and did not pay for it, you will not have windows 10 today. It is the money you pay that helps people to develop better products. If you go those shops in Nigeria, they will download the Microsoft operating system, for you for free. But what that thing should do is that when you have things like viruses, you are not protected.
In Microsoft, we spend over $1 billion yearly on security to ensure you will not be attacked. When you download, you are exempted from being protected. It is not only a Nigerian problem. When the Wanacry virus came, more than 80 per cent of people in the United Kingdom were affected; people died. My point is that people with original Microsoft will be able to do more than those that use fake ones. If you buy things online, and you are using fake Microsoft, you are not protected.
Through the $1 billion we spend every year, before they attack, we already know who the attackers are and where they are coming from. By the time the threats come in, it will quarantine it. For those that do not buy it in the proper way, they are not protected. If you have bought the right Microsoft, you do not need to buy anti-virus for your computers. You are stifling innovation. Do you believe that almost 80 per cent of software used in Nigeria is pirated?
In what way can Microsoft help to resolve these problems?
We are already doing that in Microsoft. Part of the presidential order is for you to be able to access government services without paying bribe. The only way to do that now is to use technology. Now, government alone cannot do it. We have been partnering with Innovation Hubs where we train the youths.
How do you see Nigeria in the next few years?
We cannot really escape technological advancement in Nigeria. There has been a paradigm shift on the way many accounts are run. In Microsoft, there are three ways we are going to grow in this world — Artificial intelligence, mixed reality and hyper-computing. In mixed reality, gone are those days when you take pen and paper and begin to draw a house. What we do nowadays is to ensure we model it through and bring you into that reality. Countries like Ghana, Togo, Liberia, among others, are using technology to plan elections. If you are using technology, your fingerprint is unique to you if you are using biometric.
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