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How Twitter Suspension Contradict Buhari's Digital Economy Agenda

How Twitter Suspension Contradict FG’s Digital Economy Agenda

­As digital economy is taking shape and undermining conventional notions about how businesses are structured; how firms interact; and how consumers obtain services, information and goods, many potential growth opportunities have been opened up for businesses.

Findings have also revealed that more commercial transactions are moving online and the so-called digital economy continues to expand its reach into every facet of the traditional analogue economy.

For businesses, this means they have access to new channels to reach existing clients as well as new opportunities to expand market share with a competitive digital offering.

For consumers, the ever-expanding digital economy promises greater access to products and services at their fingertips, as well as increased ease in accessing and comparing information about them.

This also tends to encourage more competitive pricing among providers.

While there is still a long way to go to bridge the digital divide, connectivity gains have helped improve lives in many parts of the African continent.

Recall, the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) was unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 28, 2019. According to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami the aim is to boost the development of digital skills, innovations and disruption in both private and public sectors in Nigeria.

In emerging economies the development of digital channels has, in some cases, allowed sectors to essentially skip stages of development seen in other countries, moving directly to digital solutions rather than having to invest in vast networks of hard infrastructure.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), social digital platforms are recasting the relationships between customers, workers, and employers as the silicon chip’s reach permeates almost everything we do—from buying groceries online to finding data or disseminating the right information to the targeted audience.

It is no secret that social media has, and continues, to redefine the global landscape.

Online platforms intermediate information and communication flow on the internet. They are also key enablers of digital trade across the Single Market and the globe. They increase consumer choice and convenience, improve efficiency and competitiveness of industry, and can enhance civil participation.

As key drivers of innovation in the digital world, the success of online platforms is closely tied to the success of a range of businesses that use platforms to reach customers. Platforms allow especially smaller businesses to extend their operations beyond their home state, catering for consumers across the entire Single Market.

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Social media has often been looked at as a platform for communication and engagement between users, but it is drastically evolving beyond that. As today’s consumer spends up to nine hours per day online, social media has proven to be the most effective way for businesses to reach new audiences on a global scale.

Social media is also helping to fuel the global economy by creating new jobs, democratizing information and pushing brands far beyond their borders.

Social media enables brands to scale globally.

While the internet has made it possible to connect with people around the globe, social media has created a reason for people to want to connect. Its presence has gone beyond the basics and has empowered brands to expand borders and reach a global audience with a single post.

New jobs have sprung up due to the increased use of digital marketing, customer engagement and awareness. New roles in businesses have been created to handle and operate a the presence of a brand on social media platforms.

In 2020, the number of social media users in Nigeria reached roughly 28 million. As of the third quarter of 2020, WhatsApp was the most popular social media in Nigeria. The platform was mentioned by 93 per cent of internet users aged 16 to 64 years. Facebook and Youtube followed, being used respectively by 86 percent and 82 percent of the individuals with access to the internet. Instagram has 74% while Twitter users were placed at 62%.

According to the claim, Twitter is injecting $250 million into the Nigerian economy.

Unfortunately, the Federal Government of Nigeria Nigeria announced the suspension days after the micro-blogging site, Twitter deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari’s account for violating its rules.

The move has however sparked reactions from the youths, business stakeholders, civil societies and some international bodies.

A recent report from NetBlock while estimating the economic impact of internet disruption, mobile data blackout or app restriction using indicator from the World Bank, ITU, Eurostat and  U.S Census disclosed that since the government announced the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria the country has lost N2,177,089,051 ($6,014,390) based on the Cost of Shutdown Tool.

The loss continues at a rate of N90,712,044 ($250,600) every hour.

# What ICT Experts Say

Speaking with Business Remarks, an Information Technology Expert and Chief Executive Officer of Jidaw Systems Ltd, Engr Jide Awe said social media is integral to attaining the goals of Nigeria’s digital economy agenda because the platforms have become the most efficient means of communication in the 21st century.

He noted that the Federal Government’s indefinite suspension of Twitter, one of the major global social media platforms, will certainly hinder the growth of the digital economy in Nigeria.

According to him, the participation and contribution of individuals and organizations that use Twitter to conduct business will be affected. Many who have become dependent on the platform for social, economic and political activities will be significantly affected. Losses may be considerable for youth and small businesses.

“It can be a huge setback – for youth innovation, entrepreneurship and employment, as young people and youth-led organizations are the most active segment of the population on Twitter and other social media platforms. The freedom of expression and openness is particularly attractive to and used by young people to share ideas and create value.

“The suspension will affect government’s relationship with young Nigerians who are the ones driving Nigeria’s digital revolution – resulting in feelings of alienation and growing distrust”, he said

Engr Awe further posited that tension and hostility are not healthy for social harmony, confidence and trust which are essential for digital economy growth. And more young people may seek more anonymity in their use of social media and digital tools.

Also, he highlighted that the suspension will also affect the government’s ability to use the platforms to inform stakeholders and the public of new policies/projects, highlight successes and challenges and improve engagement with citizens – this information flow and engagement is critical to the digital economy agenda.

He stressed that a climate that fosters freedom of expression, access to information and openness is critical to fostering innovation. There is a need for better policy coherence.

On investment, the tech expert said “a sudden decision of this nature tends to lead investors to question the nation’s stability and consistency in terms of policies and governance. Since social media platforms such as Twitter have become the norm globally, the decision of the Federal Government to suspend Twitter may attract undesirable attention”.

According to him, investors certainly consider the openness of societies that modern economies must operate in. Sudden unexpected changes make them warier as to what lies ahead.

“It will stunt growth as more businesses than ever before leveraging on social media to improve business performance. The poor economic performance and increase in unemployment will not help the growth of the economy”, he noted.

Speaking further, Awe said having social media accounts is a choice. But many world leaders use these platforms to communicate with their citizens and the world – on economic, political and social and technological issues.

In his words, “Social media platforms are private platforms which have rules that all users agree to when they sign up.

“The government must find better ways to resolve conflicts and use the platforms to achieve their developmental goals. There should be more discussions, consultations and exchange of ideas not just with the social media platforms but also with stakeholders, especially young people. A more inclusive approach will foster democratic norms and governance, as well as the advancement of innovation and economic growth in the country”, he quoted.

On his part, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, Gbenga Sesan said Nigeria’s National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) is supposed to “enable Nigeria to take advantage of digital technologies to become a leading player in the global digital economy” but this illegal clampdown on a digital technology does exactly the opposite so it makes the strategy redundant and makes both the President and Minister hypocrites.

While speaking with Business Remarks, Sesan pointed out that Investors always prefer a predictable and conducive environment.

He said, “so what Nigeria is saying is that we don’t want any investors since their sweat can be wiped off with a single ministerial directive. Investor confidence will be hugely affected, especially for a sector that helped Nigeria recover from a recession. Businesses in Nigeria use digital media to reach customers, expose their brands and communicate with various stakeholders, so that will be affected by this erratic restriction”, he bemoaned.

It should be noted that, as computing power improves dramatically and more and more people around the world participate in the digital economy, we should think carefully about how to devise policies that will allow us to fully exploit the digital revolution’s benefits while minimizing job dislocation.

About Bukola Olanrewaju

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