Nigeria: 2020 Tech Trends And Leaders

One thing is certain; Nigeria’s drive for digital economy in 2020 will gather speed. For Africa’s largest economy of some 200 million people, the official renaming of the ministry of communication to Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy was one of the hallmarks in setting the tone of where Nigeria wants to head this decade.

As IDC predicted, the rise of the digital economywill be underscored by transformation of both enterprises and nation-states. The focus of its major technology predictions for the decade beginning 2020 ison“the rise of the digital economy. Quoting IDC,Gil Press, Managing Partner at gPress, a marketing, publishing, research and education consultancy, affirmed that “by 2023, over half (52%) of global GDP will be accounted for by digitally transformed enterprises. This digital tipping point heralds the emergence of a new enterprise species, the digital-first enterprise.

“To drive digital supremacy, an enterprise must devote half of its budget to supporting digital innovation, establishing a large-scale, high-performing, digital innovation factories and a third-party ecosystem to produce digital products and provide fee-based wholesale digital services to other enterprise. The latter will be an entire new enterprise competency, similar to the management of Amazon’s platform for third-party sellers. IT resources will continue their migration to the cloud (and multi-clouds) and there will be heavy investment in automation and orchestration systems, using artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
That is part of the global picture. In Nigeria, we analysed the projections and concerns of the major players to take a peep into how the Nigeria tech sector will unfold in 2020 in terms of policies and regulations; disruptions, emerging technologies and new services.

Digital economy will be both a mantra and a mission

Take it! There will be pursuit of value around the implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy by the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy under Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami. the ministry will be assertive to gain traction on eight pillars of the digital economy strategy: Developmental Regulation; Digital Literacy and Skills Development; Service Infrastructure; Solid Infrastructure; Digital Services Promotion and Development; Soft Infrastructure; Digital Societies and Emerging Technologies and lastly Indigenous Content Development.

Pursuit of Right environment for digital economy

Pantami’s goal is to energize the 2030 Digital Nigeria Agenda. He is unlikely to relent on this. Telecom operators will find his ministry both as an ally and a difficult partner. Industry umbrellas such as the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) and the Association of Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ATCON) will finally get some respite from a minister that would ensure nationwide compliance with the agreeable terms on burning issues such as right of way (RoW) levies and multiple taxations. Pantami has indicated he will not shy away from tackling the states and end decades of lawlessly levying telecom operators across Nigeria’s 36 states. 
The minister has said his ministry was working to ensure the right environment for all stakeholders in terms of policy and legal frameworks, digital skill building and inter-government collaborations.

Data is king – the new currency

You have not heard of Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) 2019? Get down to it. Everyone is a data subject protected by the NDPR. NITDA projects that this decade, data business and revenues will surpass oil business and revenues as no industry will operate without the use of data. Non- compliance to the NDPR will incur the wrath of a more assertive NITDA and there will increasingly be penalty to pay as NITDA enforces the NDPR which goals include:
  • to safeguard the rights of natural persons to data privacy;
  • to foster safe conduct for transactions involving the exchange of Personal Data;
  • to prevent manipulation of Personal Data; and
  • to ensure that Nigerian businesses remain competitive in international trade through the safe-guards afforded by a sound data protection regulation.

The regulation applies to all storage and processing of personal data conducted in respect of Nigerian citizens and residents. NITDA has so far licenced more than 25 Data Protection Compliance Organisations (DPCOs). It plans to license more harness Nigeria’s data goldmines.

Data and connectivity pricing will be an issue – ministry will gun for lower tariff

In 20202, ATCON and ALTON will have to reach an agreeable point with the ministry and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on what is the best floor price for data. For Pantami’s Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, low price of data will help to increase patronage which is necessary to drive a more functional digital economy. 

