Minister of Communications & Digital Economy
In a new year, everyone expects everything to be different. This may not always be the case. One thing is clear, however- while 2019 may have passed, it would cast a shadow over 2020.
The Information & Communications Technology (ICT) sector in Nigeria remains perhaps, the most vibrant sector in the economy. Information from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveals that the contribution of ICT to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) surpassed that of oil and gas in the second quarter of 2019. The sector contributed 13.85 per cent to total nominal GDP which is much higher than the 11.22 per cent contributed in the same period in 2018.
Available information indicates that it would again do better in 2020.
I do not have a crystal ball but here are five things that, I like to think, would shape the Nigerian ICT space in 2020:
- Ministerial Interventions
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami has on the resumption of office shown that it would not be business as usual in the ICT space. He quickly demonstrated an unprecedented interest in the welfare of the Nigerian telecoms consumer.
He singlehandedly cancelled the proposed USSD charge, kicked against the rising data cost, pushed for the elimination of illegal deductions and abolition of automatic activation of voicemail services. These earned him plenty of accolades from a wide segment of stakeholders and some knocks from interest groups. If history is anything to go by, he will continue on this tangent.
In 2020, he would continue to push for a massive reduction in data cost, demand lower call charges and insist that the telecom operators quashed compulsory voicemail services.
The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) is likely to struggle to remain neutral in the light of the minister’s action. Its efforts to remain neutral will likely backfire. The Minister would put the Commission on the spot time and again this year.
This sort of ministerial intervention is not peculiar to Nigeria. In South Africa, there are calls for lower data cost. Two of Africa’s largest two mobile operators, Vodacom and MTN, have been ordered by the Competition Commission in South Africa to cut their data prices in their home country by a third to half or face prosecution.
The commission called the current data pricing ‘biased against the poor’. Also, the European Union has opened preliminary investigations into Google and Facebook’s data practices, assessing whether the two U.S. tech firms are complying with its rules in the region.
- Lower Data Cost
The call for lower data cost is getting louder. I doubt if the telecoms firms can hide from this much longer. The pressure from the consumers and now the Minister would not only remain but would likely escalate in 2020. The question is not if but when the operators will reduce the cost of data significantly.
When a key player in the telecoms sector made the assertion that ‘data is life’, it was spot on. Although, one wonders if it realised how right it is. That statement is potent – Data is indeed life. The range of things that data enables the average person to do are humongous: think – Google services including search, maps and courses, free training programmes, connection on social media and business possibilities.
The calls for lower Data Cost will persist, how the operators will react is anyone’s guess.
Let the price come down.
- 5G et Al
News reports indicate that with the trial launch in 2019 by MTN Nigeria, Nigeria has emerged as only one of the few African countries that have committed to the new mobile technology – 5G. This is the fifth-generation networks.
Nigeria hopes to start rolling out 5G in select cities in 2020. It is almost natural, therefore, to expect other operators to begin to scramble to get their names on the 5G scene – never mind that 4G is still largely under-utilised.
According to Evan Kirstel, Social Media Business Strategist (Advisor) at NameUCStrategies.com, “5G networks will be vital for supporting the growing demand for mobile. But 5G’s unparalleled data capacity, speed and low latency will also help to enable a new breed of smart cities applications. The 5G-based infrastructure is set to offer a wide range of opportunities…”
Undoubtedly, 5G will demand and indeed attract new investments, create jobs and jump-start innovation in several industries. Long live 5G!
- Cloud Computing, Big Data and AI
Cloud computing is a term used with increasing frequency in the past few years. Essentially, it is a technology that allows a business to store its servers and data off-site in secure data centres which can then be accessed by users through the Internet. This adaptation has spread across most industries and accountancy is no exception.
Demand for anytime and anywhere access to information is the biggest driver of cloud computing. Today in Nigeria, thankfully, cloud computing is now more than a buzzword. It is perhaps the fastest growing technology services today.
Among other factors, it is considered cost-effective.
According to Bart McDonough, CEO, Agio, “rapid adoption of cloud computing will continue to be fueled by the understanding of “ease of use and scalability.”
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data are following closely. Artificial intelligence is described as the technology that allows computers to do things that were once only the domain of humans. For example, computers have always been able to calculate. With AI, they can learn and draw conclusions.
To work, AI needs data. It consumes data in order to learn. Big data refers to the massive sets of data that are now available for this purpose. These sets of data can be analyzed by machines. This can reveal patterns and trends, and facilitate making future predictions.
AI and Big Data are already driving the provision of new and innovative services, particularly in the financial sector.
- Business on Social Media
Social media will fully emerge as the go-to platform for interaction, connection and transaction with customers. This year, plenty of small businesses will begin to explore and exploit opportunities in the social media space. Expectedly, the volume of transactions will hit new highs.
Selling on social media is not just a fad. It is here to stay.
It would continue to thrive because it offers convenience and prospective buyers have the opportunity to read feedback from others who may have bought.
The business of social media and on social media is a true win-win.
The best part is that efforts to regulate social media will continue to fail
Extra: Capacity building and training in ICT would remain big, sales of smartphone accessories would continue to rise and new businesses (StartUps) would spring up across the county in 2020.
Elvis Eromosele, a Corporate Communication professional and public affairs analyst lives in Lagos.