Information Technology Sub-Sector Watch List

Africa comprises about 52 countries with over 1.2 billion population. Sadly we do not have a say in most of the world’s industries. Every decade new industries continue to emerge with deep opportunities both in the area of economic growth and international representation which in turn induces international exchange value.
There are emerging industries and sub-industries that Africa countries can tap in to bring reasonable economic growth. The future as many countries in the world has identified lies within the ambit of the Information Technology industry. The majority of the sub-industries that are emerging and will emerge must run on the information technology industry. So the first thing to do is for Africa countries to develop their information technology infrastructure to be able to key into these emerging industries. So let’s start by looking at what developing information technology entails.
The first is the development of internet broadband infrastructure. This is the infrastructure that ensures that there is internet connectivity available to everyone and every business. Internet infrastructure before the emergence of fiber optic connection was via a satellite internet connection which makes the internet available to VSAT equipment on specific frequencies. Beyond the technicality that satellite internet connection requires, it is also very expensive to deploy, operate and maintain.
However, the adoption of Mobile Telecommunication has made internet connectivity easier to deploy, operate and maintain. Although it is still expensive but not as expensive as the accumulated cost of running a VSAT connection throughout the country by each business or individual. Most countries have adopted mobile telecommunication as the most reliable and effective means of growing the broadband penetration rate both within the urban cities and rural areas.
As the mobile telecommunication companies expand their reach, they also directly grow the internet broadband penetration. Notwithstanding, for some reasons telecommunication companies may find it difficult to expand to certain locations with their connectivity, so they use rural telephony solutions to breach that obstacle.
African countries are doing well in growing their internet penetration rate as Kenya, Libya, and Nigeria top the chart of Africa countries with the highest internet penetration rate. Kenya was the highest with 85.2%, followed by Libya and Nigeria with 83.2% and 73% respectively.
Looking at it from the world statistics, Africa is the least internet-connected country with about 18%, compared to North America with 81% and Europe with 78%. Asia and South America internet penetration is estimated at 36.5% and 47% respectively.
Most Africa countries have not leveraged rural telephony to increase their broadband internet penetration rate. That said, it is very important that our internet penetration rate is high for us to be able to compete in the next generation industries emerging from the information technology industry.
Looking beyond the internet infrastructure, there is also a very important need for human capital and capacity development. Most Africa countries have neglected the educational institutions that will develop and build professionals who will help to steer the industry. The number of professionals needed in the emerging sub-industries that will leverage the information technology infrastructures to induce economic growth and expansion should not be filled by expatriates. Indigenous educational institutions should be established, empowered, and encouraged to grow the human capital capacity in the core business area of the emerging sub-industries.
Sadly, most of our educational institutions do not even have programs related to some of these sectors. For instance, Cybersecurity which is one of the emerging sub-industry in the information technology sector will require professionals in over 33 areas of specialty. Most educational institutions don’t even offer any out of the 33 specialties as a certificate, diploma, or even degree program. In Nigeria, with over 160 universities, only 6 universities offer cybersecurity as a degree program, most of which are even postgraduate degrees. Not a single polytechnic offers cybersecurity as a diploma program. The signing of the National Cybersecurity Policy & Strategy by the Nigeria President is the emergence of the cybersecurity sub-sector under the information technology industry.
Another emerging sub-industry will be the artificial intelligence industry which will be largely dominated by robotics design, development, management, and operations. This industry will require the combined skill of mechanical engineers, electronic engineers, and software engineers. Most polytechnics in Nigeria offer mechanical engineering and electronic engineering, but they do not offer software engineering, even universities in Nigeria don’t have software engineering. They assume that computer science is broad enough to address software engineering skill deficit, what they have not realized is that as a software engineer, you are as good as the number of programming languages that you can work with.
In fact, most Nigerian University’s computer science graduates end up becoming graduates skilled with FORTRAN and COBOL programming language. These are programming languages of the ’50s and we are in the 21st century, so we should teach 21st-century programming languages such as Python, JAVA, Javascript, c# (C Sharp), C++, C, HTML, Go lang, Perl, Ruby, PHP, etc. These are some of the program languages that our graduates should know if they want to function in the artificial intelligence sub-sector. So, our institution should in a matter of urgency review the syllabus to accommodate hope for the future.
Some other emerging sub-sectors are space technology, virtual reality & medical technology. As earlier stated, most of these innovative sub-sectors will require a stable and reliable information technology infrastructure to be able to survive. So the first thing is to get your infrastructure ready, then ensure you have skilled professionals set to embrace the sub-sector.