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Ezekwesili Harps on Technology as Africa’s Lasting Solution to Problems

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Oby Ezekwesili, Public Policy Analyst and Senior Economic Advisor, has said that technology is the solution to problems facing Nigeria and Africa as she called for investment in infrastructure that would aid emergence of digital services in rural communities.

Ezekwesili divulged this at the weekly GageLive Instagram platform organised by Gage Awards on the theme, “Using Technology to Shape the Nigeria of The Future,” recently.

“What the digital world can offer citizens is limited. This is because it is mostly within the urban city. Beyond the urban city, the grade of the physical infrastructure – the digital infrastructure, the backbone is still not at the level of solidity, strength, performance and efficiency as should happen.”

Continuing, the BBOG co-founder noted: “Even today, when you and I are in this kind of a programme, we are not optimised because the quality of our connection is still fragile – very poor.”

She warned, however, that until Nigeria, Africa invest in the digital infrastructure that would facilitate their interconnection and their reach, “We will not be able to say that we are at a place of efficiency”.

According to the analyst, in terms of speed – a function of productivity, as long as technology and digital format are not giving us the level of speed that is a global approach of internet speed, then we are way below it.

Her words: “From the last number I checked, we were significantly more than 80 per cent below global speed in terms of internet. That is something to deal with.”

While responding to questions on the live programme, Ezekwesili highlighted that a lot of citizens were still in rural communities. And the rural environment does not make market scale for the private sector to offer digital service.

She proffered: “When there is a market failure, it is the government that must step in. So, rural infrastructure should support the kind of backbone that we need in order to provide digital content to the rural community.”

Noting that the rural communities are abode other than urban poor, she expressed that the real poverty is within the rural communities of Africa.

“We need to invest massively in the kind of infrastructure that would support the emergence of digital services in the rural communities of the continent.”

Again, she stressed on digital platforms that carry the content of what one wants to convey. “Look at digital platform for commerce, example, they are still in novelty on our continent. Now that we see what COVID-19 can do, hopefully what is going to happen is that we are going to realise that a lot of our lives will depend online”.

She, therefore, urged Africans to build – whether they are at macro or micro level platforms that enable us to convey messages and the things that are not so to print, adding that that would help enormously to expand the scope.

Sadly, she bemoaned the poor level of digital financial inclusion. “Digital financial services is something that is lacking. In the time of orthodox banking, it was difficult for banks to establish their branches all over the country.

“Even when they were mandated, many times they would set a goal for how many branches that needed to be set up. But the banks were always underperforming.

Speaking further, she added that in the same way, now that “We are going digital and trying to use technology to create financial inclusion, we still have barriers to that”

The economist, however, described one of the key barriers; forms of identification, as the major problem of Africa. “And technology is the solution to that problem of identity”.

For her, the unique identity that enables a person to become at par with the digital financial services is something that Africa would need to invest in. “And we have not yet invested in it as much as we should”.

She decried another sad part. “There is a vast body of public policy that is very necessary. Public policy is at the heart of showing readiness to migrate from one level of understanding of issues of development to a higher level of things”.

“Our public policy is trailing technology. It is way behind the curve of the rapid expansion of technology. So, you have a situation where people who are technophobes are the ones making policies around issues of technology.

To upgrade to a global standard, Ezekwesili advised: “We are going to have a problem. They don’t see how important it is to be in a hurry. We must be in a hurry. Our policies and laws have to reflect that”.

Not forgetting the many laudable series GAGE Awards has put up for the Nigerian youths, Ezekwesili commended the CEO of Gage Awards, Mr. Johnson Anorh.

GAGE Awards is an internet award conceptualised to reward excellence in digital application and online presence. It’s weekly InstagramLive show is part of the GAGE Awards plans of using its platform to shine the light on those who have used the digital space ingeniously.

In the words of the CEO, “These people who have used the digital space ingeniously share their story and get to inspire those looking to do great things on that space.”

“We have GageLive on Instagram once every week. But since the lockdown we have been having it more frequently to get to inspire those at home to do great things, since we now have time on our hands,” Anorh noted.


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Microsoft Moves into 5G Race with Azure Cloud for Telecom Operators

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Microsoft Corp unveiled a new cloud platform on Monday aimed at enabling telecom operators to build 5G networks faster, reduce costs and sell customised services to business clients.

After banning China’s Huawei from its telecom network, the U.S. government has been pushing big American companies such as Microsoft to get more involved with 5G – a technology which promises to enable everything from self-driving cars to remote surgery and more automated manufacturing.

The new platform will be on Azure, Microsoft’s flagship cloud computing business, and the company says it will reduce infrastructure costs, give flexibility to add services on demand and use artificial intelligence to automate operations.

Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president for Azure Networking, told Reuters that it could cut costs by 30%-40% in some cases.

The developer of Windows and Office software entered the 5G arena after its acquisition of cloud networking companies Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch earlier this year.

“The telco DNA was obtained through those acquisitions and we went from a small number of engineers in this space to literally hundreds of engineers,” said Khalidi. “On the other hand, the foundational pieces, including edge compute, we have had in a pipeline for many years.”

