Information Technology experts have called for a collaboration between policymakers in the government, private sector players, civil society and academic researchers to ensure that Nigeria explores the ongoing digital transformation across the globe, embraces its own digital future and augments the benefits of Artificial Intelligence.
This call was made at the Inaugural Digital Economy Workshop Series for Nigerian Policymakers organised by the Lagos Business School in partnership with foremost technology company, Microsoft.
Held at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, the workshop was attended by Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bagudu; Managing Director of Edo State ICT Agency, Lambert Ugorji, who represented the State Governor, Godwin Obaseki; Executive Secretary of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, Akintunde Oyebode; and representatives of Director General/CEO of National Information Technology Development Agency, Minister of Science and Technology, Central Bank of Nigeria and other government agencies.
Conversations at the workshop began with Academic Director, LBS and digital financial services specialist, Dr. Olayinka David-West, sharing insight into the current state of affairs in Nigeria’s IT landscape.
“The digital ecosystem has changed, and we have seen developments in Infrastructure, Agriculture, FinTech, E-commerce, and Telecommunications such that the dynamics of market entry now freely allows skilled individuals to be IT solutions providers,” David-West said.
“These technological transformation have impacted economic activities, particularly the on-demand, sharing, and circular economic systems. Therefore, policy, regulation, and incentives are some of the factors that should be prioritised in our discussions while also seeking ways to ensure technology contents are localized,” she added.
A fireside session with Bagudu, moderated by Oyebode, explored the future of work as it concerns education and digital skills.
Rimini Makama, Government Affair Director, Microsoft Nigeria, further expanded thoughts on the new digital economy, saying: “Governments and educational institutions should continue investing in digital skills by creating more technical colleges which can be achieved by partnering with organisations who can help train and build a local technology ecosystem. We need to identify what Nigeria’s comparative advantage is over other countries, and what sort of labor force we should be developing by paying focus to what people in our countries do well that machines cannot do. There also needs to be a shift in educational policies with an increased focus on vocational skills and other forms of certifications.”
Artificial Intelligence is the driving force for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and developed economies are taking full advantage of AI technologies in making breakthrough advances in healthcare, education, transportation and more.
However, Africa is yet to completely catch up with the rest of the world despite its inherent potentials because awareness about AI is low.
This was the core of the discussion at the panel session moderated by LBS Faculty, Prof. Olawale Ajai, who alongside private sector leaders concluded that policymakers have a major role to play in ensuring Nigeria and its citizens reap the benefits of AI in the very near future.
Director of Programmes, Paradigm Initiative, Tope Ogundipe, who sat on the panel, said: “We need a national strategy on Artificial Intelligence (AI), but unfortunately, those conversations are not yet happening. It is also important that we look in the direction of training and research, especially training for all by developing a national framework that has budgetary allocations focused on education accessible not just to elites but for women, girls and those in rural areas.”
Delivering the closing remarks at the workshop, Director, Corporate, External and Legal Affairs, Microsoft Middle East and Africa – Emerging Markets, Ayman Osman, stated that Microsoft and LBS will look forward to more forums where they can bring together key stakeholders in government, academia, policymakers, think tanks, key technology stakeholders and the private sector to create sustainable roadmaps for the computed future.
The partnership between Lagos Business School and Microsoft is another effort by the School to transform the practice of Management in Nigeria and developing competent leaders for Africa and the rest of the world.