For Gbenga Adebayo who leads ALTON and Olusola Teniola who leads ATCON, government needs to address the issues of RoW, multiple taxations, high FOREX rates, frequent vandalisation of telecom equipment all of which have connived to ensure that telecom services including data reach the consumer at costly rates. While the ministry agrees some the arguments are valid. It also counters that it is resolving many of the challenges and believe the large size of the market effectively mitigates some of the challenges in a way that makes lower data tariffs realistic. Data price expectedly should go down in 2020.

Emerging technologies and disruptors

Globally, here’s how IDC predicts the scenario.  By 2023, over 50% of all ICT spending will be directly for digital transformation and innovation (up from 27% in 2018), growing at 17% CAGR (vs. -3.5% for the rest of ICT). By 2025, nearly two-thirds of enterprises will be prolific software producers with code deployed daily, over 90% of new apps cloud native, 80% of code externally sourced and 1.6 times more developers. By 2023, over 500 million digital apps and services will be developed and deployed using cloud-native approaches, most of those targeted at industry-specific digital transformation use cases. By 2025, at least 90% of new enterprise apps will embed AI; by 2024, over 50% of user interface interactions will use AI-enabled computer vision, speech, natural language processing and AR/VR.

Where do all these leave you in Nigeria? There will be industry apps explosion and AI will begin to dominate. We are not likely to be at forefront of experiencing these impacts. But we will see AI take over much of the service industry particularly the banks and other financial services providers. Public sector will definitely much enterprise tools, and organisations like the Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS) will, even if sluggishly, begin to cloud towards cloud-enabled services. Cameras with full AI options could begin to become ubiquitous in some urban centres as security goes more local in a way that allows other state actors to deploy tech-aided security.

IoT will be more pervasive as technological disruptor. You will see IoT connecting everything: smart homes, connected wearables and connected healthcare facilities. “Gartner forecasts that there will be 5.8 billion enterprise and automotive IoT endpoints in 2020, a 21% increase on 2019. The largest applications will be smart metering (1.17 billion devices), building security and surveillance (1.09 billion devices). Building automation, driven by connected lighting devices, will be the fastest growing segment (up 42% to 440 million devices), followed by automotive and healthcare, which are forecast to grow 31% and 29% in 2020, respectively.”

Expect the drones to become a pervasive part of service delivery. NCC has already opened the conversation to free the frequency for which low flying unmanned crafts like drones could operate.

Security will remain a deterring factor to locating business   

Security was a major challenge in 2019. To quote Patrick Ede of Lagos based PPC: “for the whole country and businesses, the cost of security in some regions/states was so high that it frightens investors and businesses. Issues like kidnapping, robbery and vandalism were at all-time high in some areas. There are areas you can’t go to, there are things you can’t do in some areas. So you consider the security cost, the cost of going there and setting up business is too expensive so people concentrate their businesses in areas that have relative peace and security. You consider the cost of securing the people who will work there, securing the people who will deliver the service and securing the products. So there is danger everywhere.  This hindered a lot of plans but the government is working to reduce the security threats. Even telecom sector face the same issues when planning in increase telecom penetration and broadband penetration.

Government has to drive security with seriousness, there is no need politicizing it, security is for everybody including the politicians themselves. If you look at the Nigerian chart on security we have very few green areas. So how do we create employment in an insecure place with so much banditry? Banditry should be destroyed completely.”

Fakes and deepfakes

Fake news will reign but most importantly, deepfakes will gain traction like never before. “Deepfakes, basically a combination of “deep learning” and “fake” video, use relatively easily-accessible AI to mislead their audiences by showing individuals doing or saying things they haven’t. These hoaxes are increasingly being used for fraud. 

Startup community and new actors

You have seen private sector and federal agencies lead the innovation drive. Expect to see new actors particularly local councils make a go to invest in startups and innovation hubs. In 2019, an unlikely actor entered this fray. Quan’ Pan Local Government in Plateau State launched its innovation hub to drive new skills in its teeming youth.

States will also take the bait to set up ICT regulatory agencies fully backed up by an Act of Parliament as has been the case in Plateau State. Two states are already the options: Benue State and Oyo State. 

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