Covenant News

The informality of our economy can change transformatively through digital transformation - Oby Ezekwesili

The Senior Economic Adviser, Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative (AEDPI) and Chairperson, School of Politics, Policy and Governance, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, has posited that the informality of Nigeria's economy can change transformatively through digital transformation.

She made this statement while making her presentation as the Keynote Speaker, at the recently concluded 8th Covenant University Conference on e-Business and e-Government in Nigeria (CUCEEN 2021), with the theme, 'Digital Transformation in Government and Business for Post-COVID Recovery.'

According to Dr. Ezekwesili, the structural change necessary to move Nigeria from low-level productivity and competitiveness to higher economic growth is possible through digital transformation. She maintained that any serious African country should not be talking about post-COVID-19 recovery; we really should be talking about re-imaging our world because already before the pandemic, we were trailing behind the world in all socio-economic mergers of prosperity.

"Hence, this destructive pandemic in the wake of the emergence of a world that has to plan with the problem of climate change and disruptive technology in mind, knowing that security matters have become a part of the fragilities of our society, hence the need to be more focused on re-imaging our world than any other country," she stated

She specified that as of January 2021, data reports show that Nigeria has a population of 208.8 million people. About 104.4 million of them are internet users, meaning 50% out of 93.3% access the internet via mobile phones. Between 2020-2021 19 million- 22% of internet users came on stream. The infrastructure that makes digital transformation possible has everything to do with the backbone, the physical components and the software that enables access.

"If we remember that we only came thus far on our continent to having improvement as far as telecommunication and ICT are concerned because our continent dared to embrace market reforms of the telecom sector, then it presents the opportunity for us to recognise that benefits can be derived from structural reforms," she added

Ezekwesili pointed out that Digital Transformation cannot be the preserve of those in the urban areas of our continent. She said already the informality of the continent means that low productivity would hold us down to levels of poverty where data shows that by the year 2030, 90% of the world's extremely poor people would be in Africa. "This is unacceptable in the 21st century with all the powers that technology offers us as a continent with Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, Big-data and algorithm etc."

According to her, the youths, women and technology are the game-changers in the race of digital transformation.

Making his remarks at the event, the Vice-Chancellor, Covenant University, Professor Abiodun H. Adebayo, represented by the Director, Vice-Chancellor's Office, Dr. Adewale O. Osibanjo, welcomed all the guests, speakers, facilitators, and participants to the annual conference, which he said, was established to discuss the multidimensional issues relating to effective utilisation of digital technology for good governance, business, civic engagement and participation, in the context of emerging democracies.

The Vice-Chancellor noted that the coronavirus (COVID‐19) crisis may have increased impetus to embrace the reforms needed to ensure the benefits of the digital transformation for everyone. He stated that when the COVID-19 pandemic ensued, considerable economic governance moved online, fast-tracking a digital transformation that has been ongoing for years. Schools, he said, migrated online; teleworking became the new order, and several businesses adopted digital business models to maintain operations.

He stated that the digital revolution had activated transformations in organisations and markets worldwide; while digital advances create new goods and services and can enable efficiencies in the public sector and firms. The surge in digitally-enabled economic and social activity occasioned by COVID-19, he said, will possibly continue to be high in business activities for which the pandemic has acted as a catalyst, including telework, e-commerce, e-health, and e-payments.

Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Chair, CUCEEN 2021 Organising Committee, Dr. Ugochukwu Abasilim, appreciated the guests and all participants at the event. He stated that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Wuhan, China, changed how individuals and organisations attended to their day-to-day activities.

He said that Nigeria is not exempted because the virus was identified in late February 27th 2020, which made the government and businesses look for solutions to keep afloat during and after the lockdowns and other measures imposed to contain the virus's rapid spread.

Not only that, he explained that public and corporate organisations all across the world had to design ways to ensure that their operations remained operational with minimal disruptions; as a result, most organisations used cutting-edge technology to tackle obstacles and withstand the pandemic's wave, while also ensuring that contacting their clients remained a high priority even as the pandemic progressed.

Consequently, he posited that digital technologies like big data and real-time analytics, cloud technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning, augmented reality, internet of things, API based integration and robotics process automation provided some solutions and enabled organisations to navigate the pandemic's effects, particularly where physical contact with others is extensive.

The event featured presentations from a number of stakeholders and participants.

Other dignitaries at the event included the Director, Special Projects, Lagos State Pension Commission, Mr. Yusuf Babatunde Olujobi; the Chairman, Ogun State Local Government Service Commission, Ms. O. O. Onabanjo.

Also at the event were the Chaplain, Covenant University, Pastor Victor Hill; Deputy Director, Centre for E-business and E-government Research, Dr Samuel Oni.



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