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Nigeria will benefit from data innovation says IBM

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Accurate data and information management is the backbone of any reform programme

The Nigerian government’s ongoing efforts to reform its business environment, revamp and harmonize its data management capabilities with regards to public administration of the nation’s human and material resources has been commended as a step in the right direction by IBM’s Country General Manager, Mr. Dipo Faulkner.

Faulkner joins other technocrats and private sector leaders celebrate Nigeria’s 145th position on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report for 2018.

“Accurate data and information management is the backbone of any reform programme,” Faulkner said, making the point that technology utilization will continue to drive improvements in the business and investment climate.

Nigeria moved up 24 points from the 169th position on the 2017 ranking. According to the World Bank, Nigeria alongside El Salvador, India, Malawi, Brunei Darussalam, Kosovo, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Zambia and Djibouti are the top 10 improved countries worldwide, after carrying out numerous reforms to improve their business environments.

“These rankings reflect that the country is making appreciable progress on its ease of doing business credentials, nevertheless, we desperately need to move towards becoming a society driven by data and other advanced technologies like cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT),” Faulkner said.

“Data is increasingly becoming the world’s new natural resource and this ‘big data’ phenomenon has begun to change everything. Right now, we have over one trillion connected objects and devices on the planet generating data. Data is driving the concepts and strategies behind the Internet of Things (IoT) which is bound to affect all industries. It is important for companies and government institutions in Nigeria to know that the world is now moving into a new era of the cloud and cognitive computing environment, driven by data,” Faulkner said.

“Government’s recent pronouncements in this regard is a step in the right direction, and one which all agencies of government should take as a clarion call to invest in modern business management tools and technology,” Faulkner opined, as he observed that there was no better time than now, as the economy was recovering from a recession, for increased private and public-sector investments in technology.

Technology industry analysts observe that data mining and e-governance efforts in Nigeria, one of Africa’s largest economies by GDP, have at best been a debacle.

As one of the largest employers of labour, government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) generate a significant portion of Nigeria’s data traffic. Banks have disparately collected Know-Your-Customer (KYC) and bio-metric information of their customers for years.

Government-owned enterprises also collect pretty much the same data for a plethora of reasons. This has resulted in the proliferation of biometric-based identity systems in the country, with banks, telecom operators, the police and immigration services collecting pretty much the same citizens information and data.

Business and Technology industry analysts agree that this scenario needs to be fixed if Nigeria is to fully tap into the many benefits of the global big data economy. Data is a key ingredient for innovation, they emphasized.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has recently instructed relevant government agencies to fix the nation’s “data management” syndrome.

He has set up a data harmonization programme to ensure that all MDAs align their existing infrastructure as data collection agents to the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), which manages the nation’s National Identity Database (NIDB).

The plan to integrate public sector -owned databases into the NIDB will begin with the nationwide Bank Verification Number (BVN) scheme, managed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); the Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card registration exercise of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC); the driver’s licence scheme by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the National Identity card scheme by NIMC.

“Apart from being unwieldy, the cost of operating multiple discordant databases and infrastructure is untenable and not security smart,” said Acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mrs Habiba Lawal, recently in Abuja while inaugurating the Governing Board of the NIMC.

“As a nation, we must act speedily to revamp and replace manual, paper-based administrative systems and processes with computerized systems. This is a clarion call for a collaborative mindset and partnership between our public and private sector firms,” Faulkner says. “We must not only harmonize our efforts to drive up efficiency levels, we must also ensure that technology is at the core of our efforts to innovate.”