Ensuring knowledge-led economy through technology

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Analysts have repeatedly warned that Nigeria’s oil reserves will, at best, last for another 50 years. This is definitely a warning sign that the future of our dear nation, with a population growth rate that many say is unsustainable, might be bleak if we do not engage in proper planning.

Besides our oil drying up, we’re already witnessing a world of disruption fuelled by technology. Elon Musk has made it a life time ambition to drive down the cost of his Tesla model of electric cars. Even at the seeming high cost of that model of cars today, they are multiplying in numbers across the streets of North America and he has announced a rather unexpected plan to move into India, one of Nigeria’s biggest oil customers. This is surely enough reason for us to start thinking knowledge economy rather than investing government money to find more oil wells.

Let me use this opportunity to state that since there has been no transformation of the Nigerian state despite all the billions of dollars earned from oil, I am convinced that oil is rather a curse than a blessing to Nigeria. If you ask me, I believe the knowledge economy might turn out to be the blessing the Nigerian state longs for.

In a recent report by The Punch, a former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, was quoted as saying, “A knowledge-based economy will guarantee speedy technological advancement in Nigeria. The key drivers of advanced economies are knowledge and innovation, rather than natural resources and educational development is the most important aspect of all human development. There are countries that do not have natural resources whatsoever, but because they have developed their human resources, today, they are the leading countries in this world.”

This simply sums up the fulcrum of this piece and it is, indeed, a wakeup call. Recently, I joined a number of top executives at the ‘think breakfast series’, (tbs), a quarterly breakfast gathering of executives to discuss issues of national and industry interest. I will share some of the thoughts, ideas and opinions that came out of that meeting on how Nigeria could position for the knowledge-led economy.

Ayotunde Coker, who is the Managing Director, Rack Centre, delivered a well-researched presentation on ‘The challenges & importance of building a knowledge-led economy through ICT’ in which he stressed that our growing population size and median age of 18 is a huge advantage, but what needs to happen next is for government and the private sector to build critical IT infrastructure such as world-class data centres, which will serve as solid foundation towards building a knowledge-led economy.

He further stated that Nigeria ranks behind Mauritius and South Africa at the 16th position in Africa with an Network Readiness Index and the Ease of doing business’ ranking of 119 and 169, respectively on the NRI and the EDB ranking which is something we must work towards improving because most of the knowledge driven economies score high.

For knowledge-led economy to take root and thrive in any society, the leaders of such societies must key into it and have an understanding of it. This is why the Managing Director of Precise Financial Systems (PFS), Yele Okeremi, stated while contributing that leadership engagement- continuous awareness, education and enlightenment of our leaders across board was vital to understand the importance of technology. This is because it is what a legislator knows that he will present on the floor of the chamber, which often times becomes the law of the land.

Also speaking, the Chief Executive Officer, Internet eXchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN), Muhammed Rudman, reiterated the need for legal framework to protect Intellectual Property (IP) for knowledge-led economy to run without hitches.

Judges and lawyers need to be informed on the principles of the laws promulgated as shield for protecting intellectual properties to ensure proper interpretation and enforcement.

Rudman added that funding framework for start-ups had not encouraged innovation, which necessitated various channels to step up interests of angel investors in Nigeria.

“So, basically, it’s all about pervasive enabling infrastructure, learning frameworks, e-government enablement and executive drive amongst others. Opportunities include a diversified export oriented economy enhanced GDP growth of about 18 per cent, economic and country efficiency, educational and health implications and systematic GDP impact on all value chains. We have a lot to gain from the knowledge-based economy through technology,” Rudman concluded.

Local content, which includes hosting our data locally and keeping Internet traffic local, is key. The President, Nigerian Internet Registration Association (NiRA), Rev. Sunday Folayan, advocated that government should lead by example by ensuring that its data at all levels should be hosted locally in facilities like Rack Centre. A government that puts its data in another country is obviously exposing itself to various problems.

The key issue in a knowledge economy is knowledge and learning. Therefore, developing the people and managing processes within the technology chain are extremely important.

“People, process and technology make knowledge-based economy happen,” the NIRA president concluded.

I am a die-hard optimist but optimism alone cannot get us there. Time is indeed ticking for the Nigerian state. The United Arab Emirates is an example of a country that has decided to look beyond oil and opted to play big in the knowledge economy. Those who visit that country would agree that they are playing the game right considering the fact that they were nowhere over 30 years ago. I believe it is possible to transform the Nigerian state, if only we invest in our people and fully appreciate the place of technology in our national development.

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