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Why data is important for technological innovations, economic development


Technology and big data have been identified as key drivers of the fourth industrial revolution, and if well harnessed, has the maximum potential to revolutionise Africa’s Economy. This was the general consensus of technology and data experts at the Big Data Business Analytics (DAB) Conference 2019 held in Lagos from March 5 to March 7 2019.

Speaking at the two-day maiden edition of the DAB conference 2019 organised by the Information & Data Analytics Foundation (iDAF) in partnership with Manifold, DigitialPRWire, and, special guest, Yemi Kale, the statistician general of the Federation, who was represented by Lola Talabi-Oni in a presentation discussed how capital accumulation, labour productivity and technological innovation, according to economists, are the three main sources of growth in an economy like Nigeria.

Kale said, in the long-run, technological innovation wins – the fourth industrial revolution.

“Technological innovation has been driven largely by data. Technology has been driven by rapid innovation, and in the current fourth industrial revolution, technology has been largely driven by rapidly increasing volumes of data produced and consumed at a significant pace.

“Why has data grown so important? Data plays key role in shaping almost every aspect of human life by providing us with clear, objective, numerical evidence about the population, economic performance, health and wellbeing, environment and aids the decision-making process to establish numerical benchmarks, monitor and evaluate the progress of policies or programmes and ensuring that our policy interventions are well designed,” Kale said.

Speaking about the future of work and the importance of generating and analyzing Africa specific data, Shingai Manjengwa, CEO, Fireside Analytics, said; “Automation forms one of the most critical part of the future of work because it has the potential to replace 51% of jobs across multiple sectors that Africa is dependent on.

“Africa’s future of work story will be different from developed markets. With much of the workforce of tomorrow, we can program the requisite skills today by embracing Data Science

“The big data market is worth an estimated USD$42 billion and Africans are well positioned to contribute significantly to this economy due to three factors, namely, favorable demographics; high and increasing internet penetration and changing education trends,” Manjenwa said.

Heinz Riehl, chair professor of business, New York University Stern School of Business, who delivered a paper on using artificial intelligence and blockchain to monetize the mobile economy, said that data source, data mining tools and data quality are linked to cause major economic changes across the world today.

According to him, industries such as advertising leverage technological indices to understand shift in consumer mindset about data exchange.

“This is what I call ‘Using AI to mine 9 Forces’ which include context, location, time, saliency, crowdedness, weather, trajectory, social, and omni-channel. These are what will influence the ways ads are deployed and how technology is being used in that ecosystem”.

“Countries like China and United States are leading the world in IP and other data related skills. Thus, Nigeria as a country should not relax, rather move up to lead the region, because there are enormous opportunities,” he said.

Ndubuisi Ekekwe, co-chairman of JPL Financial Group, a California-based financial advisory firm and blogs at Harvard Business Review, speaking on abundance in the data of nations said:data analytics knowledge in Nigeria is at infancy stage but opportunities abound as there are many aspects of our economy and culture that foreign ideas won’t solve the problems; they require local talents.”

Ekekwe said that start-ups and young entrepreneurs are going to tap into it.

“For instance, Kobo360 is doing very great in their areas. Our education should reflect the 21st Century which does not depend on paper qualifications. Africa needs to build processes; not to prepare the young people for certificates but a life time growth trajectory.

“Broadband affordability is key. It amazes me that Facebook can be free in Nigeria but most online courses and materials are not free. I believe that satellite broadband will bring down the cost of connectivity and most African youths can have access to the internet to learn new courses and improve on their skills,” he said.

The DAB conference 2019 was organised to bring awareness to educators, private businesses, public sector and government about the importance of making data driven decisions as opposed to making decisions based solely on intuition.

According to Theophilus Mederios, Lead convener and founder iDaf, making decisions based on data will help virtually all sectors of the economy including the banking and agricultural sectors of Nigeria.

“The primary objective of bringing tech experts, educators and big data analytics solution companies  together is to discuss ways businesses and policy and decision makers can take advantages of their data as intellectual property to make informed strategic business decisions,” Mederios said.

The organizers also partnered with Aelex, a top law firm in Nigeria to have legal backing on data privacy and technology regulatory issues.

Jumoke Akiyode-Lawanson

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