August 22, 2020

Microsoft's Recommendations for Nigeria's Digital Transformation

According to a paper published by Microsoft, "The ubiquity of technology and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is revolutionizing business and society in everyday life. The transformational changes of technology addition and the Fourth Industrial Revolution impacts social, economic, political and security dimensions."

Not only are we seeing the early benefits from the Fourth Industrial Revolution in developed markets, it may provide a great impact on those living in developing countries worldwide. It was with great interest that I read Enabling a Digital Nigeria: A Position Paper of Microsoft's Vision for Digital Transformation and a Digital Economy that Works for Everyone, which presents "digital transformation as a means for social and economic development in Nigeria to enable every Nigerian citizen and business achieve more."

Through this paper, Microsoft recommends "twenty (20) policy interventions across four (4) policy areas for the Government to promote a digital Nigeria in such a way as to optimally harness the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution. The recommendations highlight the gaps that need to be closed to ensure we can capitalize on the benefits of the digital economy. Transforming Nigeria using technologies will require developing a digital ecosystem, infrastructural enhancements in the policy and regulatory environment, education sector and national security. Finally, without deliberate efforts to improve people's national digital awareness and inclusion, both in the private and public sectors, the benefits will be limited."

Below are some of Microsoft's recommendations aimed to drive cloud adoption in the country, which would catalyze the digital transformation of public institutions:
  1. To sustain the traction of a cloud-first policy and other digital transformation initiatives, Government efforts to increase digital and cloud capabilities of the public service are important. The Government should amplify communications of its commitment and support of ICT policies within an enabling environment.
  2. Build digital and AI capacity through the creation of AI knowledge centers across the country as well as the enhancement of scientific research on AI adoption.
  3. Government must optimize its data ecosystem through the development of multi-domain open data repositories that will enhance citizen interaction and amplify the country’s emergency response infrastructure.
  4. Government should ensure technology adoption barriers like costs are fair to all socio-economic groups and offer support and provision of digital applications in sectors such as education and healthcare.
  5. To implement the NITDA’s e-Government Interoperability Framework across the public sector. This provides uniform standards to follow in ICT adoption that will optimize government’s role in driving sustainable development.
  6. Adapt the national education curriculum and delivery methods to align with 4IR and develop digital and non-digital skills such as critical thinking.
  7. The passage of data protection laws unique to the Nigerian context that aligns with cutting-edge technologies, is technology neutral, and balances innovation with protection.
Having witnessed West Africa's technological transformation over the past decade, I concur with the report's conclusion: "The fundamental difference between digitally competitive nations has less to do with technology, but more to do with the transformative strategies that complement digital-savvy leadership, digitally skilled citizens and a collaborative digital culture. By immersing these elements within a conducive policy enabling environment, the Nigerian government can create a sustainable technology ecosystem that will drive digital transformation."

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is presenting a great opportunity for the next generation of Nigerians seeking to participate in the knowledge economy. Microsoft's recommendations provide a strong, stable path for the country's digital transformation. As the report encouragingly says: "We hope this contribution will provide a roadmap for Nigeria to achieve social and economic development goals and derive her share of the $11.5 trillion global digital economy."

Do you agree with the report's recommendations?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

August 2, 2020

Four Things Recent College Graduates Should Be Doing During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Over the past several years, from late spring through the summer, I receive requests from recent college graduates seeking advice on how to land their first post-college job. This year, however, as result of the economic recession caused by the covid-19 pandemic, many graduates are reporting that firms are rescinding internship or employment opportunities. Gina London, an executive advisor and business consultant, published an article on LinkedIn that provides four things recent college graduates should be doing right now.

1. Develop yourself

"If you're not working, perhaps you can expand your professional skills by taking an online course," suggests Ms. London. This great advice is useful for all of us irrespective of where we are on our career path. Learning should not end when you receive your college degree (nor should it end whether or not you attended college). Developing lifelong learning skills will benefit you throughout your career.

