Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo warns that the nation’s reliance on oil as a means of sustenance will soon be over with the development of technology. Osinbajo spoke today at the E-Nigeria summit, organised by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) with the theme “leveraging i.T. Innovation for economic diversification”. It is my pleasure to be with you today at this 9th edition of the e-Nigeria summit. I don’t think there is any subject of greater importance in Nigeria today than the theme of this summit which is Leveraging IT Innovation for Economic Diversification. The Director General of NITDA, Mr Musa Ali Ibrahim and his team truly deserved to be commended for this excellent and innovative idea. Their choice of subject and task that they’ve set for themselves are entirely spot on.
Every once in several centuries comes an innovation that completely redefines every aspect of human life and experience. The printing press for example is described as the turning point at which knowledge began freely replicating, and quickly assumed a life of its own. The invention of the telegraph was so revolutionary that a notable commentator said that before it “information was moving only as quickly as a man on a horseback.”
Electricity is yet another innovation that has completely transformed everything.The internal combustion engine. There is so much talk about how that transformed all that there is to know about mechanical devices, the automobiles and all of that. But the invention of the innovation of Information Technology has certainly changed everything, we have a new world paradigm and this is why it is that, whether we like it or not, there is a new reality, the virtual world, a new world in every sense. The implications are varied and profound.
They compel diversification and the creation of new opportunities in practically every aspect of human endeavour. To put it differently, digital technology has created a situation where whether we like it or not diversification will be forced upon us. Our dependence on oil for example, simply cannot continue whether we like it or not. As the years go by, oil is becoming less and less important. Cars are some of the largest users of petrol. But technology is changing all of that and if you look at what is happening today, the birth of the electric car, with all what have gone into the technology, just shows us that, whether we like it or not, we may not be depending on oil for much longer.
Last year, Electric Vehicles or EVs as they are called grew by 60%. Japan has more electric car charge points than petrol stations. Both Japan and China are aggressively investing and encouraging the use of Electric cars and both offer subsidies to buyers of Electric cars. Fairly conservative analysis indicate that by 2040, long-range electric cars will cost less than $22,000, according to the projections and thirty-five percent of new cars worldwide will be electric cars. As the years go by, oil is becoming less and less important. Cars are some of the largest users of petrol. But technology is changing all of that and if you look at what is happening today, the birth of the electric car, with all what have gone into the technology, just shows us that, whether we like it or not, we may not be depending on oil for much longer. So the most frightening implication for us who are oil producing countries is that there will be far less oil consumption especially from the Asian countries, who today, are our major oil markets.
Bloomberg estimates that electric vehicles could displace oil demand of 2 million barrels a day as early as 2023. Now, that would be equivalent to what created the glut of oil, to what triggered the 2014 oil crisis. How about self-driving cars? Technology can now produce self-driving cars; Toyota, Mercedes for example. And all of those are very quickly expanding in operation, there are now self-parking, and of course cruise control. Google, by the way, is one of the most aggressive innovators in the self-driving car category. The company has in fact indicated that the driverless car technology in development within its Google X research lab is from two to five years from being ready for widespread use.
Chris Urmson, the Google executive who was in charge of the project, discussed the imminent possibility of autonomous vehicles patrolling neighborhoods to pick up and drop off passengers. Clearly, whether we like it or not technology is forcing diversification, as innovation opens up new vistas, new business opportunities and greater access to benefits that were once exclusive. In medicine for example, some of the most incredible innovations and futuristic ideas are already happening.
If you look at what digital technology has done to accelerate medical advances in diagnosis, treatment, and health preservation, from electronic aspirin for people suffering from migraines or other chronic head or facial pains (Autonomic Technologies), to needle free diabetic injections, it is clear that the next few years promise astonishing leaps in healthcare. Telemedicine, the system of health care delivery in which physicians examine distant patients through the use of telecommunications technology is becoming more available. There is a geneticist called Eric Topol, he said that doctors can remotely and continuously monitor each heartbeat, moment-to-moment blood pressure readings, the rate and depth of breathing, body temperature, oxygen concentration in the blood, glucose, brain waves, activity mood, practically everything.
