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Tech Renaissance: Unleashing AI, Blockchain, And Other Innovations for Nigeria’s Future.

Submitted by Editor on 1 March 2024

By Chidiebere Sullivan Nwuguru

Mid-last year, in my quest to land my maiden full-time role as a healthcare data scientist/analyst, I applied to lots of healthcare startup companies and facilities; while doing this, I dedicated a chunk of my time to researching any company that struck my interest, and it was in these moments that I came to the full realisation of how vast the application of technology is, in the healthcare industry. Artificial intelligence, Machine Learning, Computerised Medical Imaging, Triage Systems, Telemedicine, etc, are some of the technologies that are employed to improve patients’ care and enhance precision in medicine. Today, technology has made it possible for patients to have quality sessions with suitable healthcare professionals right from the comfort of their homes, through the provision of telemedicine. With the advent of a triage system such as an online user-friendly patient portal, or a mobile app, the documentation of the patients’ data can now be seamlessly done online, without having to go through the stress of crowding and wasting time at the emergency room’s reception for manual documentation. 

Artificial Intelligence(AI), Machine Learning(ML), and Deep Learning are now being employed to predict disease risk, offer streamlined care to patients, and even perform advanced medical diagnoses such as conducting medical imaging with better precision. After learning all of these applications, I was stunned by the conviction that with technology, revolutionising any sector of any country is very possible.

Beyond the healthcare industry, technological applications is growing rapidly in so many other sectors across the world. For instance, in the finance industry, blockchains such as cryptocurrencies have become very viable and acceptable mediums of exchange, mobile banking is now contending seriously with the physical banking and this is all possible through the applications of technology. Cybersecurity is widely applied in the military and defense industry, as well as in the banking industry for tracking fraudulent activities. The invention of self-driving cars, application of Internet of Things(IoT) such as computerised homes, farms, etc, are becoming popular is so many parts of the world, making life easier for people and advancing the development indices of nations. In the agricultural sector, robotics and automation, drones, satellite imagery, IoT, blockchain technology, data analytics and machine learning are employed to improve transparency and traceability in the agricultural supply chain, increase productivity, monitor crop growth, detect diseases, identify areas of stress, and generally enhance yield while also making the farming process easier for the farmers.

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However, in all of these, what struck me most was that our nation, Nigeria, is still miles behind when it comes to the applications of these technologies in our various sectors. I came to know of this during my job hunt when I discovered that we have just a handful of hospitals and healthcare facilities that have embraced the application of technology, and these institutions are mostly situated in big cities such as Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, leaving the rest of us in the other parts of the country technologically disadvantaged. In the end, most of the companies I applied to were all foreign-based and required that I migrate fully to be able to work with them; an experience that left me feeling like I was born in the wrong country. 

Another instance was during the course of my final year project where I had to make use of some data from the hospital as part of my research, I was surprised to see that a federal hospital as big as my school teaching hospital had no functional digital database system, so I had to rely on the physical database which was manually documented with some of the documents already torn to shreds. These sorts of disadvantages cut across various sectors across the country, and arguably one can say that as a country, we equally lack a functional database system, hence, the reason one needs to re-enter their information anytime they want to queue in for any government project requiring their data. It is also why deploying technology to track and fight against insecurity has been seemingly futile; of course, how can a country fight against insecurity by leveraging data when she does not have sophisticated data systems?

In a nutshell, having seen how vast and broad the applications of technology is, and how important it is to a nation’s growth, I think it's high time our government channelled more resources into creating an enabling environment for technological advancements to thrive in our country. More efforts should be put into enhancing education and research that is geared toward technological developments across our various sectors.

Also, grants and loans should be mapped out for tech-based startup companies; this will ensure the exponential growth and expansion of these companies across the country. If we get these things right, I foresee a future where our teaming young population will become a very big export with lots of technical skills to offer just as we see today in India; such progress is capable of turning our economy around and helping a great deal in fighting against insecurity and hunger.