In the last 50 years, we have seen the world move from the traditional economies of the past, reliant on trade and extractive industries, to knowledge-based economies where knowledge and skills have become central to economic output – increasingly led by service sector businesses. Sustainable economic growth is directly traceable to substantial investment in service infrastructure and with Nigeria’s recent emergence from a recession, the time to ensure that growth is now.
Today, services make up over 50 per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product and service industries are expected to continue to drive future growth. Digital financial services alone have the potential to add 12 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP by 2025. Over the past decade, Nigeria has become the largest telecommunications market in Africa despite infrastructural deficits. The existing gaps in the mobile and data networks market present an opportunity for significant growth that is expected to spill over into development in the country’s other sectors.
Telecommunications did not always connote the same imagery it does today. Before the internet, landline telephones and telegraphs allowed people to communicate over distances. Today, new technologies allow us to communicate with several people at once and over video, essentially connecting individuals and businesses to a series of socio-economic value chains in real time. As such, modern economies are becoming increasingly driven by networks.
Ensuring access to those networks is fundamental to growth. In facilitating the flow of information, the telecommunications industry performs an indispensable market function by removing geographical barriers to trade. The industry, therefore, acts as a core enabler for wider economic growth and incentivizes investment. Essential to the new knowledge economy is this flow of information across borders. In this way and to this end, telecommunications may well provide the infrastructure of the future; that is, by facilitating the flow of information and skills that are central to the knowledge economy.
Telecommunications companies in Nigeria, especially MTN Nigeria, are breaking barriers by democratising voice and data connectivity and by providing an increasing better quality of service to customers. Each successive generation of mobile network technology improves both the voice and data experience. With the possibility of 5G network services looming, Nigerians could soon see data speed up to 100 times faster and over shorter distances than 4G networks.
But speed isn’t the only benefit; apart from speed, 5G network infrastructure will be a key asset to support societal transformation, leading to the fourth industrial revolution impacting multiple sectors. Health care for example, is becoming increasingly reliant on the Internet to support and provide medical services. Expectedly, health care will benefit from remote diagnostics and telesurgery, as well as improved treatment outcomes that result from higher quality wearable technology.
The instant response times because of the lower latency that will accompany 5G, will vastly improve quality of living as users obtain a better experience of everything else – from digital financial services for example, to self-driving cars, which will become more feasible than is currently possible on current 4G/LTE bandwidths and latencies. Massive Machine type communication of 5G would enable a proliferation of smart home devices, logistics and utility metering. This next generation of mobile network will inspire the emergence of new vertical industries and stimulate innovation; leading to smarter cities and healthier people.
Recent estimates posit that the 5G value chain itself could support as many as 22 million jobs worldwide. The total contribution of 5G to real global GDP from 2020 to 2035 is expected to be around $3Tn, equivalent to an economy the size of India. The 5G is not just another network. It will form the basis of an ecosystem of financial and socio-economic sensors, blurring geographic and operational borders beyond anything we have ever seen. The possibilities are endless.
Financial instruments have set the framework for modern economic exchange, but it is new technologies that have led the evolution of the flow of money, skills and information. As technology advances, telecommunications providers will continue to seek to morph from mere commodity service providers into providers of products and services that enhance customers’ lives and improve the profitability of enterprise business by ensuring ease and efficiency.