For the first time, he said we can actually digitize human beings. Technology now makes it possible for a cancer patient in Nigeria to access expert diagnosis or even consult with experts across the world on video platforms. Tele-psychiatry enables psychiatrists anywhere in the world to provide treatment to patients remotely. Just this last May, some publicity came for a software called Proximie which enables surgeons to lead surgical operations from thousands of miles away. The software could be loaded on an IPAD or a smartphone. The software enables the doctors to see a live camera feed of the operation. The surgeon sees this and can then mark the exact point where an incision needs to be done on his own device which then appears on the device of the doctors on location.
Telesurgery can now literally bring the surgeon into a theatre thousands of miles away. For the average person with no serious health challenges requiring sophisticated processes, the future is also here. Portable diagnostic technology allows anyone to generate their own reliable health diagnosis. Researchers at the University of Cambridge in 2014 developed a mobile application which could make diagnosis and monitoring of Kidney disease, Urinary Tract Infections, HIV, Malaria and Diabetes easier. It can also facilitate the speedy transfer of medical data from the field to doctors or centralised laboratories.
The morale of this narrative is that the business of medicine is expanding, opportunities are multiplying and technology is both the subject and the facilitator of access to the new opportunities. Look at the way that in just 10 years banking in Nigeria is diversifying so rapidly. Fewer people go to banking halls to collect cash, e-payment and mobile payment platforms are coming up daily. A few of our exhibitors just came up to talk about some of the payment systems and so on. Looking at the incredible ideas and the exciting things, the interesting thing about them is that payments can be made in cash or kind using a phone or any other electronic device. There are new e-opportunities for various financial services being created daily. And most of these new services are owned by innovators not the banks themselves.
Formal Education, both in terms of content and delivery is certainly another area that has been radically impacted by technology and innovation in this decade. The changes that we are seeing even locally are as dramatic as they are profound. Take a secondary school for example, a student had to buy several textbooks and a few years of past question papers.
However in 2013, Osun State introduced the Opon Imo, an electronic learning tablet, which enables self-paced learning. The tablet provides three major content categories, namely, E-Library, Virtual Classroom and an Integrated Zone. The virtual classroom contains 63 e-books covering 17 academic subjects for examinations conducted by NECO, WAEC, and JAMB as well as material on enterprise education, civics and even sexuality education. The Integrated Test Zone has over 40,000 JAMB and WAEC practice questions dating back twenty years. The device will save the state of Osun N8.4 Billion extra it would have spent to provide hard copies of the textbooks. The tablet can record audio lessons. The tablet has clearly revolutionized learning, making it cheaper and far more effective. It gives the student more control allowing him to pace himself in his learning. The E-Library that it contains, bridges the huge gap of lack of libraries and books by making books available electronically. By simply enabling Internet facilities on the device the student can access useful e-libraries all over the world.
It certainly is a new day. Incidentally in one of the youth employment initiatives of the Federal Government called N-Power which started last Friday; we are engaging in the first phase about 200,000 graduates. That particular programme has opportunities for the training of volunteer teachers, agricultural extension workers and public health officials. Each successful applicant will get a device. Now, that device is a teaching tool which contains a broad range of teaching materials, including technology training materials, software writing, and access to several electronic learning sources. The devise will enjoy free Internet access. The result is that we will for the first time be conducting the largest completely on-line training and empowerment, as well as monitoring and evaluation in Nigeria. Without technology it would have been impossible to train over 500,000 persons within a few months, given the cost and space constraints of such a venture. Applications for JAMB, as you know, are now on-line, results are also electronically generated. The automation of education has moved faster than we imagined even here in Nigeria.
