AfriTECH2021 seeks urgent steps to drive inclusive digital economy

Stakeholders in the information and communication technology industry have stressed that accelerating innovation remains the best path to drive inclusive growth.

The tech experts among who are C-Suite executives, founders, presidents of companies/organisations, presidents of industry associations, startups/entrepreneurs and government officials, etc., unanimously agreed on this at the 2021 Africa Tech Alliance Forum (AfriTECH2021) held in Lagos on Wednesday October 13, 2021, highlighting that building infrastructure to extend internet access in underserved areas will drive digital transformation across board.

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), focusing his presentation on “NCC as a Digital Transformation Crusader and Nigeria’s in-Road to 5G Deployment,” stated that, following the advent of COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a change in the dynamics of people’s interaction, especially on the Internet.

The EVC represented by Engr. Oluwatoyin Asaju, director, Spectrum Administration at NCC, said that almost every means of communication has become virtual in one way or the other.

“Already, we are set for the auction of some spectrum slots in the 3.5GHz band. The other day I was at the National assembly, I informed the senate that we were 95 per cent ready for 5G. Today as we speak, I am delighted to tell you that we are already at 97 percent completion,” Danbatta said at #AfriTECH2021.

“The Committee set up to auction the Spectrum has already developed an Information Memorandum (IM) which is already published for inputs and comments from all industry stakeholders. Prior to this, a 5G deployment plan was developed and we have since secured Federal Government’s approval,” he said.

L-r: Dr. Ayotunde Coker, Managing Director, Rack Centre; Engr. Oluwatoyin Asaju, director, Spectrum Administration at NCC and Femi Williams, MD/CEO, NewWave Ecosystem Ltd., during AfriTECh2021 in Lagos

Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA), said that with advent of new technologies occasioned by the fourth industrial revolution, it has become imperative to increase Africa’s level of preparedness and develop capacity of the youth.

Abdullahi who was represented by Dr. Usman Gambo Abdullahi, Director IT Infrastructure Solutions at NITDA, spoke on ‘Reskilling Africa’s Youth for Future Jobs from NITDA’s perspective’ adding that the fourth industrial revolution will continue to fundamentally alter the way human begins live, work, and relate to one another.

He said, “We need to look at the educational sector and focus more on skills and research that can be used to develop the economy. People should not see education as the end but means to the end. We need to look for ways to disabuse people’s mind on paper qualification and inculcate in them those skills required for the imminent industrial revolution and also focus more on science and technology.”

In her keynote address anchored on the Forum’s theme: Embracing Change and Digital Transformation in the New Normal, Olatomiwa Williams, the Country Manager, Microsoft Nigeria, said that COVID-19 has happened with different experiences, but there are a lot of opportunities for the Continent.

She said leveraging technology to ensure that the continent is actually accelerating the digital economy potentials cannot be over-emphasised.

“Looking at the impact of COVID-19 and how it has accelerated digital transformation and based on research and engagements globally, two years of digital transformation was achieved within two months. What does that tell us? It tells us that because we were able to embrace the change that COVID brought, we were able to make those changes happen. These changes continue to accelerate. So, it means that an organization can no longer do business as usual. Everyone needs to embrace digital transformation at a fast reach”, the Microsoft Country Manager said.

Zoho Corporation also hosted a workshop during AfriTECH2021. Andrew Bourne, Regional Manager at Zoho Africa, said that for organizations large and small, the year 2020 was the longest year ever however the quick lesson is the urgent need to reorient the workforce to a new way of working.

“It came swiftly with playbooks being written and rewritten depending on what leaders were learning from government authorities, medical professionals, and from their own employees.

With a reference to Forbes’ report, he said: “Millennial currently hold the largest purchasing power, but Gen-Z is close behind. The group, which was born between 1996 and 2010, already holds $44 billion buying power ($600 billion when considering their influence on their parents’ spending) and will hit the workforce and become powerful consumers in the next few years. In the next year, they will account for 40% of all U.S consumers. To succeed, companies need to know how to tailor a great consumer experience for Gen-Z”.

Andrew also demonstrated how to drive customer loyalty through a CRM system. Through this means new customers get introduced to the company through a ‘promoting’ customer which could be triggered by word of mouth, social media recommendations or customer testimonial.

L-r: Mr. Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu, president, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON); Engr. Oluwatoyin Asaju, director, Spectrum Administration at NCC and Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, director, Public Affairs at NCC, during AfriTECH2021 in Lagos recently

In his part, Prof. Muhammed Abukakar, the Managing Director and CEO, Galaxy Backbone Limited, has expressed the company’s preparedness to provide ICT infrastructure and services to public institutions and the underserved communities in Nigeria.

Abukakar was speaking on ‘Boosting Cloud Infrastructure for Digital Economy through Partnerships’ through a representative, Mr. Timi Fadeyi, head DataCentre at Galaxy Backbone, said  “We need to work smarter, faster and simpler – a combination of a hybrid mode of working and harnessing relationships; virtual, physical, both.

“Artificial Intelligence is reshaping value chains, industries, communities, countries and the works entirely. You also need to secure your data; secure your entire digital experience, a combination of technology and you.”

Other key industry stakeholders participated at the one-day Forum, which also featured exhibition by some sector players such as Zoho Corporation, Medallion Communications, Layer3 and Notion Technology Limited (representatives of American #1 Technology company – Comway – and Hsv Products).

The AfriTECH2021 had Zoho as the lead sponsors received supports from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA); Galaxy Backbone Limited, as partners, also sponsored by Rack Centre, Digital Encode, Cloudflex Computing Services Limited, Zinochrome International, Layer3, Notion Technology Limited and Medallion Communications.

Mr. Peter Oluka, Editor of TechEconomy.ng and the convener of AfriTECH said that Africa must play leading role in the fourth industrial revolution by embracing emerging technologies such as 5G, Internet of Things; Cloud Computing; Quantum Computing Augmented/Virtual Reality which are also playing a critical role in improving remote communication over the internet with great user experience.

He said that the recent events around COVID-19 Pandemic demonstrated why the government and the private sector must embrace digital transformation.


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