The company has already partnered with companies ranging from telecom operators such as Verizon VZ.N and AT&T T.N to network equipment firms such as Samsung 005930.KS and Mavenir to either use or sell the new platform to clients.

Microsoft’s move will increase competition for existing 5G service vendors like Nokia NOKIA.HE and Ericsson ERICb.ST, said CCS Insight analyst Nicholas McQuire.


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Interior Ministry Boosts Digitization Process with New ICT Projects

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Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior, over the weekend commissioned the e-Library, e-Law Library, CCTV Surveillance network services and other projects in his office in Abuja to digitize work processes and procedures in the Ministry.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Georgina Ekeoma Ehuriah, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola said that the projects were part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts at repositioning the Ministry for better performance in line with its mandate of providing internal security and citizenship integrity for Nigerians and foreigners alike.

According to him, the e-Library will avail officers the opportunity to access the right information, in the right form and time.

“The e-Library gives our legal and other officers 24/7 access to a wide range of online resources, which can be updated in real time and we believe this will enhance the quality of their work to the benefit of the Ministry”, he said.

The Minister further assured of government’s commitment to putting in place measures that will boost staff capacity and also ensure self-development, with a view to ensuring proper implementation of projects, policies and programmes that will improve the lives of Nigerians which would lead to economic transformation in line with the present Administration’s policy thrust.

Aregbesola emphasized that crime and criminality has become complex to handle, the world over, hence the need to deploy modern technology to fight it.

He therefore called on staff to see the projects as morale booster for self-development and urged them to continue to support the efforts of government towards improving the lives of its citizens.

Earlier, Lanre Adesuyi, the Chief Executive Officer, Havillah Merchants Limited, thanked the Minister for giving them the opportunity to provide workers with state of the art equipment for efficient service delivery.

On his own part, Mr. Mohammed Mustapha, the Managing Director, Aliph Technologies, called on government at all levels to see the deployment of modern technology as one of the best ways to tackle security challenges in the contemporary world.


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Heritage Bank, PWC, Deloitte Canvass Use of Tech to Tackle Fraud & Rescind Effects of Covid-19

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Heritage Bank Plc, Nigeria’s Most Innovative Banking Service provider has called on internal auditors of banks to adopt the various digital technologies to prevent fraud and annul the adverse impact of Covid-19 on the financial ecosystem.

Ifie Sekibo, managing director/CEO of Heritage Bank, speaking at the just concluded 47th Quarterly Meeting of the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria (ACAEBIN), disclosed that for improved banking operations and safer financial system for stakeholders, internal auditors must be dynamic and quick to adopt various digital measures.

Raising the alarming impact of fraudulent activities in the banking sector, Sekibo quoted PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PWC’s) Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2020, revealing that that the total cost of cybercrimes is worth an eye-watering $42 billion, which was cash taken straight off companies’ bottom line, whilst 13% of those who had experienced  fraud said they had lost $50 million-plus.

Sekibo, who spoke on the theme, “Elevating Internal Audit’s Role in the Face of Emerging Risks and Opportunities” organised virtually and hosted by the Heritage Bank, urged, “While it was sufficient for yesterday’s auditor to understand regular and routine banking practices such as credit, treasury, etc in his traditional assurance role, for him to be relevant in harnessing the opportunities in today’s business world, he must become versed in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data analytics, fraud management, regulatory pronouncements, forensics etc and having equipped himself, present balanced, objective audit reports to Executive Management while striking the right balance between the assurance and consulting responsibilities.”

In her keynote address, titled, “Elevating Internal Audit Role In The Face Of Emerging Risks and Opportunities,” Ibukun Beecroft, Partner Risk Advisory at Deloitte, noted that the banking industry in Nigeria today has adopted various digital measures to keep the business running and delivering services to the customers but there was need for Internal Audit (IA) positioned to provide the required assurance and consulting services in the face of the changes and attendant risk, particularly increased cyber-risks.

Quoting 2018 Financial Stability Report by the Central Bank of Nigeria, she stated that Banks recorded 25,029 confirmed cases of fraud and this resulted in a loss of N2.21 billion. More than 90% of fraud cases in 2018 were perpetrated via technologically driven channels.

“As Internal Auditors, the knowledge of technology would enable us identify gaps in our core banking applications and other applications and provide relevant recommendations to eliminating loopholes that may serve as an avenue for potential fraud.

She, however, advised auditors on the need to focus on advanced technologies and risk management operations as reflected around the Three Lines of Defense (3LOD) churned out by the Institute of Internal Auditors, which create opportunities for IA and its future role.

Beecroft warned that the ever-changing landscape and evolving risks in the banking industry could render the current internal audit plan obsolete.

According to her, internal auditors should reprioritise the audit plan as soon as possible to provide assurance over the most consequential risks while being cognisant of the impact on operations.

“To take advantage of these changes and disruptions, auditors need to rethink their role by adapting to and embracing change, enabling the IA function to become more agile, nimble, and forward-looking, thus driving change through the 3LOD,” Beecroft stated.

Yetunde Oladeji, director Internal Audit Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers Limited (PWC), who spoke on the theme, “Elevating IA’s role to meet today’s emerging risks,” advised that the banking sector should be dynamic, prioritse digitization and flexibible workforce strategies as these would determine its ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances to survive and thrive.


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