2020 Art Of Technology Conference Themed: “Smart Data, Smarter Lagos”
REMARKS OF HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE ART OF TECHNOLOGY LAGOS 2.0 ON THE 3RD OF DECEMBER, 2020
The Lagos State Government under the dynamic leadership of Governor Jide Sanwo-olu, and the Lagos technology community deserve our commendation for once again, convening this very important platform: The Art of technology.
This year’s theme “Smart Data, Smarter Lagos” comes at a defining moment in human history; a pandemic which has shown all the weaknesses of most economies has also highlighted the inevitability of technology.
So here we are with a new reality, the era of virtual everything. Virtual meetings, birthdays, weddings and even funerals! Even when the pandemic subsides, we would still be stuck with the more efficient, safer and cheaper ways that technology has offered us in these past few months.
Lagos has long been the epicentre of Nigeria’s technology revolution. From the tiny internet cafes run in tiny spaces that dotted almost every Lagos neighbourhood in the 1990s to the emergence of big players like Interswitch, Konga and Jumia, to today’s heavyweights like Andela, Paystack, and Flutterwave, and the numerous small businesses buying selling and advertising online, Lagos has consistently shown that it has what it takes to thrive in the league of digital economies.
This illustrious pedigree has also positioned Lagos as the foremost innovation hub in Africa. Consequently, this city and its technology entrepreneurs must take the lead in addressing the most urgent problems of our time.
As we contend with the challenge of providing the means of self-actualization for nearly 200 million people and one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, it is clear that we must marshal the resourcefulness and ingenuity of our citizens in the quest for development and growth.
Given that this is a conclave of policymakers and various stakeholders in the tech ecosystem, I would like to stress that developmental governance in the 21st century is about continuously deploying innovative solutions against our most complex challenges.
In 2018, Business Day, the newspaper, estimated that the average commuter in Lagos spends 30 hours in traffic weekly. These are useful man-hours that can add up to high productivity if spent differently. How can we deploy smart traffic sensors and devices to manage traffic in Lagos? We have seen how low-level technology deployed by the Lagos State Government and other private individuals like Giditraffic on Twitter have successfully used crowd-sourced traffic information to provide traffic updates for commuters. However, with artificial intelligence, we can automate these processes and suggest alternatives to commuters, while also providing advice to Government from historically stored traffic data over time to make plans for public spending on infrastructures such as new roads, rail lines, public buses, and toll gates. These are the sort of problems to which those of us gathered here today can apply our minds.
Technology can be a leveller, closing gaps in our society such as the rural-urban divide and bridging gaps in access to social services and broadening financial inclusion. This is why our administration is working to bridge the digital divide by increasing access to broadband with our National Broadband Plan which was launched this year. The plan is aimed at achieving 90% broadband penetration by 2023. The plan will give special attention to underserved areas when deploying telecom services.
Opportunities crying out for smart solutions abound across various sectors of our society and economy. These are solutions that you are positioned to provide and for which Lagos can serve as technological laboratory of first resort. For example, digital identification is a necessity for governance, urban administration, economic planning and the delivery of social welfare interventions.
How do we mainstream technology in our bureaucratic processes so that we reduce corruption and improve the ease of doing businesses? How do we leverage technology to improve the logistical dimension of the national exercises such as elections or censuses? In what ways can we use technology to preserve our environment from the ravages of climate change?
The COVID-19 Pandemic has taught us important lessons in the necessity of applying technology-enabled solutions to strengthen our health security architecture. Tools such as telemedicine can be deployed to deliver medical services to underserved and difficult to reach areas. We must also provide the right conditions for more private sector organisations like Temi Giwa’s Life Bank that have been working very hard in the distribution of medical supplies to expand their reach to other States and utilize technology like drones to deliver medical supplies faster and further, thereby saving lives beyond the main cities and in rural communities.
Smart cities leverage data to make decisions across the board. Economic data, consumption data, demographic data, population data, health data, are all important factors. Across all levels of government, we need to raise our capacity to harvest, track and analyse data and ground policies in empirical evidence. Data is at the heart of developmental governance.
Indeed, I would argue that governments need big data even more than corporations do. Whether we are discussing urban planning and public administration or economic planning and security strategy, it is impossible to attain mastery over these fields without healthy regard for data.
This is why in December last year; I inaugurated the steering committee for the GRID-3 Nigeria project. GRID-3 is the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development. It is a $50 million project in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Foreign Development Office to generate, validate and use geospatial data on population, settlements, infrastructure and subnational boundaries. The project has led to the launch of the GRID-3 Nigeria portal, which provides access to accurate, complete, and geospatially referenced data relevant to a variety of sectors.
It is now evident that within the next decade Nigeria will cease to be a country whose main contribution to the world is crude oil. The resources that we have which are in increasingly high demand globally are your capacity for innovation, your imagination, your creative content and your highly adaptive solutions. Your minds and workspaces are the refineries of the present and the future.
We are finally embracing the true logic of true wealth, it is not being a primary producer, it is about value added, it’s about maximally leveraging what you have, technology, and in particular, data offer that incredible opportunity.
Thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy the Art of Technology Lagos 2.0.
God bless you.