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Nigeria may miss out of digital dividend put at $100trn 

By Omoh Gabriel

Nigeria may miss out of the $100trillion booming digitilisation if government and the organized private sector do not come together to evolve policy that will enable the country tap into the gains of the fourth industrial revolution sweeping across the globe.

At the weekend, the World Economic Forum said that the combined value to society and industry of digital transformation across industries could be greater than $100 trillion over the next 10 years. The Forum also disclosed that the combinatorial ”effects of digital technologies that is mobile, cloud, artificial intelligence, sensors and analytics among others are accelerating progress exponentially, but that the full potential will not be achieved without collaboration between business, policy-makers and NGOs.”

Nigeria’s attempt at digitisation is said to be hampered by funding. Last year, a two-day workshop on digitisation held in Lagos to provide opportunity to appraise the process and map out strategies to ensure that the switch over is accomplished with least or no hitches. Essentially, the event gave participants the unique opportunity to update themselves on the latest policy direction and technical requirements for the digital transition in Nigeria.

Reviewing the process, Chairman, DigiTeam Nigeria, Mr. Edward Idris Amana, an engineer, enumerated some strategic steps taken in order to realize the digital transition project as mandated by the GE 06 Agreement endorsed by the Member States of ITU at the World Radio Conference in Geneva in 2006. The agreement, he noted, anticipated new digital plan that involved re-distribution of frequency bands to accommodate new. Engineer Amana recalled: “Nigeria, like all other Member States of International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Region 1, signed the Geneva 2006 Agreement on Transition from Analogue to Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting.” Nigeria is not  yet digitisation compliant.

The meeting of business leaders and top government officials held in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland at the weekend said that the “combined value” to society and industry of the digitisation that is already occurring in every industry could generate upwards of $100 trillion over the next 10 years, with society set to gain more than business. However, this transformation also brings with it risk, according to new research by the World Economic Forum.

According to the research findings, “With digitisation affecting every industry and creating new ways of capturing and creating value, the research, which is part of the Forum’s Digital Transformation of Industries (DTI) project, focuses on the “combinatorial” effects of digital technologies – mobile, cloud, artificial intelligence, sensors and analytics, among others.

“Examples of societal value generated by digitisation include mass adoption of autonomous vehicles and usage-based car insurance, which could save up to 1 million lives a year worldwide by 2025. In the electricity sector, a cumulative reduction in carbon emissions worth $867 billion by 2025 could be achieved through the adoption of digital technologies, principally through smarter asset planning”.

The findings further said that the pace of innovation can be illustrated by the fact that, while it used to take Fortune 500 companies an average of 20 years to reach a billion-dollar valuation; digital start-ups are reaching the same milestone in just four years. The research suggests that, once limitations preventing the mass-market commercialization of enabling technologies such as battery storage and wireless charging are overcome, the pace of change could accelerate.

It said “However, the digital transformation of industries comes with risks attached that will require careful management by all stakeholder groups. One such risk is inequality, which could be exacerbated if access to digital skills is not made available to all. Another is trust, which has been eroded by growing concerns over data privacy and security. This will only be overcome with improved norms of ethical behaviour”.

According to the research findings when it comes to business, benefits are by no means guaranteed. Conservative corporate cultures and short-termism combine, for example, to discourage many businesses from taking radical steps to disrupt their own industry by embracing new technologies. One example is electricity distribution, where few utilities have actively embarked on cannibalising their legacy businesses by offering subsidised renewable technologies such as solar. This represents a missed opportunity, according to the DTI research – produced in collaboration with Accenture – as the pace and scale of societal gains from digital could be greater if driven by the innovation of incumbents than by the disruption introduced by new entrants

Mark Spelman, Co-Head, Future of the Internet Initiative, World Economic Forum. said “Society and the environment stand to gain the greatest share of the rewards from digitisation through improvements to welfare, health and other means. To capitalise fully, however, policy-makers must put in place an agile regulatory environment and incentive mechanisms that unlock investment, while businesses must fully embrace sustainable business practices. There is a win win for business and society if we can look beyond immediate commercial gain in favour of long term value creation,”

Mark Knickrehm, Group Chief Executive, Accenture Strategy, Accenture, USA speaking on the issue said “This in-depth industry analysis proves that there can be no business strategy today without digital strategy. Being digital means being ready to go beyond technology investments to embrace wider organisational and cultural change, to succeed, business leaders must be able to balance existing capabilities with big-bet investments in entirely new digital business models. And they must be prepared to take risks with partners across industry borders”.

The DTI initiative serves as the focal point for new opportunities and themes arising from digitisation. It has been informed by over 230 expert interviews from business, government and academia and engagement with more than 100 of the Forum’s Partner organisations. Over 2,500 leaders from business, government, international organisations, civil society, academia, media and the arts participated in the 46th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.

Taking a formative role in shaping the discussion at the Annual Meeting 2016 as the Co-Chairs are: Mary Barra, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, General Motors, USA; Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Brussels; Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft Corporation, USA; Hiroaki Nakanishi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Hitachi, Japan; Tidjane Thiam, Chief Executive Officer, Credit Suisse, Switzerland; and Amira Yahyaoui, Founder and Chair, Al Bawsala, Tunisia.


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