Nigeria’s future brighter with ICT
Although Nigeria serves as a key business hub which thrives in and attracts foreign trade to the African continent, it falls in the category of developing nations still lagging behind in its ICT development on a global scale. As at 2017, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Nigeria ranks 143 on the 2017 global ranking for ICT Development Index (IDI).
As a result, more forums and conferences are rising to advocate the importance of ICT development to the Nigerian economy, its youths and entrepreneurship. Huawei Technologies Nigeria, in its contribution to this movement, recently brought together thought leaders and top ICT editors across reputable media in Nigeria, to discuss this notion moving forward. The theme of the conference, held at the Lagos office, Oriental, VI, was For a Better Connected Nigeria: Impact of ICT on Socioeconomic Transformation.
As Nigeria expands its diversification plan from oil and gas to focus on other key sectors, Mr. Frank Li, Managing Director Huawei Technologies Co. Nigeria, briefly discussed the impact and potentials of the ICT sector on the growth of the economy. He stated that with ICT people can get better development opportunities.
According to World Bank, every 10% increase in broadband penetration will lead to a 2% to 3% increase of employment rate. As such, the E-commerce sector alone can employ over 40 million Nigerians and contribute billions of dollars to the Nigerian economy. Given that nearly 70% of the Nigerian population depends on agriculture as means of livelihood, Mr. Li suggested that IoT technologies can make agriculture Smart enough to maximize yield and minimize wastage through real-time field data collection and analysis. He noted that in Spain, a telecom operator provided an automated irrigation system, which led to 25% increase in farm profits and 30% reduction in electricity bills. He added that in 2015, after deploying IoT-based intelligent meter connected to the main control center, Ikeja Electric improved its fee collection rate by 40 percent and reduced the occurrence of electricity theft by 90 percent.
Silvia Lambaise, Country Editor (Nigeria), The Business Year (an internationally renowned economic journal) noted, based on research, that it is estimated that ICT has contributed to one quarter of GDP in most developing countries during the first decade of the 21st century. For example, since 2000, ICT alone has been responsible for 25% of Kenya’s economic growth, and 20% of China’s. In the second half of the last decade, ICT accounted for 34% of Japan’s economic growth. Silvia also presented South Korea and Rwanda as two main case studies of economies greatly influenced and resuscitated through the contributions of ICT development.
Exploring the key role of ICT in Nigeria, ICT is at the forefront in the bid to fight corruption, improve cyber security, explore economic diversification and enhance government productivity in Nigeria by contributing to monitoring and tracking information in real time, allowing better decision-making. On economic diversification through revolutionising agriculture using ICT, Silvia referred to Ignitia, a Swedish tech company which “…found that there are approximately 100 million farmers in Nigeria which corresponds to more than 60% of the population and through the use of the Ignitia app, farmers have been able to generate, on average, between 80 and 90% increase in revenue thanks to better decision making regarding the timing for seed purchase, crop planning, fertilising, harvesting…” However, as noted by Silvia, there is need for increased mobile and internet penetration in Nigeria; especially in rural areas given that about 75% of Nigerians currently live in those areas.
Nigeria boasts an extremely entrepreneurial, tech-savvy and young population. The continuous support of Nigeria’s bright entrepreneurs must continue especially as Lagos represents the most valuable ecosystem; thanks to the success in establishing “Yabacon Valley”. According to data presented by Partech Ventures, “Nigeria attracts more start-up funding than anywhere else in Africa”. However, ICT-driven businesses require ICT developments to survive. Silvia recommended that the Nigerian government needs to provide a more enabling environment through liberalisation of key ICT sub-sectors such as broadband, managed services, software, IoT and even blockchain, to create more competition and attract FDI. This must be driven by consistent, deliberate and long-term policies and most importantly, through investment in education. Although an ICT university is a step forward, Silvia believes the establishment of strong STEM programmes from a much younger age is a better starting point.
Mr. Olushola Macaulay, National Professional Officer, UNESCO Abuja Regional Office Communication and Information Sector, represented by Anthony Ogunniyi,
expressed that ICT impacts the Nigerian society from two major standpoints: education and economy. According to him, ICT on education ensures lifelong learning through e-learning and builds the right skill to explore economic opportunities. On economy, ICT has impacted healthcare, agriculture, services, tourism. ICT has created opportunities for diverse forms of investment through digital market, improved productivity and quality and the revolution of the Nigerian banking and financial sector.
The former NITEL chairman and Director-General of NTA, Engr. Vincent Maduka analyzed The Convergence of ICT and Media towards Achieving a Digitalized Nigeria. He took the audience on a retrospective pathway on the early strategic plans by the Federal ministry of communications for Nigeria and measured the developments and setbacks Nigeria had experienced in the build up to achieving a digital society. He expressed the role of the media in setting the agenda and influencing the drive for an improved ICT-based nation and emphatically pointed out that there is more work to be done to enable Nigeria rank among leading countries in the ICT space given the enormous prospects the country possesses.
Exploring the future of a digital economy in Nigeria, ICT is, without doubt, a key catalyst which can be strategically deployed to drive productivity and efficiency in all sectors of the economy. Currently, almost all sectors of the Nigerian economy leverages on ICT to increase efficiency, productivity and performance which enables the sector contribute over 10% of the nation’s GDP. However, the compelling concern is how do we progressively utilize ICT to foster growth in its contribution to Nigeria’s economic and social development? In other words, how can we fully leverage the enabling power of ICT and make Nigeria the main ICT hub in Africa?
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