Can the Tech Ecosystem develop without steady power supply?
Thankfully, I’ve been quite successful in my craft but one behind-the-scene question is, would my result have been different, if I had not diverted funds meant for a car to acquire an inverter system?
Without realizing it back then that singular move was a game changer, it meant I could afford to stay in the trenches a little longer without the heavy burden of fueling a generator but the reality is that how many startups can truly afford to acquire such equipments especially those who are struggling to survive or reside far away from the hubs?
Back to the topic, in my opinion there can be no technological advancement or innovation without steady power supply and in the same vein, no power or electricity ecosystem (generation, distribution, billing or what have you) without modern technology — it is absolutely impossible in both cases because they are partners in progress.
Electricity is the fulcrum on which many other inventions, chief of which is the technology revolution (that has now turned the world into a global village) has evolved.
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One fundamental challenge we have to tackle is the issue of unemployment and it is a known fact that the informal sector is the largest employer of labour in most economies of the world. Beyond what we now know as the startup ecosystem, is the SME sector already employing millions of people and has the capacity to accommodate a lot more from welding workshops, barbing and hair dressing saloons, Internet cafés, fashion designers, cold room operators and lots more.
All of these guys will contribute to the growth of the economy one way or the other, if they have access to stable power supply to run their businesses seamlessly. Also, and importantly too, manufacturing will once again become viable as factories will be able to run their equipments at cheaper electricity rates compared to the exorbitant cost of running them on diesel generators. This means that there will be a reduction in the cost of production and a reduction in the cost of production will drive the prices of produced goods down, thus, making them more affordable and competitive.
Further benefits of fixing this persistent electricity issue is that, as reduction in production costs drives down prices, our products will be able to compete for export, especially in our immediate African market. This can, indeed, be the beginning of Nigeria earning serious foreign exchange from exports. Exports earnings can improve the strength of the Naira against stronger currencies like the Dollar and save us from the present foreign exchange imbroglio we find ourselves.
From what I understand those who invested in the power sector are more or less cash-strapped and therefore not able to invest in order to replace or upgrade all the rusty and old equipments they bought. One is tempted to ask; what did the Disco’s think they were buying into when they submitted their bids? Did they inspect the equipment they were buying at all? These and any more questions are begging for answers but I’d leave that for another day.
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The truth is that no nation can be economically viable if its electricity sector is seriously troubled like ours. I believe the laws backing the electricity sector has to be knocked down, to further allow more businesses generate and sell excess power to interested parties. I hear from the grapevine of a Nigerian ranch owner in a particular State in the US, who, not only generates electricity for his entire ranch estate, but sells the excess generation to the State where he resides.
The issue of alternative source of power generation should also not be discountenanced in seeking to solve the electricity crisis. Technology has made a number of options possible, such as wind, solar and many more. Our government should look at each region and see how best they can be helped to benefit from these alternative sources to the benefit of the country.
My hope is that electricity supply will improve considerably otherwise our Tech ecosystem and other businesses may crawl until the very end of life. Yes, I know power has improved considerably in certain parts of the country but how are we sure it is not a fluke brought about by the rainy season which means that the power dams have enough water? If you’re old enough, then you may have heard this excuse every now and again. Only time will tell though!
Permit me to ask once again, can we develop our tech ecosystem without uninterrupted power supply?
I rest my case at this point, what do you think?
CFA co-produces and presents Tech Trends, a weekly Tech show on Channels Television (www.CFA.ng/tv) and writes the ICT Clinic column, published weekly in the Sunday Punch (www.CFA.ng/punch) as well as Tech on Wheels, a nationally syndicated radio show airing across multiple states.
He is the Founder of TechSmart.ng, a tech blog that covers everything tech.