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Nigeria’s 4th industrial revolution policies’re in the right direction — Dumont, Microsoft COO

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Microsoft’s Chief Operating / Chief Marketing Officer for Emerging Markets of Middle East and Africa, Chrystele Dumont, fits perfectly  to the old sage “the dynamite never comes in a big package”

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At first sight, one would almost look beyond her, in search of who occupies the exalted office, but when you engage her on 4th industrial revolution, data development and the skill sets that can give Africans a chance in the new revolution, it becomes easily understand able why Microsoft would combine two top positions for a woman so simply built in size and frame.

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Beyond her beauty, Dumont has got the future sorted out in her head. And , how West Africa, particularly, Nigeria , could fit into that future, is in her fingertips. You’ll find out all of that in the excerpts of this exclusive interview with Hitech.

What does it feel like, combining two top positions like COO and CMO for a company such as Microsoft?

My role is mainly making sure that from the solution that we are proposing to our customers and partners, we are having the right plan to serve them; both the top organizations and the small and medium businesses.

I am also in charge of driving the market team to learn our plans. I will say, the interesting part of the challenge is really to be sure we are providing the right resources, the right skills needed to upscale them.   I am at the centre of connecting the dots between all of these.

Digital facilitators like Microsoft are at the centre of the much talked about 4th industrial revolution, what does it have for a growing digital economy like Nigeria?

I strongly believe that for Africa and indeed Nigeria, actually the 4th industrial revolution is a key vector of economic growth. For example, with technology like Artificial Intelligence, AI, by   2020 more than two million jobs will be created within the Middle East and Africa. That really empowers economic growth. I also believe that with these potentials of implementing digital information and across Africa with different customers, Africa has the potential to leapfrog some steps that other markets have passed through.

It can really solve some very pressing challenges that African markets are currently facing, like how to optimize agriculture based on the sun sets, crops, the frequency, weather and how to use the analysis of those data to   not only predict better planting season, but generally, optimise the agricultural sector.

Where will Microsoft’s competence in the emerging revolution, impact on a country like Nigeria?

We are across all the sectors. For example, in Nigeria, we are using our technologies to help Sterling bank leverage the richness of their data to understand  the customer better.

They are able to get a better insight of the customer’s profile, including who the customer is and what the customer requires. This helps the bank to make the right offering to the customers.

After using some of our technologies which are based on the Azzure platform, they have seen a significant increase in efficiency and as well in growth of their services.

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For a young digital economy like Nigeria, growth is systematic. Do we need industrial revolution or data revolution, first?

For us, it’s just to reposition what industrial revolution is bringing, and why data is part of it. So what the first industrial revolution provides is the test tools of technology that are able to do things that were, before, not possible at human level.

Today’s technology revolves around the cloud which enables cost-effective and very powerful computing capacity.  To your question, it could be said that data is at the centre.

Data is what will make the digital transformation possible; meaning, if we’re able to collate data and connect with cloud computing power and artificial intelligence services that are analysing these data, extracting some insights in models, in patterns, then we can predict better.

In any industry this model of prediction can be very powerful to anticipate when there are some issues or obviously be more efficient, more productive or even for general growth.

How ready is Microsoft to enable technologies that’ll see to these predictions?

Fully ready, and already deploying in all sectors. For instance, we help airline operators maintain their aircrafts by deploying our IoT services to enable them have a full map of the aircraft and the maintenance data, issues, and challenges. By so doing, they are able to optimize checks before the aircraft embarks on each travel.

So, what happens in this instance is that instead of waiting for the challenge, they are able to take pre-emptive approach.

There are many examples of this in the continent within Middle East and Africa where we’re really helping our customers to deliver services and make powerful impact.

Another example is a Kenya-based start-up, delivering solar power to households. We have supported the start-up from inception and today, they have leveraged our Azzure services to grow and optimize the services they’re delivering to households in Kenya.

Skill appears the connecting factor between data revolution and digital revolution. Do you think Nigeria has got the right skills to go into digital revolution?

I will say Nigeria and Africa are progressing on this. I will even tell you that outside Africa, there’s a lot of digital scarcity in those technologies we are talking about.

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So it’s not an African or Nigerian problem, it’s a worldwide problem. Just to give you a bit of data, we know that through this digital revolution, there’s a lot of things that are going to be automated which is probably going to impact some jobs, the ones that are repetitive or low.

It’s estimated by the world economic forum, that 66 million jobs will be eliminated by 2025. However,  through the digital revolution, 133 million jobs could also be created. But that’s where skill is required.

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