Experts from different sectors of the Nigerian economy on Wednesday in Lagos x-rayed the preparation of the country for the 4th industrial revolution, saying that political, business and social leadership must be ready to work together to address necessary challenges and leverage on the opportunities.
In his lead paper at the #WorldStage EconomicSummit2019 at the Event Centre, Nigerian Stock Exchange, Lagos on Wednesday November 13, 2019, Dr. Babatope Ogunniyi of the Department of Economics, University of Lagos said political leadership should be responsible for developing and implementing an enabling environment for digital transformation and innovation; business leadership should be responsible for leading think tanks and the much-needed innovation; while social leadership should play an important role in preparing society for the changes.
At the annual summit with the theme, Getting Nigeria Ready for the Challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the scholar noted that since political leadership in Nigeria had recognized the 4th industrial revolution and its potential to address the countries triple challenges of poverty, unemployment/inequality and insecurity, the development of policies and strategies addressing digital transformation was a sign of commitment from leadership.
“The implementation of reforms remains a major challenge as witnessed by poor policy implementation in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular. In recent years, the government and business leaders are yet to find a common level for advancement; this has great impeded the much needed cooperation in preparation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A level playing ground with trusting relations and cohesion will surely advance this course, where the interests of all are protected,” he said.
At the panel session of the summit anchored by Mr Segun Adeleye, President/CEO, World Stage Limited, panelists which include Mr Aaron Onyekachi, Principal Scientific Officer, FIIRO; Mr Dan Oti, from NigeriaInfo 99.3fm; Dr Chisom Ibe, Business Consultant and Wealth Educator; Miss Dolapo Agbede, CEO, WillWay Paradigm Service Limited; and Mr Kayode Adegoke, Lagos Regional Coordinator, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) addressed fundamental questions which Nigeria must tackle in order not to lose out in the new scheme of things.
Dr Ibe questioned the relevance of the education being offered in Nigerian schools, saying a situation where students are being thought with the curriculum produced 30 years ago is a joke.
She called for a new approach to learning that will be personal and open the minds to possibilities.
Mr Adegoke who represented the Director General of NIMC, Engr Aliyu Aziz said there is the need for collaboration between government and the private sector on the fourth industrial revolution, but that the government is in a better position to lead on the direction to follow.
Miss Agbede tasked the government to be up to date on the relevant laws and policies requirement for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Nigeria, calling for inclusion in policies to inspire creativity and create jobs.
On the place of people with disability in technology generally and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Mr Oti called for lesions to be learnt from other countries where everyone is given equal opportunity to fulfill their purpose.
Dr. Ogunniyi said that the fear of job losses with the coming of the fourth industrial revolution was not unfounded, but that it could mitigated through mechanization in agriculture, innovations and focus on renewable energy among others.
Mr Onyekachi made a case for development of the right infrastructure, industries and business models for the fourth industrial revolution, while recommending the FIIRO model of continuous research and collaborations with relevant institutions.
Earlier in his lead paper at the summit, Dr Ogunniyi emphasized that collaboration was critical during transformation or change.
He said, “Collaboration between the various actors in the 4th industrial revolution is critical in ensuring the success of the 4th industrial revolution which will not only disrupt business but government and society.”
Ogunniyi said the development of policies and strategies responsive to the priorities of Nigeria would require that government works with business and social partners in addressing some of the challenges and leveraging the opportunities brought by the 4th industrial revolution.
He said the introduction of robotics in advanced manufacturing for instance would require that government, business, workers and labor unions collaborate in coming up with strategies to mitigate the risk of massive job losses that will further deepen unemployment, poverty, and inequalities.
“The current social, political and economic environment has created mistrust and weakened cohesion. Self-interest behavior and corruption in the development and implementation of policy reforms is of great concern in Nigeria,” he said.
“The 4th industrial revolution requires developing countries like Nigeria to rise to the challenges brought by their cultural, religion, socio-economic and economic contexts. Developing countries need to develop models or strategies that are responsive and relevant to their context instead of blindly adopting so-called “exemplary models” that have worked in contexts that are
different to the developing country adopting them.
“Socio-economic challenges such as potential job losses, widening wage gaps and skills redundancy will require government to develop strategies that bring social benefits instead of focusing primarily on economic prospects brought by the 4th industrial revolution. The government should also explain how social innovations in industry 4.0 can address some of society’s challenges and improve the quality of life and social well-being of citizens.
“Finally, we need to evolve in terms of leveraging on technology so that we can compete with countries like India and China where technology has made tremendous impact on their economy.”
