OPINION ICT As Driver Of Nigeria’s Economic Growth
Experts in the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector acknowledge that rapid development in the sector in 2018 has created job opportunities and contributed immensely to the growth of the Nigerian economy. Latest trends show that the ICT sector is gradually taking the place of oil as a major contributor to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The second quarter of 2018 GDP report obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that the ICT sector emerged as one of the key performers of the economy during the quarter under review. According to the NBS, the ICT sector recorded 11.81per cent growth, while the oil sector contributed 8.55 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP in the second quarter of 2018, down from 9.61 per cent in the preceding quarter. The statistics is a pointer to the promising potential of the ICT sector in taking the place of oil as the lubricant of the country’s economy. Some experts explained that the ICT sector has taken the place of oil in the area of job creation. Mr Samuel Atiku, Head of Research, BudgiT, said rapid development in ICT in Nigeria has provided enormous job opportunities and contributed meaningfully to national development. Atiku pointed out that the ICT industry has immensely increased Nigeria’s GDP. According to him, the ICT sector in Nigeria has in recent times provided more employment opportunities than the country’s oil and gas sector. He called on the federal government to adequately exploit the potential of ICT to develop the youth and create more employment. Atiku suggests that government can include youth-driven, ICT-based programmes in its economic diversification agenda. “In Nigeria, about 75 per cent of the population is below the age of 40. “It is not out of place for the government to have an agenda to train about 10 million youths to become software developers within two years. “We are yet to take full advantage of the possibilities of an ICT-driven education in Nigeria. “In the U.S., for instance, there is a labour plan to train about three million people to become software developers.’’ Atiku explained that the ICT sector cut into education, publishing, broadcasting, newspaper production and others. He advised that more infrastructure should be put in place to increase ICT’s contribution to the country’s GDP. According to Atiku, infrastructure in the ICT sector at the moment is fragmented. He pointed out that universities are not teaching technology adequately and advises that the federal government’s diversification agenda should be approached from the education perspective. “According to research, the universality of ICT has made it an indispensable medium for transacting every aspect of human and material resources in the world. “This trend of development has provided significant changes in the lives of thousands of youths in the developing world,’’ Atiku said. Mr Lawal Aribidesi, a Risk Services Manager at Visa Nigeria, explained that the emergence of the ICT sector has brought about the creation of new companies, which in turn provided more job opportunities for Nigerians. According to him, in some other countries around the world, ICT is a major driver of economic growth. He urged the government to tap into the ICT sector to boost the economy of the country. Mr Dayo Ayeni, Chief Innovation Officer, BusinessPlus, said ICT is not only one of the fastest growing industries directly creating millions of jobs but also an important enabler of innovation and development. He pointed out that the ICT sector has also helped companies to streamline business processes and improve efficiency. Ayeni said it is difficult and maybe even impossible to imagine future learning environments that will not be supported one way or the other by ICT. Chairman, Conferences Committee, Nigeria Computer Society, Mr Jide Awe, also noted that the ICT sector has contributed significantly to the country’s GDP. Awe said many employment opportunities have been created through innovation in the ICT sector. He explained that a lot of transactions have been made seamless through the use of ICT. “In the financial sector, the systems of payments are more efficient; money transfer can be done online within the comfort of your home. “One cannot ignore the improvements in infrastructure because, now, we have internet access which has enabled creation of applications such as financial and tech apps. “The telecom sector, especially, has created millions of jobs for our youths,’’ he said. Awe also mentions that ICT cut across governance, financial system, educational, agriculture and more. “ICT is becoming a norm. This is evident in countries such as Singapore, Japan, China and India, where ICT is making tremendous impact,’’ he said. Awe and other experts in the ICT sector, call for a more conducive environment for local ICT production. Right now, most ICT contributions in the country are dependent on foreign ideas. The government needs to create an environment for more local ICT production in 2019 in order to record more giant economic strides.