When we talk of future technologies, robotics naturally comes up. What is the reality of robots in Nigeria? Already these man made machines are used in various advanced countries for a wide variety of applications; especially in manufacturing. But robots are going beyond the assembly line.
The robot revolution is expanding into consumer and service industries. Artificial Intelligence (AI), drones, driverless cars, etc constitute the emerging reality. AI is indeed the most exciting field in robotics already applied in our day to day activities such as social media and personalization in online shopping.
So will Nigeria just “stand aside and look like robots”? Will the nation continue with its slavish role as a massive tech consumer? Robots are programmed to solve problems with obvious productivity and safety benefits. For example, robots assist with manual, tedious and routine activities in manufacturing and with dangerous military and security tasks. The use of AI, the cloud and emerging technologies produces smarter and even more powerful robots. We should know by now that creators rule, creators control, creators run things.
Challenge of Disruption
Because robots reduce the need for human interventions, jobs will be lost. Improving productivity comes with disruption. However the trend may well engender the development of value added, innovative and knowledge intensive roles in new growth areas.
Infrastructure is however a challenge to any form of growth in Nigeria. Cost is another issue – cost of adoption and cost of hardware and imported components. Furthermore, the shortage of the much needed multidisciplinary talent is a high hurdle. The study of robotics needs stronger interest and support. Marvelling and appreciating is not enough.
Robotics won’t go away. The question is: what is Nigeria’s strategy for this fast-evolving field? Can robotics contribute to growth and progress? How does a nation with huge job creation needs, particularly for young people think forward? Even if the nation is at zero level, establish goals. Start a local robotics industry that will serve the world.
As the world getting more competitive a consumption orientation will hold us back; will keep us in chains. Instead build strengths and strategic advantage through the creation of innovative, new age industries, professions and jobs. Robotics is one such area offering opportunities in designing, programming, research, repairing and supporting the machines and infrastructure. The development of strategy should consider talent development, target audience/market research issues, entrepreneurship development as well as the mentioned challenges (infrastructure, cost) and disruption to society and values.
Note that strategy is one thing. The will to implement is another matter entirely.
It is clear that progress entails considering and exploiting this space of disruption. The potential to benefit society is huge.
Nigeria must go past consumption to give birth to a robotics reality that is strategic, genuine and rewarding.