Harriet: Today we’ll be looking at the advantages and disadvantages of ICT in business and how you can measure the impact of ICT using business I’m being joined on the program by “Fred Agbata“, He’s an ICT and social media expert. Good morning Fred and thank you for joining us.
- CFA: Good morning and thank you for having me.
Harriet: Ok, let’s just you know start with the basics. Can we describe developments in ICT as a revolution because things seem to be changing so rapidly?
- CFA: Yes, I mean it’s remarkable what is going on in the ICT world today. A few days ago “Steve Wozniak” one of the men that pioneered modern computing was around in Nigeria and from his words, from his very mouth he said that “the speed at which ICT is going that even himself he’s marveled. So you can imagine somebody who is a guru in computing telling other people that he is marveled at what’s happening today and that we are getting to a stage where it’s possible for computers to begin to write their own programs. So the advantage is good, Nigeria is also catching up.
Harriet: Exactly, because I was also going to ask if Nigeria is ready to adapt to the changes that seems to be coming so fast.
- CFA: Well, if you look at the way it happened from the Government’s point of view they weren’t ready for it, the way it has happened now everyone has no choice, everybody has joined the bandwagon. Today you have Government officials on social media sites, you have captains of industries on social media sites. Everybody is tweeting, everybody is doing facebook. Even though we weren’t prepared for it but right now there’s no going back. We have put our hands on the plough and we can’t look back. Nigeria is one of the fastest growing internet countries, I think we are about the 10th largest internet users population and it’s growing, it’s growing by the time more people have access to broadband it’s going to get better and we just can’t play the waiting game anymore.
Harriet: Ok, so now as it is, since we seem to be like the 10th largest country in terms of using internet and all the rest of it. How much of this has businesses keyed into?
- CFA: Well, it is still low, it is still low but it’s growing.
Harriet: When you say low how? In terms of percentage?
- CFA: Well, if you look at it, you know let me start with saying that one of the great challenge we have in Nigeria is data. So most of the data that we have even the one I mentioned now they didn’t come from Nigeria. They came from a foreign organization so we have issues with data. If you look at the fact that more Nigerians are SMEs compared to the big players. The big players are less than 5%, I mean the big multi-nationals and the big players, they are less than 5%. The core of businesses in Nigeria are more of SMEs and a lot of SMEs are even yet to adapt to the internet so it is still very low now but when it comes to individual usage that is high, that is about 50 million users when it comes to individual usage but again more SMEs are beginning to go online, more businesses are beginning to use technology to modernize and make their processes more effective so it’s growing but data wise it’s going to be difficult to give out data in Nigeria.
Harriet: Ok so before we, well since we know the issues already surrounding the data and all the rest of it, let’s talk about why is it that businesses can’t easily get their products and services online? Why does it seem as if they shy away from it? Cause sometimes we feel that way.
- CFA: Yeah, because change is an enemy to most people. A lot of times we try to resist change so I think the first thing is change. As I was coming here I was listening on the radio and they were saying about a US company, a US chain of stores that wants to shut down its branches I think they have about 1000 plus branches in both US and Canada but they want to shut down some branches this year, shut down about 46 last year and also shutting down some more this year and the simple reason they cited was that more shoppers were going online. Yes businesses are not adapting but the way it happens the e-Commerce revolution that happened in Nigeria suddenly a lot of people are beginning to say we have to shift, so whilst yes the percentage of people online is still low, it is growing because more people are now beginning to see there is need to be online. I mean whether it’s an auto-part dealer or somebody who sells plumbing materials, I’ve seen businesses of that nature replicated on the internet. So it means that even those are still in the traditional way of doing business, they are beginning to see that these other guys are actually taking up the chunk of…
Harriet: You know sometimes, sorry to cut you there but you know sometimes like you said people are afraid of change but change is inevitable in this world that we live in. And so if we know that change is inevitable do we try to or do ICT experts like you try to make this traditional business owners think of the benefits they can get when they are online.
- CFA: Yes, in as much as we will do our best I think it has to do with the Government to carry up a mass sensitization program.
Harriet: Why does it always have to be a Government mass sensitization why can’t individuals like you, you’re the private sector actually get up and do the sensitization?
- CFA: Yes but there’s a limit to what we can do, I mean the opportunity came to be here and am here and am doing my bit but the Government can do bigger. I mean this was the same when Steven Wozniak was asked, He was asked in Nigeria just about Tuesday. He was asked that Steve, how do you think we can get more Nigerians to go online to adapt technology and he said the Government now he might be wrong but who will leave what he’s doing and go and start sensitizing people that way except this opportunities come and how many times can people come on this kind of program but the point is there has to be a conscious effort to get more Nigerians to adapt to Technology. Now we must understand that technology is destructive in nature especially this kind of technology, it’s highly destructive in nature so it means that, I don’t want to mention brand names so it means that a company A can be the super brand of smartphones 5 years ago today it’s pleading for clients so it’s destructive, same way a lot of people are going to lose their jobs on the virtue of technology the e-commerce shops, the major ones combined they have about a thousand plus employees but then they have actually disrupted some other organizations knowingly or unknowingly that have also let go of some staff so technology is destructive in nature so we must be ready for the balances now you mentioned about the positives and the negatives while it has its positives it also has its negatives that’s the truth but the truth of the matter is that from my own point of view I think the positives outweighs the negatives.
Harriet: You think?
- CFA: Well from my point of view
Harriet: Well because you see a lot of times you take a chance when you want to buy an item online. You take a very big chance especially in Nigeria we are still trying to get used to buying things online.
- CFA: Besides there’s no law backing it actually so it means that if you pay me online and I don’t deliver, there’s really nothing you can do.
Harriet: There you go, So why would I take such a chance as a traditional business owner knowing that if a customer buys something from me online and they don’t feel comfortable with it there’s a possibility of a law suit.
- CFA: But you know I mentioned Government that’s why I said, I mean a cyber-security bill has been hanging there, that’s why you see it all falls back to the Government consciously doing what they have to do. If that bill comes out then it means that an authority for me to sue you even if you sue me as it is now. Let’s say you want me to deliver and I don’t deliver and you sue me now. Actually, there’s no law backing it right now e-transactions. A lawyer friend was telling that just about 2011 that’s when you can now submit email evidences that before now you can’t even submit camera evidences, you can’t submit email evidences they’ll ask you to go and bring the negatives. A lot of things that are there now in fact is way behind. In fact the Government is even worse. He told me about some laws that they are still using that the colonial masters passed unto us a lot of funny things that are going on. There are some things that what you are having on your laptop will not even suffice in the law court but again I like what the guys in this channel are doing what they are innovating. They came up with a strategy called pay on delivery so it means that you wait to see your goods then you pay. That’s an innovation, it can only happen in Nigeria, that’s a Nigerian spirit. Just the same way the base station thing happened at the advent of GSM so it takes a while, it takes a process because the guys that are supposed to be in business their game is to build trust and they are building the trust and I’m happy that the young guys the young people are the ones pioneering the industry.
Harriet: When you say young guys what demography are we looking at?
- CFA: Well, when I say young guys I mean in their 30s, late 20s and 30s they are the guys pioneering. But again you have older guys backing them up in terms of experience venture capital so you still have those old guys in the play but at least the people in the fore front are the young guys building things. Back 5-10 years ago you can’t even imagine starting a business without needing an office structure today you go to CChub you have over close to 200 young entrepreneurs fiddling with ideas, fiddling with technology ideas looking at solutions and they work in co-hub spaces you don’t have to go and rent an office you can use there as your office and then it works for them and so I see great things coming out of Nigeria I see great things coming out of business with the use of technology in Nigeria.