• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Digital innovation: The path to Nigeria’s economic diversification

Language won’t keep Northern Nigeria away from AI train

By Tajudeen Bank-Olemoh

Nigeria, a nation rich in resources and diversity, is charting a new course towards a non-oil-focused economy, with digital innovation and technology emerging as crucial pillars of this transformation. Over the past decade, the country has witnessed remarkable advancements in technology that have not only simplified lives but have also paved the way for remote work, shaping the future of Nigerian society. Among these advancements, financial technologies such as USSD and secure e-payment features have revolutionised transactions, showcasing the transformative power of digitalization in Nigeria.

Q: “Moreover, entrepreneurs, alongside the government, are playing a pivotal role in propelling Nigeria’s digital evolution, with a strategic focus on entrepreneurs driving innovations as well as key players shaping the nation’s technology ecosystem.”

A coordinated approach to expanding Nigeria’s digital ecosystem

Despite the numerous opportunities associated with a digitised economy, recent data from Datareportal revealed that Africa’s largest economy ranks sixth globally in the “unconnected” category. “As of January 2024, Nigeria boasts 103 million internet users, achieving a penetration rate of 45.5 percent,” the report read in part. However, with over 40 percent of the population still offline, there is ample room for further expansion.

One of the challenges to improving internet coverage in Nigeria is the reluctance of private companies to lay fibre optic cables in parts of the country outside major cities due to perceived low demand.

Bosun Tijani, Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, acknowledged this, stating, “The reason why we’re not there yet as a country is that private companies will tell you that there are parts of Nigeria where, if they invested in laying fibre optic cables, there wouldn’t be enough customers to bring a return on investment.”

Government initiatives:

To bridge this gap and meet the growing demand for internet access to enjoy the benefits of a digitised Nigeria, Tijani recently unveiled plans for Project 774 LG Connectivity. This ambitious initiative aims to deploy internet connections across all government institutions, stimulating demand and encouraging more investment in broadband infrastructure. “Project 774 LG Connectivity will create at least 300 direct jobs nationwide and potentially more jobs indirectly from the increase in digital access.

It is aligned with our ministry’s strategic blueprint and is a significant step in achieving President Bola Tinubu’s mandate to deliver efficient public service to our citizens at the LG level,” Tijani explained. Through strategic partnerships and technology deployment, Project 774 LG Connectivity seeks to provide local governments with reliable and affordable internet access, fostering efficient public services. The project’s objectives include promoting transparency in service delivery, stimulating economic growth, and enhancing citizen engagement.

Entrepreneurs driving innovation:

Moreover, entrepreneurs, alongside the government, are playing a pivotal role in propelling Nigeria’s digital evolution, with a strategic focus on entrepreneurs driving innovations as well as key players shaping the nation’s technology ecosystem. Among these entrepreneurs, Tajudeen Bank-Olemoh stands out as a highly experienced project management professional, specialising in delivering versatile solutions for small to mid-sized projects across diverse sectors. With over 15 years of project management experience, including 7 years dedicated to agile consulting and coaching, Tajudeen brings a wealth of expertise to the table. Throughout his career, he has adeptly helped organisations transform concepts into actionable projects with clear goals and customer-centric delivery.

Passionate about empowering teams, he advocates for the adoption of lean thinking and agile principles to achieve peak system performance. Tajudeen’s extensive experience spans various organisational challenges, including overcoming resistance to change, managing scope creep, resolving conflicts, ensuring alignment between Agile practices and organisational goals, providing comprehensive training and knowledge, boosting team morale, improving time management, and scaling Agile practices. With professionals like Tajudeen at the forefront of innovation, Nigeria’s digital landscape is poised for unprecedented growth and transformation.

Addressing the digital education gap:

Despite progress, Nigeria still grapples with a digital education gap, ranking 116th globally in network readiness. Closing this gap requires a multifaceted approach involving both government and private sector actions as well as international collaborations. Scaling digital innovation in Nigeria demands a strategy that combines governmental and private sector initiatives with international partnerships. Key areas of focus should include affordable connectivity, promotion of open data initiatives, and digitisation of government services to improve data accessibility and connectivity.

Innovative strategies for improving Internet infrastructure

There are effective strategies for navigating limited internet infrastructure. These include implementing hybrid connectivity solutions, developing localised content, providing capacity-building through digital literacy workshops, forming partnerships with local governments, NGOs, and ISPs, utilising scalable and adaptable technologies, focusing on user-centric design, employing data-driven decision-making, and conducting advocacy campaigns.

The role of public-private partnerships (PPPs):

Leveraging the experience of countries like Cameroon, public-private partnerships (PPPs) can be a game-changer for Nigeria’s infrastructure landscape. By bringing together public sector resources and private sector expertise, Nigeria can address critical challenges in areas like power generation, transportation networks, and broadband connectivity. PPPs can incentivize private companies to invest in infrastructure development, leading to a more efficient allocation of resources and faster project completion.

Furthermore, successful PPPs in Nigeria can pave the way for improved policy frameworks. As public and private entities collaborate on infrastructure projects, a more transparent and business-friendly regulatory environment can emerge. This, in turn, attracts further investment and fosters a culture of innovation. Looking beyond infrastructure, PPPs can play a crucial role in bridging the digital divide in Nigeria.

By partnering with private telecommunications companies, the government can address issues like digital literacy and affordability. PPPs can support training programmes to equip citizens with the skills required to navigate the digital world. Additionally, these partnerships can explore innovative solutions to expand internet access in remote areas, potentially bringing down costs for users.

In essence, by adopting a strategic approach to PPPs, Nigeria can unlock its vast potential for growth and development. By focusing on infrastructure development, improved policies, digital literacy, and affordability, PPPs can serve as a powerful tool for inclusive progress in the digital age.

Tajudeen Bank-Olemoh, an Enterprise Transformation Expert, training SME’s Business Owners, Stakeholders, and teams on Agile delivery strategies to effectively transform and scale their businesses, writes from Chicago, USA. [email protected]