Services such edX, Coursera, HubSpot Academy, just to name a few, provide free or low-cost online classes. In addition, becoming a reader of daily or weekly periodicals like The New York Times, Financial Times or The Economist are good sources of information that will help you remain informed on current affairs. And while a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2019 says that approximately "a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) say they haven't read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form," I strongly recommend reading books in order to help improve your skills or build knowledge on a specific topic.

Even Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, opined on this topic during a television interview: "The first question every interviewer is going to ask you is: 'What did you learn during the pandemic of 2020? What skills did you add during the pandemic of 2020?'"

He further said: "Keep on adding to your skill-set, no matter what it is. I don't care if you're a welder, or you want to learn how to [computer] program, you want to learn about artificial intelligence, whatever it is, wherever you want to work, use this time to become great at it. Because that's where the opportunities start to open up. If you just sit back and wonder what's next, then it becomes all the more challenging."

2. Network

Ms. London contends that "[t]here's never been a better time to ask everyone - anyone - to connect. 'We're all in this together,' as the lockdown saying goes, so leverage the inherent goodwill and reach out. LinkedIn can be a goldmine if you, like a miner, remain diligent and patient as you sift the sand for those glittering nuggets."

She recommends targeting "professionals in companies and areas of interest. Message them with thoughtful requests which demonstrate you've done your homework on them and their interests and make sure to explain what makes you stand out. Then, after someone connects with you, don't go immediately in for the big request of an introduction or referral or, heaven forbid, some sort of job. No. No."

Ms. London crucially says that "If you want to ask someone for a virtual coffee for some 'advice,' give it a go. But I suggest you tell them you'd only like 15 to 20 minutes and, again, do your homework. Don't just chat. Come prepared with a specific goal in mind and solid questions."

She is 100 percent correct on emphasizing the importance of doing your homework. One of my pet peeves is when I schedule an in-person or virtual meeting with someone who failed to do their homework on me. This topic is the focus of a post I published on this blog in 2009.

I also published a post in 2017, which provides advice on the value of building stronger relationships, not just larger network.

3. Be flexible

"It may not be your dream job," says Ms. London, "but there are benefits to taking a part-time job that isn't even close to your area of study." One benefit is accepting a part-time job unrelated to your area of study will "demonstrate your flexibility and willingness to work to a future employer."

Another benefit I see is that accepting a part-time job with a big company will get you "in the system," which may make it easier to transfer to another position as part of an internal transfer.

Moreover, leveraging on Ms. London's first point above on developing yourself, many companies offer workshops for their employees or cover the fee for online courses.

4. Exercise

Ms. London correctly notes that "the pressures associated with job search during a pandemic are intense. As much as possible, get regular exercise, keep a routine, eat healthy food and try to keep calm. Remain focused but also give yourself a break."

Whether you are searching for a job or managing multiple business ventures, I cannot overemphasize the importance of getting regular exercise. Not only is exercise good for my body, but physical activity reduces my stress level. Whether it is during a cold Seattle rain or a hot summer day in Silicon Valley, I try to walk for 20-30 minutes in the morning and again in the evening. In addition, my wife and I perform the exercises found in this video (the exercises are easy to follow even if you do not speak Mandarin Chinese). And my smiley face squeeze ball is never far away.

I would write more, but it is time for my evening walk. What advice do you have for those whom are seeking work during the pandemic?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

August 1, 2020

Asia Pacific Will Account for Around Half of New Subscribers Globally by 2025, Says GSMA

According to a report authored by GSMA Intelligence, the research and consulting arm of the GSMA, a UK-based organization that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, "The Covid-19 outbreak has had wide-sweeping effects on all aspects of the [Asia Pacific] economy due to falling commodity prices, reductions in international investment, decreased incoming remittances, rising foreign debt burdens and a disproportionate impact on the informal sector (especially important in Asia Pacific). Undoubtedly, the outbreak will affect the development of the mobile ecosystem as well, despite the industry’s best efforts to cushion the impact."

