By Nkechi Isaac, Abuja
The world at various points in times past has witnessed various forms of revolutions. The first industrial revolution saw the world shift from reliance on animals, human effort and biomass as primary sources of energy to the use of fossil fuel and mechanical power. The second industrial revolution saw major breakthroughs in the form of electricity distribution, both wireless and wired communication, and new forms of power generation. The third industrial revolution began with the development of digital and communication systems, bringing about advances in the computing power, which have enhanced new ways of generating, processing and sharing information.
It is evident everywhere that technologies are rapidly emerging and affecting our lives in ways that show that we are at the beginning of a fourth industrial revolution (4IR), a brand new era that builds and extends the impact of digitization in new and unanticipated ways.
This is notwithstanding that in Nigeria, like so many parts of the world, some aspects of the second and third industrial revolutions are yet to be experienced in full. History has it that Nigeria failed to key into and fully explore opportunities and potentials presented by past revolutions.
As the world prepares for the imminent 4IR, characterised by introduction of various technologies such as virtual/augmented realities; nanotechnologies; 3D printing; machine learning; big data; cloud computing; drones; self-driving cars; robotics; artificial intelligence and many more of such technologies, stakeholders in the Nigerian economy has raised concerns about the nation’s capability to actively participate and harness the improvements presented by the revolution with the country still heavily dependent on foreign technologies which is estimated to drive various sectors of the economy at over 90 percent.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the fifth edition of Digital Africa conference and exhibition tagged, “The fourth industrial revolution: getting Africa ready” in Abuja, the acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said Nigeria was committed to actively taking part in the impending revolution to find solution to its challenges.
Osinbajo, who was represented by the Minister of Communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu, called for collaborative efforts on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis between the government, the private sector and well-meaning individuals so as to take full advantage of the opportunity, reiterating government’s commitment to providing an enabling environment to ensure the smooth sailing of ICT initiative and projects in Nigeria.
In his goodwill message, the director-general of the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), Dr DanAzumi Ibrahim, noted that though the Nigerian economy is still currently heavily dependent on foreign technologies, the government was making concerted efforts to develop the capacity of Nigerians in anticipation of the imminent revolution.
He said the agency, one of the 17 under the Ministry of Science and Technology, is assigned the mandate of regulation of foreign technologies with a view to developing local content.
He said: “NOTAP is one of the 17 parastatals under the ministry of science and technology and one of our major mandates is to ensure that we promote the development of local technologies. And through this exercise, I’ll give you a simple example for you to understand how the Nigeria inter-federal wants to establish a manufacturing outfit, if he looks around within the country and he doesn’t find a competent party to assist, the only option he has is to look outside the shores of the country to get this assistance and when he gets them the agreement has to be approved by NOTAP.”
DanAzumi, however, stated that the agency always looks at three perspectives of every foreign agreement submitted to it before it is approved, saying the aim of such exercise was to ensure it is in line with the nation’s regulations as well as develop our own manpower while utilising the technology.
He added: “Before we register any agreement we have to look at it from three different perspectives. We have to subject it to three critical perspectives; the first is the legal perspective, are the contents of the agreement in line with the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because often times the agreement is crafted outside the country and dumped on Nigerians, while looking at them we often discover that there are issues that will lead for it to be modified to either suit the Nigerian law or is totally expunged.
“The economic perspective, after signing the agreement, we now look at the price Nigeria company pays, is it commensurate with the technology it is consuming because we have access to various foreign companies’ technologies, where we feel the price is too high then we insist it has to come down.
“The third one and perhaps the most important perspective as far as Nigeria is concerned is the technical perspective. We must ensure that there are areas of capacity development. The essence of this is to reduce the consumption of foreign technologies. When we analyse our data we discover that more than 90 percent of the technologies that power the nation are foreign technologies.”
He further counselled that the education sector, where most research institutes are domiciled should be equipped with the right institutional framework to develop technological research findings into actual technologies that can be utilised for national development.
“If you look at the education sector like every other sector in the country they are not well funded, that notwithstanding, still technologies come out of these institutions but they remain at the research level. We must have an institutional framework that will move those technologies to the next level so that we can reduce the level of foreign technology consumption,” he added.
In his welcome address, the chairman of Digital Africa Global Consult Ltd. Dr Evans Woherem, said the 2017 edition of the conference would focus on how to prepare Africa for the 4IR, saying this revolution is evolving at an exponential, rather than a linear pace and is disrupting almost every industry in every country due to its impact on velocity, scope and systems.