As we advance into 2024, Nigeria’s technology scene is buzzing with energy and potential. The rapid pace at which technology is evolving is both exciting and challenging. It’s not just about the next big thing; it’s about the profound ways tech is weaving into the fabric of our society. From startups disrupting traditional markets to innovative solutions tackling age-old problems, technology is bracing to be the new heartbeat of Nigeria’s economy.
But with great technology comes great responsibility. The legal and ethical landscapes are as complex as the algorithms behind a neural network or blockchain transaction. Staying on top of these developments is more than just keeping up — it’s about steering the ship safely through uncharted waters.
In 2024, Nigeria’s technology landscape is anticipated to be shaped by several transformative trends, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) being at the fore. As connectivity hopefully expands and data becomes more abundant, AI is expected to seep into every corner of Nigerian life. The trajectory of Nigeria’s business landscape in 2024 is closely intertwined with the adoption and integration of emerging technologies.
AI as a Business Catalyst
AI stands as a transformative force for Nigerian businesses, with the potential to redefine efficiency, productivity, and innovation. AI as a general-purpose technology compared to revolutionary technologies like electricity and the internet is capable of creating new opportunities by fundamentally transforming how businesses operate. Predictive analytics as an example, powered by AI, can provide businesses with foresight into market trends, consumer behaviour, and operational risks, allowing for more informed decision-making. AI is set to play a pivotal role in shaping business operations, strategies, and competitive dynamics.
AI’s Expansion into Finance: In the financial sector, AI’s impact will likely be seen in personalized banking services, fraud detection, and enhanced customer service through chatbots and automated advisors. Fintech startups, already an emerging force within the country, are poised to leverage AI to further disrupt traditional banking, making financial services more accessible to the unbanked population.
Revolutionizing Healthcare: Healthcare appears set to benefit from AI through improved diagnostic tools, patient data management systems, and telemedicine services. AI-powered platforms could offer remote areas access to specialist advice, bridging the urban-rural healthcare divide.
Enhancing Education: The education sector may witness AI-driven personalized learning platforms that adapt to individual student needs, providing additional support and supplementing traditional teaching methods. This could be particularly transformative in addressing the educational gap caused by disparities in quality across regions.
Regulatory Technology (RegTech): RegTech solutions are expected to gain traction, simplifying compliance management. By utilizing AI and Machine learning, RegTech can help proactively identify legal risks, automate compliance processes, and stay ahead of regulatory changes.
Beyond AI, other emerging technologies are set to make their mark:
Blockchain Beyond Finance: Often associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Blockchain’s initial impact was felt most strongly in the financial sector. In 2024 it’s likely to expand into areas such as land registration, voting systems, and supply chain management, offering new levels of transparency and efficiency.
IoT and Smart Cities: The Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to further integrate into urban development plans, with smart city initiatives taking off in major cities. This could lead to smarter traffic management, energy use, and even waste management systems.
Renewable Energy Tech: Given Nigeria’s energy challenges, renewable tech, especially solar energy, is likely to see significant investment and growth. Innovations in this space could be game-changers in powering off-grid communities and driving down energy costs.
E-Commerce and Mobile Payments: E-commerce platforms and mobile payment solutions are expected to continue their rapid growth as more Nigerians come online and embrace digital transactions.
Navigating Legal and Ethical Issues
Data Governance and Intellectual Property:
As Nigerian businesses eagerly integrate new technologies into their operations, they confront a maze of legal and ethical implications that require careful navigation.
At the forefront of legal considerations is data privacy. As businesses collect and analyze vast amounts of data, they must adhere to the Nigeria Data Protection Act and other relevant laws that govern data handling. Companies must ensure that personal data is collected legally and transparently, used for specified purposes, and protected from breaches.
Businesses must also be prepared to address the ethical dimensions of data use, ensuring that they don’t inadvertently contribute to biases or discrimination in their services, especially when deploying AI algorithms that may have far-reaching implications on individuals’ privacy and rights.