The report, The Mobile Economy Asia Pacific 2020, further says "the digital ecosystem has proved vital in the response to Covid-19. Participants from the entire digital value chain – including operators, vendors, internet players and governments – are pulling together to ensure the most positive outcome possible. And as a side effect of the pandemic, mobile operators have been granted a unique opportunity with a boost in the adoption of mature/quality-based services e.g. video calling for business, online collaboration tools, video streaming, e-commerce and mobile payments. At the same time, the situation has brought to attention governments that have not taken the necessary steps to establish an inclusive digital economy."

What is more, "Across Asia Pacific, and indeed around the world, the Covid-19 outbreak has highlighted the importance of a robust digital economy." The strength of a robust digital economy will depend on the variety of information and communications technology (ICT) solutions made available for consumers and enterprises alike.

"Digitization, which was already an important target, is therefore moving up the agenda for businesses and governments alike, with many accelerating their timelines because of Covid-19. A range of businesses, particularly those in retail, transport, logistics, manufacturing and healthcare, are looking to potentially increase their investment in digital transformation to cope with the impact of the pandemic and build a stronger position for the future."

Based on conversations with colleagues in the Asia Pacific region, I concur that "[v]endors of ICT solutions, especially those operating across the entire value chain, should take this as an opportunity to strengthen their role as key ICT partners to enterprises. But timelines will vary: some enterprise customers will escalate their ICT investments immediately, while others will have to balance addressing the short-term crisis with long-term opportunities."

Below are the report's key findings:

5G Investment:
  • Mobile operators will invest over $400 billion (Capex) on their networks between 2020 and 2025, of which nearly two-thirds ($331 billion) will be spent on 5G deployments;
  • Asia Pacific is home to some of the most advanced 5G markets in the world, with nine markets having launched commercial mobile 5G services – including Japan at the end of March – and 12 more have officially announced plans; and
  • 4G remains the dominant technology across the region in countries such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Pakistan, where the focus remains in areas such as identity, digital commerce and payments, and cross-ecosystem collaboration to help create the digital societies of the future.

Regional Growth:
  • At the end of 2019, 2.8 billion people in Asia Pacific subscribed to mobile services, accounting for 66 percent of the population. With nearly 500 million new subscribers added since 2014, the region is one of the fastest-growing in the world and home to over half of total global subscribers; and
  • Asia Pacific will account for around half of new subscribers globally by 2025 and by this time, we forecast 266 million new subscribers to be connected across the region, bringing the total to just over 3 billion (70 percent of the population).

Socio-economic Development:
  • Over the next six years, 663 million people across Asia Pacific will start using mobile internet for the first time, bringing the total number of mobile internet users in the region to around 2.7 billion by 2025 (61 per cent of the population).
  • This growth in connectivity is helping the mobile industry increase its impact across all of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and spurring adoption of mobile-based tools and solutions (e.g. in agriculture, education and healthcare) that aim to improve livelihoods in low- to middle-income countries and close the gender gap.

As reflected in the image to the right, the spread of 5G throughout the region will facilitate the adoption of connected devices (IoT). GSMA predicts that over six billion new IoT connections in Asia Pacific by 2025, accounting for half of global new additions. This creates an opportunity for those companies developing key growth verticals such as smart home and smart buildings.

Given my interest in digital health, I appreciate that "5G's role in the healthcare response to the pandemic, which utilized technologies such as telemedicine, remote ultrasound and thermal imaging, together with the benefits from the digitization of supply chains/Industry 4.0 in Asia Pacific, underscore the importance of the B2B segment." Furthermore, "Policymakers will need to provide regulatory flexibility for B2B partnerships so that operators have the freedom to innovate to realize 5G's full potential."

While not mentioned in the report, per se, it is important to note that companies developing hardware and services as a result of an improving technology infrastructure must implement the most stringent cybersecurity measures.

Infographic: GSMA Intelligence

What impact do you think the Covid-19 will have on Asia Pacific's digital economy? What ICT solutions are you developing for this rapidly growing region?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.