The role of technology in different sectors and industries, as this piece is about to discuss, cannot be complete without a clear definition of technology. A quick search on Google shows the three primary meanings of the word ‘technology’.
Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry. It is also machinery and equipment developed from the application of scientific knowledge. Lastly, technology was defined as the branch of knowledge dealing with engineering or applied sciences.
While the first definition is the most popular in everyday practice, all three are relevant in our discourse. We are going to look at what technology can and should do for socio-economic growth in different sectors. However, we can’t talk about technology’s impact without bringing in the government. Most things revolve around the leadership of a country.
We would talk mainly about the health, ecommerce, financial services, entertainment, hospitality, and education industries of Nigeria.
The Role of Technology in the Nigerian Health Sector
As Chike Opara, a product designer and a medical doctor with Healthtracka, observed, the government hospitals in Lagos are doing one thing right, which keeps them ahead of their peers in other states. The services are affordable.
While this might be considered applaudable by many, two things are still notably wrong. In a conversation involving Space Universe, Ehingbeti, and others, he noted we can’t keep using Lagos State as a representation of the country. He also shared that there’s a large space for growth as the customer service is not good enough.
In government hospitals, patients come in as early as 5 am, and yet they leave as late as 3 pm. Many times the whole day is spent at the hospital. This waste of time can be reduced with something as simple as automation. The health sector is mostly resistant to change, and Chike gave possible reasons why.
He revealed that older doctors are resistant to change and few innovation opportunities exist in the health tech space. He opined that the innovation of health financing is yet to arrive in this part of the world, but will be the most beneficial to the sector right now.
In Nigeria, despite the HMOs and their package offerings, only 8% of the citizens have health insurance. Most of the HMO package holders have it thanks to their jobs. So, with Nigeria having the highest percentage of people within the poverty bracket, it is no wonder why health insurance is not considered a priority.
By empowering the people and improving their earning power, the government simultaneously broadens their mindset and shows them their options. Sam Ayo, the software engineering Lead at RadioAdSpread, argues that partnerships with young innovators can encourage more digitization in the health industry.
Technology and the Nigerian Ecommerce Space
If there is an industry where the role of technology is clearly seen, it is the ecommerce sector. Especially in the area of social selling.
Technology has made it a level playing field, and so selling is no longer just for those with entrepreneurial mindsets. Through social selling, businesses are pushed online, automatically eliminating the need for certain costs. From WhatsApp and Instagram to Twitter, sellers have a limitless audience they can sell to. However, the enablement technology offers does not mean that there are no challenges. Some of the challenges that come with everyone being able to sell due to the reduced barrier to potential customers include an absence of audience segregation, a reduction of quality, and the need for a form of escrow service.
Trust is an expensive commodity, and technology does not erase this fact. Hopefully, Nigerian developers can create a solution for this lack of trust between buyers and sellers. Olatunji Idowu, the CEO of Space Universe Africa, believes there is a need for a form of escrow service between buyers and sellers to ease the process of sales. Many transactions are not completed because of the fear of losing money or products from either side of the transaction. Mr Idowu believes an escrow service would help in scaling more ecommerce businesses.
Another area that poses a problem is the reliance of many social sellers on social media that helps them. Depending on the value offered, businesses should scale, but many are either ignorant or unbelieving of the need to scale. Tunji shared that, despite the challenges in ecommerce, the opportunities remain alarming. He opines that if social sellers focus on scaling to their own platform, it would help the industry.
The Role of Technology and the Government in the Nigerian Entertainment Industry
Analysts predict that the post-COVID growth of the entertainment industry will exponential. No doubt, technology has a role to play in this expected growth.
Many Nigerians entertain themselves in various ways to let off steam. Over the years, the consumption of music content has gone from foreign to local, putting the Nigerian music industry on the international map. The opposite has been the case when it comes to movie consumption. so far, technology has not been able to help better the consumption of output from Nollywood.
Low content quality and refusal to change patterns or employ technology to create great screenplays are some reasons for the slow growth of the Nigerian movie sector. However, one area all discussants agreed on was the need for funding in the movie industry.
Stories shape our reality, and until Nollywood improves the stories they tell, there will be a lag in the development of the country. While the private sector has the responsibility of facilitating the growth of the industry, the government has roles to play too. Creating an enabling environment, making policies and allowing expansion are some of the government’s roles.
Tunji also believes that the government should scout and fund the film producers with the best content idea that portrays the best picture of the country. By telling our own story, we avoid misinformation that comes with the tales of others.
Chike believes that the allocation for health in the annual national budget should be driven toward health insurance. He also believes that the government should raise awareness of first aid practices so individuals know what to do in situations of emergency.
Sam is of the opinion that understanding one’s audience and developing strong partnerships are tools and tricks every seller should employ. In his words, “People will sell wherever people are, and the more you shorten the gap in the value chain, the closer you get people to you.”
Websites, email lists and applications can play the dual role of having a personalized audience and getting people closer to the sellers.
Tunji wants Nollywood creators to think of what they want Nigeria to be and create movies that portray that.
The role of technology in the listed industries can’t be exhausted in a conversation. Following the definitions at the beginning of this article, technology is the future. The Nigerian government should see technology as a tool and not a challenge. They should think of ways to use the innovators in the country instead of stifling their activities with taxes and regulations.
Only then can technology help industries and the country reach its potential.