eWorld Forum: FG Needs To Fan Nigeria’s Digitization – Stakeholders

*Aaron Ukodie

The effect of the dearth of infrastructure is costing Nigeria speedy alignment with the rest of the world in the race towards digitization. This is the collective view of stakeholders that gathered for the 9th annual eWorld Forum with its theme as “Nigeria’s Readiness for Digital Transformation”.

Speaking at the forum, Managing Director of Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN), Muhammed Rudman who was also the Chairman of the event explained that while digitization is the process of making information available and accessible in a digital format, digitalization is the process of considering how best to apply digitized information to simplify specific operations; while Digital Transformation is the process of devising new business applications that integrate all the digitized data and digitalized applications so as to provide new revenue and value producing opportunities.

Mr. Rudman further noted that new technologies are shaping the way consumers interact with their ecosystems and is inadvertently changing consumers’ expectations of organizations, including that of the government, as we move towards a more digital world. “Government needs to look beyond the digitization of existing processes and services. They need to harness the power of digital technologies and data to transform their existing business models in order to meet the increasing appetite and expectations of the rising digital consumer, by adopting new technologies in the way business is conducted.”

He observed that digital transformation is a global trend that many countries have adopted to drive their economies. The benefits of embracing digital transformation by private organizations and government institutions are numerous. “There have been reports of improved efficiency, transparency, accountability and increased revenues by government and organizations actively playing in this field. Digital technology is evolving and shaping the way businesses are done and decisions made.”

Speaking on Nigeria’s readiness, Mr. Rudman said Nigeria had already started the journey. According to him, Nigeria began the journey of digital transformation with the liberalization of the telecom sector which ushered in the first Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) operators and the award of the first Digital Mobile License (DML) in 2001.

He, however, noted that the country has, despite numerous challenges, recorded huge success toward digital transformation. He cited examples of the unprecedented transformation in the banking industry brought about by digitalization, and financial transactions involving the use and movement of physical cash are gradually declining. Also, the use of POS and other several simple avenues of the transaction which have made life very easy for the consumers, the bank and government is another proof of the country’s walk towards digitalization.

“There are many relative success stories in other key areas as well, such as education, commerce, health, housing, employment, security, transportation, fighting corruption etcetera, which is too numerous to elaborate here. We have achieved much in less than two decades, but the journey to digital transformation is perpetual, we can’t afford to slow down, especially with our ever-expanding population. We have to find innovative ways to educate our young population and equip them with the right skills to handle the ever-evolving job market.”

Mr. Rudman posited that advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, automation, self-driving cars, and artificial intelligence, are projected to affect about 50 percent of the world economy; these are some of the outcomes of the application of digital technologies.

He said Nigeria should dismantle obstacles militating against entrepreneurship and innovation, such as high taxes, lack of power supply, inconsistent policies by government, high-interest rates, prohibitive prices for internet access among others, in order to join the global trend in advanced technologies.

Mr. Rudman further noted that Nigeria needs to do more to accelerate the growth of digital technologies. “We, therefore, need to improve connectivity and rapidly promote new forms of online learning, so that people do not necessarily need to travel to an industrialized country to get a degree and equally make it possible for our graduates to work in the global labor market from here. The educational content can also be in local languages so we can empower those without formal education to participate in nation building.”

Also, in his contribution, Chairman, Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association, Emma Okonji observed that the country needs to improve on its human capital development by growing its SME subsector and addressing their funding needs. He further noted the need for infrastructure development which will include addressing the Last Mile debacle in broadband deployment. “There is a need to develop these to catch up with the global trend.”

In his speech, Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami enumerated the Agency’s Roadmap for digital transformation to include IT Regulation, Capacity Building, Digital Job Creation, Local Content Development and Promotion, Government Digital Services, Cyber Security and Digital Inclusion.

He further disclosed that as part of the Agency’s activities in digitalization, it has strengthened its role in the clearance of all government-funded ICT projects.  The clearance process, he said, is to harmonize the implementation of IT projects within MDAs and provide value-for-money for all projects funded by the government. It will further help to avoid undue duplication, reduce the cost of implementing IT projects in Nigeria and ensure that the IT projects are sustainable.

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