Happy Democracy Day? What is democracy without technology or digital emancipation? A pseudo democratic system fastened by clandestine digital colony scaffold – perhaps?
Much have been said and written about the bad side of the pandemic. But one undeniable fact remains. That is, the positive effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic as the chief accelerator of digital transformation! It came unknowingly and positioned itself without warning, to magically spur technology adoption by reluctant nations.
E-Commerce is booming all around the world. And the neglect of e-Government is delivering failed digital performance scorecard report to nations with late and negligible adoption of information and communications technology.
Many governments learnt the hard way, that without technology e-readiness at the infrastructure, skill capacities, and digital innovation levels, amongst others; a nation can be suddenly flushed down the tunnel of under-development and penury. In a nutshell, COVID-19 helped to reshape our requirements, attitude and mind set to digital transformation; especially on the health, education and economic perspectives.
However, the unseen winner of this phenomenal advancement is technology research. The truth is that there can be no technology advancement without research. This is evident of the current reactionary adventure of running from Twitter pillar to Koo pole.
The two critical aspects of technology-induced development are innovation-research and manufacturing processes. The yield from the two are the resultant effects of innovation-driven product production and market-consumption. They also constitute the core determinant of the national GDP – now essentially powered by research and creativity. Imagine the break-neck speed deployed at the research level to arrive at the COVID-19 vaccine?
Effective vaccines, we are told, takes an average of seven (7) years to deliver. But recently the world did it in less than 24 months! Recent global e-Readiness report shows that in spite of our tech-consumerism addiction model; we have not created sustainable growth and wealth for national survivability.
The resent survey global on e-Readiness Index reveals that Sweden, Denmark, and Singapore are the most future-ready societies. With three countries in the global top four, Europe is the world’s leading region. Meanwhile, the United States remains the undisputed global leader when it comes to Future Technologies. China is now a global contender in key areas such as AI, e-Commerce, 5G, etc.
All the above indicators are propelled by intensive research in technology to accelerate digital innovation. Further, the survey further shows that Africa continues to trail behind other regions; especially when it comes to ICT research, digital infrastructure, skills, access, affordability, and application of digital technologies.
Lessons learned from the UN Global e-Readiness index indicates that in all types of economies; investments in technology alone cannot guarantee higher levels of network readiness. The ability of national economies to promote efforts on reskilling and up-skilling of their indigenous workforce and talents is the bedrock to their future.
Similar revelation is that the blessing from COVID-19 that necessitated the lockdown and many strategic development actions that would have taken lay-down nations decades to act is a wake-up call to think, rethink, and think without the box to reconfigure the competitive trajectory of accelerated digital transformation. The lead to delivering these emerging benefits is e-Government mechanisms with abilities to crunch out hidden opportunities to reap the benefits of governance Big-Data and refocus national development policies and strategies.
The fact remains that the trailblazer resides in digital research. This should be the minimum requirements to retool our society for e-Readiness and disaster recovery from the Pandemic; as well as other aspects of global competitiveness. Deliberately turning the millions of our unemployed youth into a digital innovation army is critical. Failure to do this will be too big a price to pay for our nation.
The ICT Ecosystem is not only an important economic sector; but indeed, has become the most fundamental, dominant, and inevitable vehicle for fostering equitable development, providing dependable health; the powerhouse of knowledge, creation of wealth and central pillar for national security. Above all, ICT has radically transformed the nature of global occupation, through refined methods of production across all industries.
Many nations who lag behind the required e-readiness metrics are those without the requisite policy strategies and funding for collaborative knowledge research; lab facilities, and skills. Hence, they are compelled and left to addictively consume and rely on the IP ownership of those who had intensively invested in research for technology and innovation.
Disappointingly, this dependency will continue to haunt such nations as Nigeria; until they realize that development equation can only be resolved by understanding the critical dimensions of concept, process, product and change dynamics. The message is that we cannot fold our hands, dream and wish smart cities to emerge out-of-nothing. Rather, we must earn it through foresighted and intensive research investments at multiple levels.
No doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has generated a sweeping impact on research-based technology adoption and application; from education, to future of work, health, entertainment, misinformation, disinformation to social media; security of life and property and above all, cybersecurity.
But we have not seen the tip of the iceberg!
Therefore, with the exceptional surge in ICT and digital transformation; the time has come to imagine the unimaginable economic and human activities beyond AI, e-Commerce, Block Chain, Quantum Computing, etc.
Meanwhile, we are beginning to see the traumatic effects of COVID-19 pandemic through the emergence of many fearful variants of the scourge; which may last longer than expected. The role of vision bearers, policy makers, sociologists and psychologists desires a rethink to ensure that the envisaged recovery does not respond with disastrous impact.
These amongst others are why research matters in multiple dimensions. Time is now to cast a bright light and turn the face of technology and digital transformation with abundant quality IT research to earn the full benefits of the digital promise.
Finally, it is an entirely new world out there, and winning means: ‘be technology ready; embark on multifaceted research’. We cannot fully get on board this adventure or win the digital fight without intensive and well-funded research. To effectively respond to and surmount these monumental and multifaceted challenges; the Nigerian Government is advised to urgently establish Digital Transformation Council of Nigeria (DTCN).