Drop It, Lets Talk Fintech
“Nthekele data foo ke subscribe…”. This is a popular phrase in our communities, including our newfound haven – social media. That is not the data we are touching today. Let me take you down memory lane. Data is unprocessed Information and it is quantitative or qualitative. Oxford Dictionary defines data as facts or information, especially when examined and used to find out things or to make decisions. However, in the computing world data is more like reversal of that definition and is defined as information converted into binary digital form. The objective of this conversion is to make information efficient for sharing or for processing. Binary as per that computer definition is not special in anyway – though being the gateway to complex computer world, it is the same old mathematics binary that uses ones (1) and zeroes (0). Big Data, therefore, for the purposes of this column, refers to the one we defined under the computing world. Big Data is simply large and complex data.
What role does Big Data play in the 4IR? As indicated in the previous submissions, data plays a pivotal role in 4IR. Big Data is the biggest support system of the three key players in 4IR and these three are Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robots. As it were in Botswana, we are swimming in the Internet of Things world and Artificial World. Robots are a about 2 or 3 generations far from us, but I think they will come. Those familiar with Google G-suite or a simple G-mail will note that when you respond an email, there is already a suggestion of how to respond, and as you type, there is predictive text that is suggested to you. That is part of Artificial Intelligence. You can now watch a movie playing on a cellphone or laptop streaming (uses Wi-Fi) from your Smart TV. That is part of Internet of Things.
Wi-Fi as defined by Cisco Systems is a wireless networking technology that allows devices such as computers (laptops and desktops), mobile devices (smart phones and wearables), and other equipment (printers and video cameras) to interface with the Internet. My Reader let me tell you, you are already experiencing Big Data firsthand. In your social media accounts there is “Paid Advertising”, how do you think it interacts with you as the consumer? Do you think the Advertiser just throws information out there about their product? I have bad news for you if think so. Social Media companies use your behavioral interactions with the account, chief among others, browsing patterns, pages you like to visit, frequency of visit to the site, your activity whilst on the site etc, you can imagine how all this huge data is processed to help the social media company help Advertisers target their market. Social media companies have thousands of algorithms. Algorithms are like your food recipes.
What efforts have the Government done with regards to embracing Big Data? In part of the wide engagement, Government of Botswana followed suite of what several other Governments are doing with regards to Big Data. In 2016 the Government kick started an ambitious project named Botswana e-Government Service Oriented Enterprise Architecture and Interoperability Framework, popularly known as e-Gov. The project is said to be running with several other projects – about 25. The idea is to move all Government services online. If this is realized, we would confidently remark that we have Big Data. In their research paper titled “”Understanding Phases of E Government”, Asma Al -Hashmi and Abdul Basit Darem stated in their abstract that, and I verbally quote “Electronic Government reflects the ultimate visions for public administrations and governments to make change.
However, e-Government is not a simple on-line information provision. It requires an evolutionary and comprehensive architecture to avoid unnecessary duplication of infrastructure and major components and to integrate disparate processes, services and activities located outside administrations. The aims of e-Government are not only the transformation of traditional information into bits and bytes and making it accessible via the Internet and moving existing government functions to an electronic platform. But it also calls for rethinking ways the government functions are carried out today in order to improve processes and integration.”.
Overall information around both formal and Informal Sector can become readily available once efforts of Big Data are achieved. And availability of information in comprehensive format can influence policy in a more impactful and timely way as opposed to using obsolete information and beefing it up with skewed projections. LEA has advertised that they want companies to participate in an SMME register that they are developing. The filling out of the form is very convenient. In their website they also indicated that there is a USSD number at which you follow the prompts and provide information as required. For tech proponents, that is duplication of efforts. We say the same thing with BURS. Why must a company provide BURS with ID Number, copies of Omang and company documents? The whole idea of Big Data is to improve processes. BURS should be able to look a company up and get all the information they require.
In fact, CIPA must be the only custodian of company information. That way, even KYC can be properly and efficiently managed. CIPA required that annual returns be submitted; this could be the central portal of information relating to companies. Councils on the other end must be the custodians of Physical address at which the company operates from. They also have an annual maintenance done by license holders; this is where the KYC element around physical address could be maintained for companies. When you go to open a bank account, why should you furnish them with company documents and identity documents? Our level of business competitiveness can be achieved through Big Data. I have engaged with several financial risk managers and initially their position is always that there is a risk in such centralization. My view is that there is no risk where CIPA manages company related KYC, Council manages Physical operational address KYC, banks already have crucial aspect of the KYC which is a bank statement. A bank Statement communicates more information than a mere bank balance. It is safe to say each, and every industry is affected by Big Data. Leaders must have systems and plans in place to ensure that within 3 years from now they are swimming in the lake of Big Data. This efficiency can help unlock potential of this economy beyond Diamonds and Tourism.
One key lynchpin in the Big Data initiative is Statistics Botswana. They produce credible, critical statistical reports. If you visit their website there is plethora of reports. Some of these reports need latest stats to make informed decision making. A Director of Socio Demographic Statistics Mr. Tapologo Baakile once remarked that “A country with no viable national infrastructure for data/information generation, analysis, dissemination, and archiving will find itself severely constrained in undertaking planning, monitoring and evaluation of its development programmes and projects”. In the same speech, the Director indicated that in 2018 only 34.8% of data was readily available for the monitoring of the implementation of the SDGs Framework. Efforts on data collection must not only be left to census and surveys. Technology must be roped in to assist with collection on Data. Right now, there is an outcry that the current employment rate presented as the Official figure it is likely understated. This is because of a lag in data collection.
Many people believe that Unemployment means when you are not able to bring income to your household, the technical definition qualifies that by indicating that you are classified as unemployed when you are actively looking for employment. And I am yet to know a reliable portal that registers people actively looking for employment. Currently it is very frustrating to get information in Botswana. Big Data will go a long way and in fact it presents a great business opportunity for young upcoming ambitious technology graduates. I acknowledge efforts done by DPSM through their Unemployed Graduate Database. At one-point DPSM was accused to have returned about a Billion Pula to the consolidated fund that was supposed to help fill vacancies. At the time there were about 7000 vacancies to be filled. Can somebody explain why we do not have a reliable wholly exclusive interactive Government Job portal at this moment in time?
The 4th Industrial Revolution: Surely Botswana Innovation Hub must come to the party!
See you next week