Nigeria is in a move to becoming a major outsourcing hub for international data science, advanced analytics and big data projects as it eyes 10 percent share of the business worth $3.3 billion in revenue by 2020.
According to industry analysts, the move is prompted by the enormous opportunities and the quest to bridging the huge skills gap in the data science industry, which they say must be done expediently by developing local capacities in the country.
Bayo Adekanmbi, MTN’s chief transformation officer and convener of Data Science Nigeria, said Nigeria has what it takes to raise a new generation of world-class data scientists, who can tap into the big data analytics market valued in billions of dollar.
He said facts from the International Data Corporation (IDC) already indicate a need for almost 200,000 people with deep analytical skills in the US by 2018 and a requirement of five times that number for positions with added data management and interpretation capabilities.
“It will be a secondary slavery if we miss this next wave of business revolution and lose out on the opportunity to build the local capacity that is required for the evolving global shifts, if we act fast, Nigeria can be at the center of this, thus maximizing foreign exchange earnings and resulting in substantial job creation,” Adekanmbi said.
According to industry experts, data is breaking away from the IT department and becoming an integral part of every department in a company, a scenario which should prompt Nigeria to build a data-driven economy where data solves the problems of transactions without any limitations.
They advised that unstructured data from local Nigerian sources can be properly analyzed with many currently existing solutions using natural language algorithms, and the necessary customization can be made to make technology serve our local nuances with ease.
Yemi Kale, statistician-general of the federation and CEO of National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in a paper titled “Big data economy: Driving the economy through data science”, noted the huge data demand in the country, which is being fuelled by growing insistence on accountability and good governance by citizens, as well as the desire by governments at all levels to demonstrate progress and democratic dividends in various sectors.
He said the current economic challenges facing the country have further amplified the demand for accurate, reliable and timely data on virtually all sectors of the Nigerian economy.
“As custodian of official statistics and coordinator of the National Statistical System, the National Bureau of Statistics, despite continued challenges, has redoubled its efforts towards ensuring high frequency and quality data is available for policymakers, business investors and citizens alike. In this regard, we have partnered and continued to partner with various private sector outfits involved in data production and analytics.
“NBS is an integral part of various government committees and decision-making initiatives actively engaging in advocacy efforts to ensure that NBS data products are relevant to informing economic policymaking where and when required. And the critical role of using data to inform policymaking bears out clearly in our recent economic experience. Today one of the first places potential investors visit is the NBS to get a sense of what the data is saying,” Kale stated.
He equally noted the importance and role human resource in achieving the desirable outcomes, saying that in as much as technological advancement can drive economic growth, skilled workers are also required to apply the science, operate these technologies and drive continued innovation.
“In the field of data science, the skills required cover major areas and to become an effective data scientist, therefore, you need a solid foundation in computer science, modeling, statistics, analytics, and math.
“What sets data scientists part from traditional job titles, therefore, is an understanding of economic and business processes and an ability to communicate findings to business and IT leaders as well as economic managers in a way that can influence how an organization, individual or business approaches a challenge or exploits an advantage,” he pointed out.
While the field of data science is still emerging as a definitive field of practice in Nigeria, he said there are actions that can be taken by key stakeholders in ensuring that Nigeria continues to build a pipeline of talent with expertise in the above areas to prepare today’s youths for tomorrow’s jobs.
“I am of the opinion that if we do the right things at the right time and for the right reasons, Nigeria can achieve its well-recognized potential as a great economy and country. Our inability to do what was right in the past for the right reasons and at the right time is one of the reasons we 6 have the challenges we have today as a country and getting our data and data analysis right is one of such right things we must do.”
Emeka Okoye, CEO, Cymantiks, said Nigeria would not have a tech ecosystem until focus is on developing fundamental STEM pillars.
“We cannot be excited about being software consumers without leveraging core research through our universities to drive breakthrough innovations,” he remarked.
According to Dele Tejuoso, Founder, Wi-Fi Combat, Nigeria must go back to the primary schools and fortify its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
“The kids have the capacity to learn faster by being exposed to data science earlier,” he said.