Executive Notes – Entrepreneurship in the era of convergence

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By Hon Mohammed Ogoshi Onawo

Let me start by stating the obvious:  Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) has supported employment explosion and enhanced employability not to state that it has created the youngest billionaires in recent times. Today, we do not look at ICT in isolation. We look at how ICT has helped to foster convergence of once stand-alone sector to become one that has converged with another sector so that there’s endless debate today, for example, whether the broadcast sector and the telecom sector should be deemed as one.

Technology convergence is re-ordering the labor markets – making it more innovative, inclusive and global
Technology convergence is re-ordering the labor markets – making it more innovative, inclusive and global

Increasingly, the development of ICT has encouraged the convergence of convergence – that is convergence across industries and across verticals so that we talk of the heavy presence of ICT in the automotive industry, the oil & gas industry, the medical and pharmaceutical fields, the agriculture industry and the likes.  Today, cars are no longer just auto in the sense of automatic, cars are self-driven, remotely repaired and serviced propelled by the fusion of the automatic and Internet industries; the big screen cinema has entered our homes and the banking industry is part of our domestic chores because industries verticals have converged. The possibilities are endless and dynamics are unpredictable.

Everything has converged in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the natural questions to ask include: what is the future of work, the future of the labour market, the future of our young people, and the future of our country? Convergence is enabling new forms of work, altering the structure of jobs and the way people develop their career, and the way they work.

Will the ageless question over whether the adoption of ICT can increase or decrease the demand for skilled workers as against unskilled workers be further reinforced in the convergence era to deepen the posers on the employability of our youths?  What does convergence hold for young people in terms of employment and what does it hold for entrepreneurship in terms of creating and sustaining businesses for a generation of new and young Nigerians? These are both policy and structural questions that engage government and every stakeholder.

“The rise and rise of the internet has significantly change how individuals and corporate entities engage jobs; the workplace has changed, so too the nature of work.”

I am glad that the organisers of WACC 2017 have sought to bring this area of concern to public scrutiny and engagements. I dare say we are contending with the dynamics of technology, the reality of convergence and the contentious social and economic issues over employments and business opportunities for our youngsters in this trying economic times.

What are the ‘New Deals’ that Convergence offers? How do we thicken the value of Entrepreneurships and Employability in the era of industry and technology convergence? It is gladdening to note that today at this 2017 WACC gathering, there are global tech giants, policy makers and regulators, BPOs and HMOs, technology hubs, major drivers of the local ICT companies, and other stakeholders, all of them converging to articulate a future and a hope for a country and her people desiring great changes and strides.

“Access and ability to use technology POSITIVELY impacts employability and small medium businesses (SMBs).  Digital skills significantly increase not just employability and sustainability of the employment but also wage levels.”

While accurate employment data are very hard to obtain, it may be safe to assume that, at least at least, around 1.8 million youth are entering the labor market every year. The pervasiveness of the unemployment is obvious and government is not relenting to tame the scourge which in itself is global.  These are facts: Access and ability to use technology POSITIVELY impacts employability and small medium businesses (SMBs).  Digital skills significantly increase not just employability and sustainability of the employment but also wage levels.

Skills development, aligned with changing dynamics of an industry or an economy imply ability to foster new careers that can contribute positively to the economy
Skills development, aligned with changing dynamics of an industry or an economy imply ability to foster new careers that can contribute positively to the economy

Very important to note is that the rise and rise of the internet has significantly change how individuals and corporate entities engage jobs; the workplace has changed, so too the nature of work. Factors that shape job success have changed in an age where the internet offers unprecedented job trainings, job matching social networks that determine our employability.

Our technology dynamics has expanded the frontiers for work so that jobs can get to people irrespective of space and location from which they would otherwise have been excluded.

The latent question therefore is how do we leverage the opportunities from technology to create jobs and encourage small, medium businesses (SMBs)? How do we enhance graduate employability in Nigeria? How do we review the computer science curriculum to reflect the dynamics of technology, convergence,  industry and research/learning institutions?

Skills development that is aligned with industry requirements is a catalyst that can ensure economic growth;  and skills adequately channeled at meeting changing dynamics of an industry or an economy imply ability to foster new careers that can contribute positively to the economy.

As a World Bank study shows more than three years back, technology convergence is re-ordering the labor markets – making it more innovative, inclusive and global. Individuals, companies, and governments must re-strategies to be able to reap the benefits of these changes. Convergence is here. Technology is transforming the world of work, creating new job opportunities and making labor markets to innovate.

As a country we must begin to seek new partners; local and global, to help us advance the new technology agenda influencing employment and businesses. As legislators, we recognise the role of the legislative chamber in setting the tone to encourage the growth of new opportunities for our citizens who must leverage on technology be productive and globally competitive.

Legislators are not shy from encouraging this new direction and new level of thinking within the confine of the Knowledge Economy. Indeed, I am here to assert the position of the House of Representatives, on the behalf of the Speaker of the House, as a champion of technology and a partner of Nigeria’s progressive march to technology advancement.

“What does convergence hold for young people in terms of employment and what does it hold for entrepreneurship in terms of creating and sustaining businesses for a generation of new and young Nigerians? These are both policy and structural questions that engage government and every stakeholder.”

We recognise that as convergence takes greater foothold, there will be more digitization of more aspects of work. Advancement in telecommuting will further converge industries, there will be greater premium on new jobs and careers and, indeed, outsourcing will become a common feature.

We must therefore join hands to thicken the value for skill and new career trainings, expand the portfolio of opportunities for employment and businesses; encourage innovation and drive more flexible forms of employment and work.

We must recognise that new challenges are upon us to enhance our state of preparedness for the converged space.  We must maximize the positive impact of technology and industry convergence on employment and businesses. We must get everyone involve, policy makers , business operators and regulators, educationists and trainers, manufactures and innovators,  legislators and other stakeholders. Convergence is often seen as exerting pressure solely on the regulatory systems. But this is not so, as the World Bank noted, the human capital systems, social systems, and financial systems are equally being redefined. In all these fronts, we must all be alert and ready to exert the necessary change for good.

 

Chairman ICT Committee at the Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Mohammed Ogoshi Onawo

This is a keynote by the Chairman, House Committee on ICT, Federal House of Representatives, Nigeria, Hon Mohammed Ogoshi Onawo, at the 9th West Africa Convergence Conference (WACC) with the theme: ‘Convergence & the New Deals: – Entrepreneurships & Employability,’ Wednesday, November 29, 2017 at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Ikeja, Lagos.


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