- Africa needs to invest in infrastructure that would support emergence of digital services in rural communities
Public Policy Analyst and Senior Economic Advisor, Oby Ezekwesili, has said that technology is the solution to problems facing Nigeria and Africa as she called for investment in infrastructure that would aid emergence of digital services in rural communities.
Ezekwesili divulged this at the weekly GageLive Instagram platform organised by Gage Awards on the theme, “Using Technology to Shape the Nigeria of The Future, ” recently.
“What the digital world can offer citizens is limited. This is because it is mostly within the urban city. Beyond the urban city, the grade of the physical infrastructure – the digital infrastructure, the backbone is still not at the level of solidity, strength, performance and efficiency as should happen.”
Continuing, the BBOG co-founder noted: “Even today, when you and I are in this kind of a programme, we are not optimised because the quality of our connection is still fragile – very poor.”
She warned, however, that until Nigeria, Africa invest in the digital infrastructure that would facilitate their interconnection and their reach, “We will not be able to say that we are at a place of efficiency”.
According to the analyst, in terms of speed – a function of productivity, as long as technology and digital format are not giving us the level of speed that is a global approach of internet speed, then we are way below it.
Her words: “From the last number I checked, we were significantly more than 80 per cent below global speed in terms of internet. That is something to deal with.”
While responding to questions on the live programme, Ezekwesili highlighted that a lot of citizens were still in rural communities. And the rural environment does not make market scale for the private sector to offer digital service.
She proffered: “When there is a market failure, it is the government that must step in. So, rural infrastructure should support the kind of backbone that we need in order to provide digital content to the rural community.”
Noting that the rural communities are abode other than urban poor, she expressed that the real poverty is within the rural communities of Africa.
“We need to invest massively in the kind of infrastructure that would support the emergence of digital services in the rural communities of the continent.”
Again, she stressed on digital platforms that carry the content of what one wants to convey. “Look at digital platform for commerce, example, they are still in novelty on our continent. Now that we see what COVID-19 can do, hopefully what is going to happen is that we are going to realise that a lot of our lives will depend online”.
She, therefore, urged Africans to build – whether they are at macro or micro level platforms that enable us to convey messages and the things that are not so to print, adding that that would help enormously to expand the scope.
Sadly, she bemoaned the poor level of digital financial inclusion. “Digital financial services is something that is lacking. In the time of orthodox banking, it was difficult for banks to establish their branches all over the country.
“Even when they were mandated, many times they would set a goal for how many branches that needed to be set up. But the banks were always underperforming.
Speaking further, she added that in the same way, now that “We are going digital and trying to use technology to create financial inclusion, we still have barriers to that”
The economist, however, described one of the key barriers; forms of identification, as the major problem of Africa. “And technology is the solution to that problem of identity”.
For her, the unique identity that enables a person to become at par with the digital financial services is something that Africa would need to invest in. “And we have not yet invested in it as much as we should”.
She decried another sad part. “There is a vast body of public policy that is very necessary. Public policy is at the heart of showing readiness to migrate from one level of understanding of issues of development to a higher level of things”.
“Our public policy is trailing technology. It is way behind the curve of the rapid expansion of technology. So, you have a situation where people who are technophobes are the ones making policies around issues of technology.
To upgrade to a global standard, Ezekwesili advised: “We are going to have a problem. They don’t see how important it is to be in a hurry. We must be in a hurry. Our policies and laws have to reflect that”.
Not forgetting the many laudable series GAGE Awards has put up for the Nigerian youths, Ezekwesili commended the CEO of Gage Awards, Mr. Johnson Anorh.
GAGE Awards is an internet award conceptualised to reward excellence in digital application and online presence. It’s weekly InstagramLive show is part of the GAGE Awards plans of using its platform to shine the light on those who have used the digital space ingeniously.
In the words of the CEO, “These people who have used the digital space ingeniously share their story and get to inspire those looking to do great things on that space.”
“We have GageLive on Instagram once every week. But since the lockdown we have been having it more frequently to get to inspire those at home to do great things, since we now have time on our hands,” Anorh noted.