Technology is changing our lives at spectacular speed. Advances in medicine, education, communication, and productivity have increased life expectancy around the globe and lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. The ability to connect to people and information instantly is so commonplace that many people take it for granted.
Governments around the world are transforming and adapting to this change. Here at Microsoft we ask, “How can we bring to life the promise of technology to everyone”? Part of the answer is in recognising that empowerment begins with digital inclusion. Just as there is an effective commercial ecosystem that brings the promise of technology to life in the marketplace, there must also be a strong societal ecosystem that democratises the promise of technology.
In a recently published Microsoft position paper, digital transformation is presented as a means for social and economic development in Nigeria, and as an opportunity for every Nigerian citizen and business to achieve more. Commenting on the paper, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) said: “In recognising the need to focus on digitalisation of the economy as a way to foster inclusivity, growth and skills development for job creation as well as the significant benefits in enabling government, citizens, and businesses to achieve more, we are working with Microsoft to leverage their technological expertise to enable the transformation that will allow our country to take part in the $11.5 trillion global digital economy.”
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Nigeria is not only a key player in West Africa but is also the continent’s largest economy. The country has historically been dependent on its oil resources and the revenue received from it as a means for development and growth, making it highly susceptible to the volatility of oil prices. There is massive potential for growth through the digital economy for Nigeria. The country is on course to developing a robust digital ecosystem as well as infrastructural enhancements in policy and regulatory environments, the education sector and national security.
This paper lays out 20 policy intervention recommendations across four policy areas that will encourage government to fully harness the opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“Digital transformation in government can exponentially improve the lives of its citizens, providing more efficient and positive experiences that build trust,” says Microsoft Nigeria country manager, Akin Banuso.
“At Microsoft we are committed to developing solutions that can enable government to capitalise on the opportunities brought about by technology to manage communications, enhance responsiveness, promote well-being and better serve citizens,” Banuso says.
Microsoft has highlighted certain policy gaps that need to be closed to rip the long-term benefits of adopting technologies such as cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence in driving inclusivity in terms of connectivity, skills, and jobs. The paper also lays out the responsible deployment of these technologies to sustainably fuel the growth of industries and their contribution to the country’s economy.
Rimini Makama, Government Affairs Director for Microsoft Emerging Markets, states, “Technology is at the heart of driving a digital economy which will bring these priorities to fruition. The question for Law makers and policymakers around the world is how to harness the power of the technology to transform people’s lives for the better without unleashing the potential for dislocation and disorder”.
This paper addresses the fundamental questions when making laws about how to strike the right balance between competing interests such as: public safety and the right to privacy; how to recognize national sovereignty without restricting the efficient flow of information across international borders; and how to provide entrepreneurs and innovators with the freedom to create and disrupt while ensuring that the benefits of change are broadly and equitably shared.
There is a need for a new digital mindset and culture, built on development of digital capabilities, reducing costs, removing red tape and other institutional barriers. This allows for easier and more optimal integration of innovative technologies in government that can enable the country to leapfrog into the digital future driving up the number of highly-skilled digital natives, empowering citizens and facilitating positive societal change. Nigeria’s government has placed a great deal of commitment into fashioning such an environment to ensure an inclusive digital future.
“This forward-looking whitepaper from Microsoft aligns with the eight pillars contained in the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy and the country’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and so will support the country in collaborating towards building an inclusive Digital Nigeria,” adds Honourable Minister Ibrahim (Pantami).
Public cloud adoption can provide upfront cost savings on Information Technology expenditure and lead to increased deployment of other technology infrastructure.
To drive cloud adoption in the country which would catalyse the digital transformation of public institutions, Microsoft has laid out recommendations, which include:
1. To sustain the traction of a cloud-first policy and other digital transformation initiatives, Government efforts to increase digital and cloud capabilities of the public service are important. The Government should amplify communications of its commitment and support of ICT policies within an enabling environment
2. Build digital and AI capacity through the creation of AI knowledge centres across the country as well as the enhancement of scientific research on AI adoption
3. Government must optimise its data ecosystem through the development of multi-domain open data repositories that will enhance citizen interaction and amplify the country’s emergency response infrastructure.
4. Government should ensure technology adoption barriers like costs are fair to all socio-economic groups and offer support and provision of digital applications in sectors such as education and healthcare.
5. To implement the NITDA’s e-Government Interoperability Framework across the public sector. This provides uniform standards to follow in ICT adoption that will optimise government’s role in driving sustainable development.
6. Adapt the national education curriculum and delivery methods to align with 4IR and develop digital and non-digital skills such as critical thinking.
7. The passage of data protection laws unique to the Nigerian context that aligns with cutting-edge technologies, is technology neutral, and balances innovation with protection.
Driving digital inclusion and ensuring the digital security and privacy of citizens
Technology’s power lies in its ability to empower people regardless of background, gender, religion or race, yet barriers to access of technologies continue to persist which in turn keeps adoption of technology low.
Inclusiveness brings down the cost of governance for government and improves social good among the citizens. Additionally, the adoption of responsible management practices and guidelines will optimise transformation initiatives and enhance benefits realisation for social inclusion.
As data protection, security and privacy are the key concerns holding back widespread adoption of emerging technologies in the country, it is therefore vital that Nigeria builds data protection laws and frameworks that regulates behaviour while ensuring the right to privacy for every individual.
Transforming Nigeria using technologies will require developing a digital ecosystem, infrastructural enhancements in the policy and regulatory environment, education sector and national security.
“There is a fair amount of work to be done, but it is a shared responsibility between governments, private sector organizations and other interested stakeholders. Doing so will help Nigeria to transform and move towards a digital economy enabled by technology,” concludes Banuso.