Given the proliferation of software, digital platforms, and content, navigating the terrains of Intellectual property will be a hot-button legal issue in 2024. As technology facilitates the creation and distribution of intellectual property, managing and negotiating IP rights in new creative contexts will pose significant challenges.
The development, deployment, and adoption of emerging technologies come with cybersecurity concerns. As businesses become more reliant on digital technologies, they become more vulnerable to cyber threats. Companies must, therefore, invest in robust cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive data and maintain customer trust. Companies must also comply with regulations that dictate standards for protecting digital assets and reporting breaches. This requires implementing robust security protocols and regularly updating them to mitigate vulnerabilities.
Ensuring Ethical AI Development:
The development and deployment of AI systems must be guided by ethical principles to avoid negative impacts on society. This includes transparency in AI decision-making processes, the avoidance of built-in biases, and ensuring AI complements human abilities rather than replacing them in ways that could be detrimental to societal well-being.
Navigating Other Challenges and Risks
Another major challenge is the skills gap. There is a pressing need for talent capable of developing, managing, and interpreting AI and other emerging technologies. Businesses may struggle to find qualified personnel, which could hinder their ability to leverage these technologies fully.
Furthermore, there’s the risk of disruption. As new technologies automate traditional processes, there will be a shift in the job market. Businesses must anticipate these changes and invest in retraining programs to prepare their workforce for the digital economy.
Regulatory compliance presents a complex landscape that businesses must navigate. As the Nigerian government enacts hopefully well-considered and practical policies to keep pace with technological advancements, businesses must stay informed to ensure they meet changing regulatory requirements and avoid potential legal and financial risks.
Practical Steps for Businesses:
To manage these complex legal, ethical, and other challenges, businesses should consider the following steps, amongst others:
1. Develop a Comprehensive Legal and Ethical Framework: Create clear policies and procedures for data governance, cybersecurity, and AI ethics, informed by the latest laws and best practices.
2. Regular Training and Awareness Programs: Ensure that all levels of the organization understand the importance of legal and ethical standards in technology development and adoption.
3. Engage with Legal Experts: Maintain close consultation with legal professionals who specialize in tech-related law to stay ahead of regulatory changes and compliance requirements.
4. Promote Ethical Tech Culture: Embed ethical considerations into the company’s culture, encouraging employees to prioritize ethical implications in their work and decision-making processes.
5. Cultivate a Culture of Continuous Learning: Encourage a culture where all are motivated to stay current with emerging technologies, industry trends, and regulatory changes.
This outlook has projected into the vibrant landscape of Nigeria’s technological future for 2024 and beyond, examining the winds of change propelled by emerging technologies. AI stands as a light for transformation, with its applications in finance, healthcare, agriculture, education, and legal services promising a new era of efficiency and innovation. Alongside AI, blockchain, IoT, and renewable energy technologies are carving out significant roles, poised to redefine the way businesses operate and deliver value.
Yet, with these exciting advancements come legal and ethical complexities. Data governance, intellectual property, cybersecurity, and the socio-economic shifts brought about by automation demand careful consideration. Businesses are called upon to not only embrace these technologies but to do so with responsibility, ensuring compliance and upholding ethical standards that protect the fabric of our society.
As we look ahead, the horizon appears bright with potential. Technology holds the promise of invigorating Nigeria’s economy, enhancing the quality of life for its citizens, and placing the nation on the global stage as a hub of innovation. The conversations around these developments are as crucial as the technologies themselves, and they must continue. Together, as business leaders, policymakers, lawyers, tech enthusiasts, and citizens, we can shape a future where technology in Nigeria not only thrives but does so responsibly and inclusively. The full realization of this future will depend on continued investment in infrastructure, policies that foster innovation, and an ecosystem that supports collaboration between tech pioneers and traditional industries.
Chair, Technology Committee
NBA-Section on Business Law