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Charting a digital future for Nigerian youth


Digital-futureWhen leading scientist, Vinton Cerf ,and his Stanford University colleagues coined the word “Internet” in 1974, they could not have imagined they were coming up with a name that would describe the most revolutionary tool in the history of the world. (In the words of leading technology forecaster ,Paul Saffo, each time a ‘singing’ greeting card is sent out, we are using more computing power than existed in the entire world before 1950! This statement speaks to the grandness of the technology behind the web; an invention so great, it alters lifestyles, cultures and the economies of nations.

The Internet is an equal opportunities platform that opens up new opportunities and provides access to the global stage. As recently as 20 years ago, when we relied on the traditional postal delivery systems, sending a letter within Nigeria alone would usually take a minimum of four days. The same letter now would arrive instantly or within seconds via email. And as more uses and technologies are discovered, more people get convinced, and the “web crowd” grows.

Today, there are over three billion people online, 69 million of whom are connected in Nigeria. A recent article in Forbes estimated that the number of people on the Internet in Africa will grow up to six-fold by 2020, and mobile will play a big role in this. This is great news for us because more Africans online means more opportunities for Nigerians online.

Nigeria as a nation is at a crossroad; we are faced with an urgent need to diversify our economy, while at the same time strengthen existing sectors sustainably. All in the knowledge that our decisions and actions not only define our success today, they also chart a path for the future of the present and coming generations of Nigerians. According to a 2015 research analysing how consumers engage with the web, 74 per cent of people in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa prefer to use digital tools to perform tasks, and 69 per cent said that the Internet is the first place they go to for information. This reflects the growing impact of the web on how we live in Nigeria. Our social, political and economic lives are all increasingly influenced by the Internet.

Over the last two quarters, Google Trends revealed a growing interest in topics related to the economy, the need for diversification and ease of doing business in Nigeria. One of the trending search in July for instance was for the word “Recession”, and the state that led the pack in the search for that word was Rivers. This tells one story; Nigerians are now turning to the Web to get answers to questions that have a direct impact on their day to day lives. And as more of these people turn to the web, they learn, form relationships, build connections and open Nigeria to the world and the world to Nigeria.

A McKinsey report estimates that from 2013 to 2020, the Internet will contribute as much as $300 billion in GDP and a similar amount in productivity gains. It also states that E-commerce will grow from virtually nothing today to more than $75 billion. As more young Nigerians embrace digital opportunities, they look to tech organisations like Google and the government to help them grow.

This is because the activities of these two institutions have big impacts on the framework and operating structures guiding the use of the Web. For example, companies like Google need to develop intuitive products that can address real life challenges, while government needs to ensure that policies that make it easy to create and access web tools continue to exist. Technology – and the internet especially – must be for everyone and not a few.

Let me share the story of Olatoye Olabode, co-founder of Webcoupers, a digital marketing agency based in Lagos, Nigeria, and which began business two years ago after winning the Google Online Marketing Challenge; a programme created for students to experience online marketing while in school.‘Bode and his partners were students at the University of Ibadan when they entered the competition.

That was when they learnt the fundamentals of running online campaigns and got inspired to set up Webcoupers. Today Webcoupers provides digital marketing solutions (like social media management, online advertising and creative content management) to a wide array of clients across different business areas; marketing, software development and sales. They have handled the digital marketing campaigns of companies like Glo, Qatar Airways, OLX and Sterling Bank.

‘Bode’s story is not unique: he represents the thousands of young Nigerians already learning about web tools and are creating jobs and building the new future we desire.

When we announced our commitment to train one million people in Africa in April, we knew it was an ambitious promise, but one that needed to be done. So far, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians have already been trained, and are already trying their hands on new ideas.Banjo is the Head of Digital Education, Google SSA

Last week Vice President Yemi Osinbajo officially launched a Nigerian government-led initiative focused on helping to train more young Nigerians on how to use online tools. This is a very important step. Because in our experience when you put the right tools in the hands of young people, they create greatness.

We are excited because we see this as an initiative that can birth a million Olabodes – young people (and older ones too) who will start businesses, make new discoveries, create jobs and contribute to the local iGDP across sectors.Banjo is the Head of Digital Education, Google SSA

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