Akinwale Awosokanre is an Information Technology, IT, expert with over two decades of experience. His wealth of experience spans around Business Development and Sales in the Telecommunications, Manufacturing and IT industries.
His excellent managerial dexterity, in 2018, earned him a prestigious position as Regional Managing Director, West Africa of a multinational company of over 100 years of existence – Hitachi Vantara.
In this interview, Awosokanre brought to bear his IT expertise on issues around data; how Nigerian government can generate more revenue from data management and governance.
He also makes a strong case for using data analytics to re-engineer some, if not all government policies, and challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to give a try and see.
Data management is becoming an everyday issue. What’s your take on how best to manage data?
Data management has become a key factor in growing today’s businesses and economies. So it is not surprising that it dominates discussions everywhere you go.
The volume of data generated daily as every activity has almost become digital, also makes discussions around data a must. Business owners and government must know what data is and how to properly harness it. Government must not only be aware of data, it must be conscious of its security implications, as well as being fully knowledgeable about making money with it. That is where data management and governance come in.
What’s actually the difference between data management and data governance?
Data management is embedded in data governance. Data management means how people manipulate their data; moving it from one point to the other.
Data governance is not only about manipulating but also about determining who has access to the data and to what extent they are allowed to.
So, data governance includes generating data, securing data, regulating access to data, and, in some instances, disrupting data. For instance, if I generate data, I can set a 10-year data management policy and after that, disrupt both the data and policy.
What I am trying to make out to you is that data governance is bigger than management. Management is just one part of data governance.
The argument, that hosting local data offshore breaches national security; what’s your take?
Well, in the technical sense, it does not breach national security, considering the amount of security awareness, worldwide, particularly in this digital era. Where you store your data is not restricted by geography but by the security you put into the system. Where data is stored does not actually matter but how it is stored.
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Personally, I don’t believe keeping data outside the country is a problem. What you need to know is the position of the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, which governs data in Nigeria, on your action.
You talked about data monetisation. If data is the new oil, like the saying now goes, how can the government tap into it?
For the government, data should be everything; the more data you have about the citizenry, the easier it becomes to plan. For instance, if a government requires 20 doctors from a particular locality, the first step is to get accurate data of how many people residing in that locality. If there are 20, 000 people in the locality, the government can decide to say, it will produce a doctor in every 1000 people, to make up that 20 doctors. The power of that planning is the data in its disposal. To take it further, the government can also plan its tax revenue generation from there by extracting how many of the people are working. So, if 5,000 of them are working, it means the government knows its tax generation will be coming from that number and decides how to distribute the wealth created by 5, 000 people among 20,000 citizens.
So, data allows planning, and from planning you are able to generate more revenue. So, as a government, data being the oil means making act of governance more reasonable and more coordinated.
Some experts are controverting the 4th industrial revolution saying what we need is data revolution, how can we make clear distinction?
Data revolution supersedes any other revolution. For me, data revolution is the future. If you take a country like Nigeria where we have every young man and woman carrying a phone including every new born child, by the time they are two to three years old, they are already playing with the iPad, what that tells me immediately is that the more people are empowered the more data it generates. The more data I generate, the more I am able to analyse those data and make more money.
Companies like Hitachi that has been in this business for a while, how can you advise government to make data the mainstay of the economy?
We are working with government, we are interested in working closely with different government agencies as may be required, to change the way governance is done in Nigeria. For us, aligning with the government is the primary responsibility. It is something we’ve done in the past and something we are still doing. We will guide government, we contribute to policy papers, and we contribute to directions to ensure that these things are done.
Let’s have the full competence of Hitachi and how it has helped corporate organisations?
Hitachi is 100 years old in operations, 50 years old in Information and Communications Technology, ICT. All the top companies across the world work with Hitachi in one way or the other, without exception. We’ve helped many companies across the world reorganise their data management. We are going to continue to do it with new companies but the result is always going to be the same. The result will be that data will generate money for them; it will increase their productivity double digits. So for us it’s not an option, it is a way of life.
If President Buhari were to engage Hitachi today, to use data analytics to revamp the country’s economy, what would be your approach?
Our approach will be in four steps- how does government store their data in order to know what is happening. How do they enrich the data today? How can we activate the data to be able to make money and the last thing is – how can they start using the data they’ve generated to make more money?
So, Hitachi will work with the government to generate more revenue, capture more data and make money from the data that they’ve generated.
I will sit with the president to let him know the need for us to generate the right kind of data, the need for us to be able to store it and the need for us to be able to use it for planning. I will let him know the need for us to be able to use and generate more revenue and be able to use it at the same time to ensure that the future generation do not go through the problems that we are going through and to ensure that Buhari’s name is written in gold at the end of his tenure.
What would be your advice to Nigerians on data management?