So it is evident that the quantum leap that we have seen in technology is only delayed by the current deficit, in power, bandwidth and other infrastructure. So, the Federal Government is investing aggressively in technology. We have budgeted for the training of 65,000 young Nigerians in hardware and software services as part of the social investment programme of the Federal Government which has a very active collaboration of the Ministry of Communications and of course NITDA. This will mean that we will be building more local capacity to build, assemble hardware, and to write innovative programmes.
We also will be focusing on technology for media and entertainment. We intend to create a reservoir of human capacity in technology that can be exported internationally. Nigeria can lead India as a market for technology and innovation talent. Just three months ago, we demonstrated our resolve to encourage young, innovative Nigerians by hosting an Aso Villa Demo Day (AVDD) to showcase various solutions developed by young Nigerians. We hosted Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, who simply expressed his amazement at the wealth of talent in the country, both the talent at the event and those he interacted with during his visit to various parts of the country.
During the Aso Villa Demo Day, our recently concluded government led innovation competition, we saw how some of these young people using smart technology, startups and all of that, were able to achieve all manners of milestone in technology in the areas of Transportation Management, Waste Recycling, Payment Processing, Tracking and Verification System, Human Resources Management System, Medical Health Record Management System, amongst others. The top three finalists of the competition were: The first was Ms Damilola Olokesusi, 26-year-old founder of ShuttlersNG Limited – A startup company with less than 5 employees started by two young ladies. Their technology application brings professionals together to share transportation systems based on proximity to their respective places of work, which will drastically help reduce the traffic challenges in metropolitan cities like Lagos and Abuja.
In the second position was Mr. Emmanuel Okena, 38-year-old founder of Tracology – A startup company founded in 2014, currently with 4 employees. The company developed and patented a smart payment process for tracking and verifying user payments by utility companies and government, which will help increase revenue generation and collection by utility companies as well as local, state and federal governments. It will also reduce inefficiencies in the revenue management process.
The third is Mr. Alison Ukonu, 36-year old founder of Recycle Points – A startup company founded in 2013 currently with 50 employees. The company developed a solution for motivating waste management and recycling as a social benefit venture. The company encourages citizens to gain value from proper disposal of their everyday waste and this in turn has benefits for the environment.
In addition, the company exports the recycled waste to China, which in turn helps to generate foreign exchange for Nigeria. These innovators and many others like them, provide abundant proof that with sheer determination and an enabling environment our young entrepreneurs are set for world-class achievements. And what this just tells us is that we are well on the way, and what have we left to do. I think that the important things have already been highlighted by Prof. Abubakar Sani Sambo-(the keynote speaker). Those important things are policy and incentives. A policy and incentive regime that enables all that we have been talking about and unleashes the talents and the hard work that have been put in place by these young people.
The important thing is that we have the willing government that has very creative people, and very creative people in the private sector. So what is required of us now to be on our feet, there are all manners of policies that we are doing and we need to be able to identify these policies that will make a big difference and that way we need to develop the collaboration between the private and public sector to define thoroughly, what is it that we need. What are those incentives that we require for this time? And when we are able to identify them, we should be able to put them in place very quickly.
We already have an Ease of Doing Business Council which basically looks at the incentive regimes, the different aspects of industry and that Council helps in pushing forward the promises and incentives that will very quickly bring all the results that we expect from the active sector. Today we say collaboration is the key. There is nowhere in the world where technology is developing without collaboration. Collaboration between the private and the public sector, even within the private sector, everyone is working in collaboration. Development in chemical technology today means that several people from across the world together are working online to ensure that they share awareness and innovations in the field.
There is another kind of collaboration also between the private and the public sector. The public sector today is willing to collaborate with the private sector, that willingness is evidenced in practically everything and the investments that we are making in technology. This is a great moment for our country; it is a great moment for technology in our country. I think that we have everything that is required to make things happen, we have an Honourable Minister that is ready to do the work, a NITDA Director-General that are ready to do the work, a President that has opened up the Villa for an annual Demo Day.
Everything is right and I believe that our country is set for greater achievements in technology. On that note I like to thank you very much and officially declare this e-Nigeria summit open.