The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR): Where is Nigeria?
Did you know that the world is going to see more technological change in the next 10 years than we have ever seen in the last 100?
It will disrupt and change the business model of every industry in the world. Many jobs will be created, and many will be lost. Whole industries may cease to exist. Never in the history of humanity has such rapid transformative changes been seen.
It’s a quiet disruption, that is changing the global dynamics. Calculations show that it will dwarf past revolutions in terms of speed and the scale of the changes it will leave behind.
You must have been hearing about the fourth industrial revolution or 4IR?
But do you truly understand its implications?
What is 4IR?
Throughout recorded history, humanity has been on a journey of innovation. First, it was fire, then agriculture, manufacturing and trading, followed by steam power, electricity, mass production, computers, the internet, gene editing, blockchain, driverless cars, gene edited babies; and more.
The term “Fourth Industrial Revolution” simply describes an era marked by a technological revolution where new and rapidly advancing technologies merge with human, physical, mechanical, and biological systems, leading to an extraordinary transformation of the social, economic, and political status quo. Practically speaking, technology will invade, and disrupt all sectors of the economy, transform them, and then these technologies would then merge, connect most sectors together, and finally infuse them in an intimate level with humans. The practical manifestation of this is seen in artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, voice-activated virtual assistant, face ID recognition, 5G, internet of things(IoT), big data, cloud computing. Now every company today is somehow a tech company, because the tech revolution across board means that you must leverage technology, else technology would leverage you. You simply cannot stop the revolution. From food production, to retail, to banking, to health, to communication, transportation, education, genetics, politics, culture, this tech drive seem to be heading somewhere we ‘re not exactly sure of.
The fact is technology will merge more and more with human lives. It took 75 years for 100 million users to adopt the telephone. Instagram signed up 100 million users in just two years, while Pokemon Go got the same number in just one month. The biggest taxi company in the world owns no taxi. The biggest hotel company in the world owns no hotel.
But what are the Issues for Nigeria? How well is the nation positioned for this future?
Do we even know what is taking place?
If we do, what urgent steps is the government taking to put Nigeria on the global map of 4IR, particularly in Africa?
While we await answers, we must know that nations that will hold the long end of the stick are those that participate fully in innovation-driven ecosystems. Because it is a revolution, it doesn’t wait for any country.
First, we need to wholistically understand what we’re dealing with, innovate new ideas, business models, and then take advantage of the opportunity to become the leading tech nation in Africa. This is very feasible.
Now, I don’t have all the answers, but I want to identify four (4) points that underpins Nigeria’s readiness or not.
- Are we enacting laws for the Future?
- Are we making policies for the Future?
- Are we developing Industries and Business Models for the Future?
- Are we developing Skills and building capacity for the Future ?
Many of our laws are already obsolete. For instance, if the country wants to adopt eVoting to an extent, the law that says that voters have to vote at a polling station must be reviewed such that one can vote from anywhere in the country. How about data harmonisation between INEC, NIMC, NIS, NPopC, etc? Do we have capacity to monitor how telecommunication companies use the data of Nigerians? That’s a story for another day. Our laws need to be enacted in such a way that it will be relevant as accelerators of growth in the 4IR.
Our public policy may need to be formatted or streamlined to take into account, the transformative changes that will be upon us in a few years time. For this to happen public sector workers must be trained on 4IR thinking. IoTs are already on board, but do our public servants know or understand them? How about the possibility of AI taking their jobs in the near future? Gender bias and other stereotypes now means economic loss for the nation. Think of this, if the best minds and capacity do not handle major public issues then the nation will be slowed down inevitably. These and more must be addressed.
The opportunity in this revolution is that developing countries can leapfrog into development, depending on the foresight and vision of their leadership. This revolution is moving at jetspeed, it’s time to get set and catch up Nigeria. Leverage technology, before technology leverages us.
One Solution at a Time
Urgent action must be taken now for the country not to be left behind. Gatherings which bring together a broad spectrum of stakeholders to discuss the future of industry in the country are instrumental. But these meetings are rather few and far between in Nigeria. This is why the organisers of the Information Communication Technology and Telecommunication (ICTEL) EXPO 2019 chose to tell the “Nigerian Story in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Hosted by one of Africa’s leading trade organisations, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), ICTEL Expo is one of the biggest events dedicated to the digital economy in Africa’s powerhouse Nigeria.
With Lagos city having the 5th largest economy in Africa, and tipped to be the 3rd largest in Africa by 2023, the LCCI says ICTEL Expo 2019, is set to be a game changer as it brings together government and the private sector to find a common ground, begin the race towards the future, and set an example for the rest of Africa.
With the focus being on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in Nigeria, analysts are keeping up the debate, with high expectations that the expo would create sufficient awareness on 4IR as a way of driving necessary preparation, policies and programmes in Nigeria.