Unlike the energy inspired gains from the earlier three industrial revolutions- Industrial Revolution, second industrial revolution and third industrial revolution from 1765 to 1969, he said the fourth industrial revolution is rooted in a new technological phenomenon (digitalization) rather than in the emergence of a new type of energy. This digitalization enables us to build a new virtual world from which we can steer the physical world.
“Connectivity of industry of today and tomorrow is aimed at production at its real time. Industry 4.0 makes communication among the different players and connected objects in a production line possible, technology such as Cloud, Big Data Analytics and the Industrial Internet revolution are imaginable. Already we are seeing our tomorrow being embedded in smart cities and powered by wind, sun and geothermal energy,” he said.
“The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. All these prospects have shown breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing and many more.”
He listed the challenges and opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution to include the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world.
“Presently, world consumers of the new technology are beneficiaries due to access to the digital world; technology has made possible new products and services that increase the efficiency and pleasure to their personal lives. Ordering a cab, booking a flight, buying a product, making a payment, listening to music, watching a film, or playing a game, invariably all the above can now be done remotely,” he said.
“It is expected that technological innovation will also lead to a supply-side miracle, with long-term gains in efficiency and productivity. Transportation and communication costs will drop, logistics and global supply chains will become more effective, and the cost of trade will diminish, all of which will open new markets and drive economic growth.
“At the same time, the revolution would certainly disrupt the labour market which will lead to inequality. As automation substitutes for labour across the entire economy, the net displacement of workers by machines might exacerbate the gap between returns to capital and returns to labour. Conversely, the displacement of workers by technology may, in aggregate, result in a net increase in safe and rewarding jobs.
“Technology is one of the main reasons why incomes have stagnated, or even decreased, for a majority of the population in high-income countries: the demand for highly skilled workers has increased while the demand for workers with less education and lower skills has decreased. The result is a job market with a strong demand at the high and low ends, but an excluded middle.
“This explains why so many workers are disillusioned and fearful that their own real incomes and those of their coming generations will continue to stagnate. It also helps explain why middle classes around the world are increasingly experiencing a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction and unfairness. A winner-takes-all economy that offers only limited access to the middle class is a recipe for democratic malaise and dereliction.
“Discontent can also be fueled by the pervasiveness of digital technologies and the dynamics of information sharing typified by social media. More than 30 percent of the global population now uses social media platforms to connect, learn, and share information. In an ideal world, these interactions would provide an opportunity for cross-cultural understanding and cohesion.”
On the impact on business, he said for global Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and senior business executives, the acceleration of innovation and the velocity of disruption would be hard to comprehend or anticipate and that these “drivers constitute a source of constant surprise, even for the best connected and most well informed.
“Indeed, across all industries, there is clear evidence that the technologies that underpin the Fourth Industrial Revolution are having a major impact on businesses,” he said.
On the impact on government, he said new technologies and platforms had increasingly enable citizens to engage with governments, voice their opinions, coordinate their efforts, and even circumvent the supervision of public authorities.
“Concurrently, governments stand to gain new technological powers to increase their control over populations, based on pervasive surveillance systems and the ability to control digital infrastructure,” he said.
“On the whole, however, governments will increasingly face pressure to change their current approach to public engagement and policymaking, as their central role of conducting policy diminishes owing to new sources of competition and the redistribution and decentralization of power that new technologies make possible.”
On the impact on people, he said the Fourth Industrial Revolution, “finally, will change not only what we do but also who we are. It will affect our identity and all the issues associated with it: our sense of privacy, our notions of ownership, our consumption patterns, the time we devote to work and leisure, and how we develop our careers, cultivate our skills, meet people, and nurture relationships. Human augmentation is on its course.
“Inexorable integration of technology in our lives could diminish some of our quintessential human capacities; our constant connection to phone may deprive us of life’s most important asset: time. New information technologies are a great challenge to our privacy. The tracking and sharing of information about us is a crucial part of the new connectivity, unfortunately we are fed with information that is good, bad and ugly. Biotechnology and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which are redefining what it means to be human by pushing back the current thresholds of life span, health, cognition, and capabilities, will compel us to redefine our moral and ethical boundaries.”
However, he said these new technologies and the disruption that comes with it would not be beyond human control, saying, “all of us are responsible for guiding its evolution, in the decisions we make on a daily basis as citizens, consumers, and investors. We should thus grasp the opportunity and power we have to shape the Industry 4.0 and direct it toward a future that reflects our common objectives and values.
“Developing economies, in particular Nigeria, must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology is affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments. There has never been a time of greater promise, or one of greater potential peril. Our policy makers, however, are too often trapped in traditional, linear thinking, or too absorbed by the multiple crises demanding their attention, to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future.
“In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.”