Jide Awe is the Chief Executive Officer, Jidaw Systems. He was the
Chairman, Conferences and Publicity/Events, Nigeria Computer Society (NCS),
the umbrella body for all computer practitioners in Nigeria. In this interview, Awe speaks on a number of issues caused by coronavirus pandemic.
Role of technology to economy globally
The use of ICT and digital technologies keeps the world connected. It is
central to the development and the functioning of society. Communications,
education, commerce and many vital humans and economic activities are today dependent on ICT.
It is widely and globally acknowledged that ICT has fundamentally changed
practices and structures in social, commercial and educational spheres –
the way we live, learn, interact and do business. Globally, the appropriate
development and deployment of ICT enable significant cost savings and
efficiency gains in all sectors (public and private).
Beyond reducing operating costs and enhancing productivity, ICT enables the
creation of new forms of value through the development of new services,
products and new ways of working, learning and doing business. Through ICT, the world is globally-connected, resulting in the emergence of a global
Digital technologies and data have been critical to the birth of
innovations and innovative practices. By enabling digital solutions and
medical research and collaboration and digital solutions in the fight
against coronavirus as well as enabling billions of people to go online to
stay in touch, learn and work during the lockdowns and restrictions, ICT
has been critical to the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, the present shock to employment is pandemic driven. The
immediate job losses are as a result of the impacts from the coronavirus
pandemic. In just a few months, the coronavirus pandemic has totally
changed the daily lives of people around the world. Lockdowns and
restrictions lead to a lack of activity, operations, income and loss of
Technology allowed many organisations amid lockdown orders to continue
functioning through remote work, remote learning and other tasks that could
be carried out remotely. Indeed it is a wake-up call – technology is
The reality of the new normal is that a new economy placing even more
reliance on technology is emerging from the disruption. The way we work
could be changed forever. The new work models could offer less reliance on
physical structures, lower overheads, flexible schedules while still
increasing productivity. In the new structures, some old jobs may no longer
It is undeniable that the pandemic is also a catalyst for massive change
—economic, societal, personal, corporate and governmental. Organisations
that can still survive and thrive in the new environment will have new
structures and job requirements. Quite a few of the jobs that could be
affected now are those requiring face-to-face interactions in physical
offices to carry out tasks. Coronavirus has exposed our digital limitations
like never before. There has always been resistance to remote working and
learning. The present situation has however shown that remote work can be
productive and more cost-efficient.
Reducing the investment in physical office and facilities that really
aren’t needed will obviously result in some job loss. But while there are
job losses, the new environment creates remote work opportunities as well
as jobs in the virtual and digital spaces – for users and providers. The
future is digital. As technology keeps advancing and becoming more
functional and cost-effective, society is going to use more technology and
relevant jobs will be generated. Eventually, more jobs will be created in
the economy than jobs lost. There will be more opportunities for creative
thinkers and innovators in all spheres. Going forward, jobs will depend on
relevance and impact.
Rather than being viewed from the prism of loss of jobs, technology has
enabled speed and relevance and continuity in this time of uncertainty and
it is fundamental to the new normal.
Technology impact on economies
The pandemic is shrinking the global economy with the slowdown and
significant reduction in economic and related activities around the world.
Restrictions and lockdowns stunt economic growth. The impact on large and
major economies raises the risk of a global recession.
Economic and other structures will change due to the COVID-19 crisis. Even
as economies struggle, the growing dependence on technology means the
digital economy is on the rise. The technology share of global economic
growth is bound to rise to grow. The old order is bound to change. There
will certainly be redistribution in terms of changing global economic
patterns. With fair practices and competition, consumers will certainly
ICT creating jobs
Technology creates jobs through the provision of digital services and
products in all sectors especially in areas where a lot still needs to be
digitised. It is creating relevant jobs in virtual space for users,
innovators, managers and entrepreneurs. This includes e-commerce – online
shopping, online marketplaces, delivery of items; fintech – mobile or
online payments, cashless transactions; education – educational websites,
online classes, e-learning, e-books, etc; social sites, entertainment,
sports, etc; and health technology-telemedicine, medical diagnosis and
research, among other areas.
Artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things, 5G and other emerging
technologies are changing the global innovation infrastructure landscape.
4IR technologies are essential for the future. They are instrumental to the
age of disruptive innovation. Emerging technology can improve people’s
lives in many ways. And can also improve the performance of government and
private sector organisations. It’s about how it brings value to your needs.
When used on projects or specific use cases, they can decrease cost,
improve speed, accuracy and responsiveness, reduce environmental harm,
reduce human errors due to mundane or repetitive tasks, achieve real-time
problem solving and boost safety. They can unlock new value and provide
uncommon solutions to difficult issues.
Quite importantly, in today’s data economy, where “data is the new oil”,
Artificial Intelligence can be used to generate valuable insights from
data. It is possible to predict demand, customer’s behaviour. It can assist
with quick medical diagnosis and treatment and is being used to create
medical COVID-19 solutions. Artificial intelligence can also improve
customer service with the use of chatbots and recommendation systems.
Benefits of the Internet of Things include productivity improvement through
the monitoring and control of the different processes, and also the
collection of a large amount of data for predictive analysis. Value can be
extracted – patterns, predictions and other insights – from raw digital
5G, the latest generation of mobile communications offers a platform with
greater speed, a lower latency and a greater ability to exploit the
features of emerging technologies for our advantage.
With oil prices going down seriously across the globe, what hopes for FG on diversification?
We have no choice but to diversify the economy to earn revenue, create jobs
and boost economic growth. The future is digital, and it is essential for
advantage in a globally competitive world.
Digital technologies can create the avenue for an inclusive post-COVID
economic recovery. Get policies right. Unleash the potential of the youth
and actively promote youth innovation. Invest in capacity building and
human capital in the tech sector. And ensure that we invest in making
digital inclusion a reality. The digital divides are unhelpful, especially
the rural digital divides, the gender digital divide.
Advice to organisations sacking workers and going automation
Every company must take digital seriously. Organisations should review
their operations and invest in effective, meaningful and active digital
transformation that meets their needs. They should explore digital
solutions. No one size fits all. Reorganise to remain relevant and
functional and to meet organisational objectives in line with the new
normal. Sacking of workers should not be the default response. They should
explore opportunities to retrain staff in line with new strategy and
realities, promote innovation and imbibe the continuous innovation mindset.