The Digital Age Is an Opportunity for Nigeria

The future will not be powered by things we are used to but by codes and technology, machines and data – and Nigeria will not be excluded from that future.

Communications and Digital Economy Minister, Isa Ali Pantami, / Photo credit: Wikipedia
Communications and Digital Economy Minister, Isa Ali Pantami, / Photo credit: Wikipedia

The age of digital is here, where distinguishing between what man and machine can do is blurred and enormous opportunities for prosperity is knocking.

Nigeria is a nation racing towards the bottom as a result of foolish social engineering problems.

Instead of harnessing resources to quickly transform into a nation that profits from its educated population, it is instead dealing with matters of the nomadic, literally.

As we grapple with banditry, terrorism and dirty, brutish politics, another opportunity slips by. But this one is a moment too big to miss.

In the shameful failure to manage our affairs properly, we must somehow find a way to deliver something critical to the next generation.

The acquisition of technological knowledge can put the nation quickly on the path of prosperity. It can save the young and the old.

It will rescue Nigeria.

Nigeria needs to compete and succeed in the digital age.

Everyone – policy makers, lawmakers, schools and parents – should understand the opportunity that is knocking and equip the new and future waves of workers with exactly what they need to thrive.

As a people, we can shorten the distance of travel to development, greatness and prosperity by doing just one thing: produce millions of software engineers and developers.

Software is the petroleum of the new generation. Any society that masters its production finds a mine for at least a century.

Parents can be a critical determinant of the economy of the future in which they must position their children to be leaders and explorers.

So, parents must learn one lesson really fast: successful education is no longer tied to traditional professions such as law, accounting, mass communication, engineering or medicine.

Many of what these professionals do today, machines are beginning to do better.

When young people show interest in technology, they must be allowed to follow their dreams. They will not only do well; they will do better.

In this digital era, those who master the art of programming, will create solutions that propel mankind into an age never before known.

Software engineering and development will flourish and those who create digital solutions will rule.

Technologies like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and Robotics are transforming the future of man.

Any society that gets on the train of knowledge will have the world in its pocket.

In the next phase of human development, every area of our lives is exposed to massive disruption.

Agriculture, banking, mass media, manufacturing, transportation, legal practice, medical practice, accounting, anything you can think of, will be done differently in the future.

Machines will be able to do much of what humans take pride in doing today, far more effectively and efficiently through machine learning, AI and robotics.

No one captured this transformation better than Mik Kersten, a respected Polish- Canadian computer specialist and thinker, who stated: “Those who master large-scale software delivery will define the economic landscape of the 21st Century.”

Increasing, man is dependent on software.

Considered that Uber, the humongous global taxi service, is just a software company that uses maps on mobile devices to move people around through paid volunteers.

The most valuable automobile company in the world today is not Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Ford, BMW, GM or Toyota.

It is Tesla.

Tesla is a software company that makes cars. Its cars have no engine. In its bonnet is as empty as the boot. While you drive, it updates its software, managing and optimising as it runs.

Tesla, Uber, Apple, Google and others are racing towards driverless cars.

Driverless cars mean you will not need two cars in one family, because the same car can drop a whole family off and pick them up at various places and schedule.

Unscrupulous officers of the FRSC, LASTMA and the Nigerian Police will no longer have clients to collect bribes from, at least on the road, because they will not be able to arrest a machine.
Their illegal business will be busted.

Just as Tesla is displacing the big car manufacturers, every major company is at a risk of becoming relics as new ways of doing things through software emerge.

Apple has become the largest watchmaker in the world within the last decade, rendering centuries of Swiss watch-making perfection obsolete.

Apple’s watch is a software, requiring a different kind of craftsmanship – coding. Traditional watch-makers like Fossil, Casio and Timex have had no choice but to digitally transform.

The watch-making and automobile sectors illustrate the kind of future that awaits those who fail to see into the digital.

The future will not be powered by things we are used to but by codes and technology, machines and data – and Nigeria will not be excluded from that future.

We can be consumers or creators; the choice is ours. It is in our interest to create and manage technology.

Seeing how Nigeria has mismanaged petroleum resources, the lesson should be learned that whatever we do not know how to manage will control us.

Successful and prosperous nations will be those that have mastered software engineering.

A software engineer is a computer science professional who applies engineering principles and their knowledge of programming to the design, development and release of computer or mobile software to solve human problems.

Software opens a huge door opportunity for young Nigerians.

First, software engineering is one of the highest paying jobs in the world, with an average salary in the six figures in the United States.

Secondly, it creates an ample opportunity for international mobility.

The United States has been opening doors to immigrant software engineers from India and other Asian countries since the 1990s under its H1 visa scheme. Besides, many can earn foreign currency while working from Nigeria.

Thirdly, the prospect for job retention in the software industry is one of the best. The growth of mobile technology, wireless Internet and digital transformation is fueling demand, while journalists, accountants, doctors and factory technicians are being replaced by robots and other machines.

Lastly, the training period for a developer is relatively short.

It could take anywhere from three to 12 months to be ready for employment as a developer and a university degree is all takes to be an engineer. We can produce software professionals faster than we can train tailors and bricklayers in some cases.

Young graduates roaming the Nigerian street in search of evaporating jobs can do better if there is a policy and program to get them on the information highway.

Global demand for software developers is expected to grow by 24 percent into 2026, higher than the average growth for all occupations, while the employment of developers is projected to grow 30 by per cent.

While working for oil companies and banks will continue to be profitable, success through those pathways will get narrower as the world moves towards technology.

Energy, banking, telecommunications and other well-paying economic sectors will also become fully dependent on software in order to grow.

They will probably need to employ more software engineers than other professionals in the near future.

BMW, the luxury car manufacturer, has indicated its future will heavily depend on software.

Its CEO, Klaus Froehlich, expects that in their future “more than half of its research and development staff will be software developers.”

This change that I am writing about is unfolding so rapidly that in a few years, backed by the full rollout of the 5G wireless technology, its effects could scale up rapidly.

Driverless cars and taxis are already in operation in some parts of the world, drones are being readied for goods delivery, while unmanned shops are becoming common.

Nigerian kids need to get on the bandwagon now in other to have an edge in a certain new world in which they must live. They have already shown they can acquire technological knowledge, although mostly in an unethical way through online theft and scamming.

Our kids can still get rich without being Hushpuppi, living well from learning and hard work through technology. They just need a new focus and help through public policy, mentoring and parental guidance.

The pace of acquiring coding and programming skills must intensify in other to be relevant in the future. The university curricula should begin to reflect the realities of the world that is emerging.

Churning out graduates who will then have to unlearn and relearn is bad planning. We should graduate those who are hitting the ground running.

Nigeria has missed four revolutions in the modern era – industrial, steam and railways, heavy engineering and oil and mass production. Here is another opportunity.

All the gold and diamond of this world will not be enough to compete with nations that solve human challenges with software.

As the world changes, only those who keep up will gather the wealth of nations.


Written by Tunde Chris Odediran

Tunde Chris Odediran studied and practiced journalism in Nigeria. He is now a Technical Communications and Information Technology professional in the United States.