By Chinedu James
Technology cannot make rapid progress without the right political decisions; and corporate Nigeria, beware! Technology will make a dinosaur of many big players in less than a decade from now. The caveat is from Elder Chima Onyekwere, Chairman and founder of Linkserve Limited.
Onyekwere is fondly touted as the ‘Internet Father’ in Nigeria. His company, Linkserve pioneered internet services in Nigeria over a decade ago and helped to kick-start the country’s connectivity race. Linkserve is Nigeria’s first Internet Service Provider (ISP).
In a recent chat with IT Edge News in Lagos, Onyekwere, who is also vying for a senatorial seat in the country’s legislative chamber next year, predicts that in less than a decade, big data will rule corporate Nigeria. He affirmed that the internet and how companies are able to leverage on technology convergence will ultimately determine their growth or extinction. Companies with lower adaptability rate to data and technology convergence will be eased out of the market.
The ‘Internet Father’ argued that those with vast knowledge of ICT must find time to join politics so as to be in a position to take decision that affects the technology destiny of the country.
Onyekwere said despite government not-so encouraging policies and absence of the required regulatory thrust to accelerate broadband internet across the country, internet has continued to grow in acceptance. Government strong policy thrust could scale up diffusion rate by over a thousand percent and drive businesses across sectors in more ways than could be imagined.
Data is the new tool
“Yes, [the internet] has grown. Remember that this is the service which we provided and it was seen as espionage. I was arrested and detained in 1997. My business was shut down and 22 years now, the internet is everywhere, data is everywhere.
“Data has become not just browsing for news and information but a tool for enterprise, a tool for workers, a tool for the banking industry, its affecting every part of our life.
“Now scale that up another 10 years, you will be addressing artificial intelligence, smart contracts, and it’s just going to continue growing. So it’s an area where technology is advancing at a geometric rate and it is going up more than 200 percent every month.
“The Nigerian internet market has exploded and will continue to grow. Internet of things is becoming common place in certain areas; at home for instance, certain businesses are embracing internet of things or internet of everything really,” said Onyekwere.
Because the internet is impacting across sectors at a very fast speed, Onyekwere envisages that cost of data services in the country will continue to drop rapidly and will ultimatelybe cheaper than a bottle of water.
Onyekwere is taking with him, his pathfinder experience in the internet space into Nigeria’s fiery politics where he hopes to occupy the senatorial seat of Abia Central Constituency in Abia State in the south eastern part of the country.
He told IT Edge News that one of his intentions in politics is to change the narrative of the ICT sector through legislation; to improve policies that will encourage enterprises even as it would be easier to do so with his experience in the ICT ecosystem of Nigeria.
Politics drives enterprises
“One of the reasons I am interested in politics is not only government policy change but to ensure that certain policies which will encourage enterprise is improved on and laws that will encourage enterprise is strengthened and enforceable.
“If you change the way we do business in Nigeria, and the ease of doing business in Nigeria is improved upon through legislation then you can expect that a lot more enterprise will come into play.
“If you use the government resources to develop a funding agency that can fund small businesses where we develop our own content, our local content and young people can engage profitably in business, it’s bound to impact on the economy. So, all of this will play a role to improve the daily living of our people.
“My desire is not to go to senate and control money or make money for myself. My desire is to go to the senate and bring about policies that can improve entrepreneurs or enterprise in our country.
“Having been an entrepreneur myself for several years now, it’s embarrassing to find out that it is difficult for any young person to grow a business that can match Bill Gates,” said Onyekwere.