On 23rd October 2019, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR approved the change of name of the Federal ministry of Communication Technology to the Federal ministry of Communications & Digital Economy in a bid to further expand on its mandate to capture the goals of digitalization of the Nigerian economy.
To be clear, and in the most basic terms, Digital Economy is defined as an economy that is based on Digital computing technologies.
In a Digital Economy, information technology (IT) simplifies daily tasks, turning them into simple, inexpensive processes that does not require significant human effort, at the same time contributing to improving the quality of the labor force; increasing innovation, improving the competitiveness of economic entities; increasing revenues and effective demand for goods and services; expanding international economic ties and attracting foreign capital; improving management efficiency through the growth of an integrated information space.
Digital technologies should be considered as an integral part of social and economic activities, creating the foundation to ensure normal conditions for improving the efficiency of business, government activities and daily life of the population.
They link together all sectors of the market economy, contributing to its stabilization and balanced development. The efficiency of their functioning is clearly manifested in the acceleration of the reproduction process, which inevitably leads to a reduction in costs, maximizing profits, growth of GDP and national wealth of the country.
The Digital Economy as an electronic control system can not only coordinate the actions of billions of people, but does it so in a way that people in most cases can make informed & smart choices without complicated calculations.
Kindly examine the following some components of Digital Economy:
This the application of information and communication technology (ICT) for delivering government services, exchange of information, communication transactions, integration of various stand-alone systems between government to citizen (G2C), government-to-business (G2B), government-to-government (G2G), government-to-employees (G2E) as well as back-office processes and interactions within the entire government framework.
This will enable the introduction of Innovative Technological Clusters (ITC) which helps in overcoming communication & information sharing gaps between government-government-entities and government-private-entities.
Just as seen in Hollywood movies where a person’s fingerprint or NIN (National Identification Number as with the case in Nigeria) can be used to pull out their birth / health records, educational background, criminal background etc., (please disregard the hasty typing ability of the guys operating the computers….as it is all for the fun of the movies)….The real point here is the ability of the gov’t to create technology clusters between health, security, finance, education, taxation etc.
With a lot of digital information available for decision makers in Government, it will therefore make Governance easy as it will enable smart decision making and make efficient planning possible; possible to know exactly how many school children there are – to be fed, or the number of out of school children, etc.
With the full implementation & adoption of digital computing technologies in governance, it will therefore be easier for the Government to operate at all levels. For instance different agencies of government such as NAFDAC, CAC, SMEDAN, CBN etc. have made considerable efforts in deploying web portals for citizens to enable application processes for different services easier.
Pursuant to the cashless policy mandate of the federal government, the banking sector began employing the use of information technology to expedite the flow -of funds. This includes the use of Automated Teller Machines (ATM), mobile banking applications, Internet banking and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) platforms.
However, after the relaxation of the COVID19 lockdown imposed by the Federal Government, on the 4th of May 2020, a huge number of bank customers was seen at the gates of different banks seeking entry to file complaints or carryout transactions.
This shows that although there’s a huge number of bank customers using digital means of filing complaints, E-banking etc., much work still needs to be done in expanding on the capacity of the Digital Channels in delivering customer satisfaction and creating more awareness to customers on the need to take advantage of the alternate banking channels available.
Electronic Commerce otherwise known as E-commerce is the activity of buying and selling of goods or services using with the use of the internet.
Nigeria's retail E-Commerce market harbors a high growth potential, as only a small fraction of overall retail spending currently is online. The country's population is large and growing, expected to become the world's third largest by 2050. With Internet penetration increasing, a growing share of consumers gain access to E-Commerce services.
This is the application of electronic technologies to provide and access educational materials outside the traditional / conventional classroom environment as well as the comprehensive collection and management of students and teachers data.
In Nigeria, there has always been the challenge of overcrowded lecture theatres, sex-for-grades scandals, bribe-for-grades scandals among others due to over dependence on student-teacher relationships and manual system of delivery of educational materials and grading of assessments.
In recent months, COVID-19 has taken over the world, and in a bid to curb the further spread which is mostly through person-to-person interactions, the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control issued some guidelines which includes, among others; Social / Physical distancing which involves maintaining at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people and avoiding crowded places and mass gatherings.
With adaptability being one of the characteristics of humans, it wouldn’t be surprising how the world has experienced (and still experiencing) a paradigm shift from the norms; with Africa and indeed Nigeria not left out.
One practical example of the paradigm shift experienced can be seen in the spike in virtual meetings and interviews using zoom, skype and other video conferencing apps most of which would have otherwise required the physical presence of the participants involved.
The emergence of the COVID19 pandemic has therefore forced the use of existing digital technologies, adoption of unexploited areas of Digital computing technologies and encourage the development and usage of new technological platforms.
CYBER SECURITY AWARENESS & DIGITAL POLICING
The advantages of the application of Information Technology cannot be overemphasized, however, there is continuous need for necessary precautionary measures to ensure the security of data and the prevention of Cybercrimes through effective digital policing and by delivering adequate Cyber security awareness to citizens.
Nigeria moved from a country with zero legislation on cyber security to a country with an extensive law with the enactment of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc.) Act ("the Act") in 2015.
It may also be recalled that on 25th of January 2019, the Federal Government through the National Information Technology (NITDA) issued the National Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) pursuant to its powers under the NITDA Act. The Regulations introduced a new data protection framework with novel compliance requirements for organizations that deals with the data of individuals. The objectives of the Regulations include, among other things, safe guarding the rights of natural persons to data privacy, preventing manipulation of personal data and fostering the safe conduct of transactions involving exchange of personal data. The Regulations also seek to enhance the competitiveness of Nigerian companies in international trade through the safeguards that are in line with global best practices.
Nigeria however, have not promoted a central robust online Fraud / Scam or Cybersecurity Incident reporting platforms where citizens can fill out detailed forms to send all reports for analysis, investigation and the creation of more awareness materials from new cases.
Please, kindly examine the following case studies of other countries with such robust platforms:
- Scamwatch Australia
- Scamwatch New Zealand
- National Cybersecurity Center (NCSC - UK
- Action Fraud – National Fraud & Cybercrime Reporting Center (UK)
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC – United States of America)
With the huge amount of data and transactions carried out on the internet, there is therefore an urgent need to need carryout extensive awareness campaigns across the country to enlighten the citizens on safety measures to be implemented.
I understand that Nigeria as a country does not have the underlying infrastructure of connected systems like a computerized power grid, traffic systems, Innovative Technological Clusters (ITCs) etc., which should be protected but as seen with the COVID19 Pandemic, we do not need to wait for a nationwide upsurge in Cybersecurity incidences, Cybercrime cases etc. before the necessary awareness should be carried out to citizens – as it is a known fact that over 90% of data breeches are caused by human error; Therefore the urgent need to commence a nationwide awareness on Cybersecurity and the prevention of Cybercrimes.