How Far with the Internet of Things (IoT) Saga in Nigeria?

Without being biased, I think what we have in Nigeria is an imbalance pendulum as far as the concept of Internet of Things is concerned.

It is more or less a dream and a vision that is yet to be fully conceptualized in the country. If you ask me, whether the concept of IoT in Nigeria is feasible or not, I will just say the dream is a compelling one.

Obviously, Nigeria is completely standing out in a situation where everyone is scrambling for a piece of IoT devices. The challenges are becoming evident; these challenges must be surmounted for the dream to become a reality.

I am not opposing the fact that people are building houses in Lagos, houses that are entirely controlled by their smartphones. For instance, every part of such houses has sensitive sensors that are configured and controlled using a smartphone. (A typical example of how IoT works from an individual perspective).

We are always joining the bandwagon, the moving train, popular activities, which is not bad. Although, the flip side of being in the groove is associated with our inadequate preparedness. We are always missing the previous steps, by adopting a new trend especially in this ecosystem, where evolving trends are inevitable.

A practical example of losing the preliminary steps and embracing a new trend can be noticed in e-commerce. Till date, I vehemently believe that Nigeria hasn’t gotten e-commerce right. When the concept was introduced in Nigeria, almost all businesses became keen to becoming one by adopting the model, without having a holistic view of what and what it takes. Am sorry, the same thing is happening to us if you talk about IoT.

Interestingly, the country that is nearest or closest to Europe regarding infrastructure and economic development is South Africa. This is in juxtaposition that Nigeria will spearhead the concept of IoT in Africa. There are a lot of scenarios and situations that could be placed side by side, in a bid to determine which country is spearheading the concept of IoT in Africa. These circumstances and scenarios make it very apparent that Nigeria is not spearheading anything.

“When you speak about IoT in Africa, it began over ten years ago in South Africa, and it has been shaping the country without many people noticing it, ” this is what Ran Niekerk, Managing Director, Metacom, a Pan Africa Technology Company has to say about South Africa.

Well, this is not the case in Nigeria, I doubt if there were any significant development regarding IoT 10 years ago.

One of the yardsticks to measuring if IoT is getting fully conceptualized in Nigeria is to know how far broadband penetration has gone. It’s pretty impressive to note that the Presidency under the watch of Goodluck Jonathan launched the National Broadband Plan, this for me pinpoints the importance the government has attributed to technology. Although, the progress to achieve this plan is snowballed as a result of several factors. Nigeria has only a few months to make the National Broadband Plan a reality, and with the current state of the economy, I doubt if that will happen. Connectivity is an enabler of IoT, and that is yet to be adequately addressed.

The Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) is already lamenting that access to Forex is a major issue confronting the industry. And this issue has a direct adverse effect on the National Broadband Plan. The deployment of metro fiber network to different licensed locations has been stalled.

However, we are hoping that there would be an improvement on issues regarding access to Forex. I am saying this because, as at last week members of ALTON have written to the Nigeria Communications Commission to conduct a background study on why telecom operators are not getting access to Forex from banks.

More importantly, Nigeria should borrow a leave from South Africa, if we must benefit from the total conceptualisation of IoT into our tech ecosystem.

Some of the important activities about incorporating IoT in South Africa include the construction and building of a nationwide network of sensors to connect everything, such as traffic control systems and electricity grids. South Africa has also heavily invested in building public and private cloud infrastructures, industrial and commercial architectures, etc. in the last ten years.

Meanwhile, discussing issues like power seem not to make sense anymore. Building cloud solutions, designs and critical infrastructure will require power and Nigeria for over five decades is yet to find a solution.

Global research firms like Cisco and Gardner already have their projections, outlining the economic impacts of getting billions of devices connected.

“IoE Creates $14.4 Trillion of Value at Stake for Companies and Industries. Cisco predicts that the IoE Value at Stake will be $14.4 trillion for businesses and industries worldwide in the next decade. More specifically, over the next ten years, the Value at Stake represents an opportunity to increase global corporate profits by about 21 percent,” a Cisco report reads.

Frankly, Nigeria will lose out on these benefits, if we fail to address pressing issues that have lingered over the years.