I recall reading a story, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, about a top executive of a major technology company who had taken ill and while in isolation, was unable to hold virtual meetings because he could not figure out how to navigate his way around Zoom or Microsoft Teams. While we may rightly or wrongly expect a top tech executive to understand seemingly basic technology, the fact is that in today’s hyper-energized tech space, innovation moves so quickly that it is easy for most people, including business leaders, to be overwhelmed.
Nevertheless, business leaders often must chart a technological path for their organisations and, therefore, need to stay updated on potentially game-changing technologies for their businesses. Tech-savvy business leaders drove the generational shift to cloud computing and are at the forefront of the increasing recognition of Edge computing as the future of business in Nigeria and globally. As MD of a leading-Edge computing provider in Nigeria, inq. Digital Nigeria, I am keenly aware of the immense benefits that Edge computing can bring to Nigerian businesses and would like to discuss some of these here.
As you may know, Edge computing is essentially a distributed information technology architecture which allows client data to be processed as close to the originating source as possible, thereby minimizing the need for data to be transmitted to a remote processor. The elimination of data transmission and the attendant reduction in latency, i.e., the time it takes for data to be moved from one point to another, results in a massive improvement in processing speed. Although data is currently processed at supersonic speeds, consumers are demanding even faster transactions and as more data is generated and shared, edge computing will be crucial in meeting our speed and reliability requirements.
So how can it help businesses in Nigeria? Let’s start with the Fintechs, with Nigeria being the fintech capital of Africa (attracting 63% of funding raised by African start-ups in 2021) and the rapid growth of the country’s fintech ecosystem enabled by the ability of developers and consumers to enjoy high- speed processing services. Edge computing will unleash the untapped potential of the fintech ecosystem by providing lower latency and more reliable processing capabilities, which will form the backbone for optimising current fintech applications and developing innovative services in the future.
Based on current statistics, the agricultural sector remains, by some distance, the largest contributor to Nigeria’s GDP, accounting for over 25% of 2021 GDP. It, therefore, remains the backbone of the Nigerian economy and Edge computing can help to increase the sector’s yield, profitability and contribution to GDP. Edge computing solutions can help farmers track soil condition, crop growth, weather and climatic changes, input usage and stock, crop yield, quality, and water usage among others. This data can help farmers improve yield by improving planning, farming methods and output. The data can also help farmers anticipate and address environmental factors in addition to continually improving crop growing algorithms towards ensuring that crops are in peak condition when harvested.
In Manufacturing, Edge computing can be used to monitor processes: applying machine learning and real-time analytics to identify production errors and enhance product quality. Edge computing can enable the addition of various types of sensors throughout the plant which will provide and analyse data relating to the production processes, output of the various production stages, product quality and stock levels for production inputs. This data can help manufacturers accurately forecast production supplies and outputs as well as optimise the manufacturing process to minimise waste and increase efficiency.
What about the Nigeria healthcare industry businesses that are enjoying significant private investment? This private sector-led growth is producing data-driven hospitals and Health Maintenance Organisations (HMO). Electronic records are replacing paper-based patient notes used by doctors, and the availability of electronic records provides the possibility for this data to be analysed in order to optimise healthcare delivery. Edge computing can support the collection and analysis of patient records by hospitals and HMOs with the resulting data guiding patient care by hospitals and financial planning by HMOs. Healthcare data can also be provided to patients to encourage the adoption of healthier lifestyles and reduce the need for repeated or prolonged hospitalisation.
Today, many Nigerian companies maintain a fleet of vehicles as staff buses, operational vehicles and status cars for executives. Edge computing can significantly help to improve fleet management by helping to gather data such as vehicle location, speed, road and traffic conditions, weather and service cycles, which can enhance fleet planning and management. Edge computing can also help to considerably improve workplace safety by analysing, in real-time, data from cameras, sensors and safety devices to alert businesses to potential or actual safety issues which can subsequently be proactively addressed to minimize accidents. Tracking and analysing workplace safety data can also help businesses monitor compliance with safety protocols and provide a basis for the review of these protocols where necessary.
The potential applications of edge computing in Nigeria highlighted above are only a sample of the numerous ways in which Edge computing can significantly improve business operations and profitability in Nigeria. inq. Digital is proud to be at the forefront of Edge computing in Nigeria and I am incredibly optimistic about the opportunities that this technology can unlock for Nigerian businesses.
By Valentine Chime, Managing Director, inq. Nigeria