With the evolution of the fourth industrial revolution, Nigerians stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way they live, work and relate to one another, according to the federal government of Nigeria.
Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, who ably represented President Muhammadu Buhari as Special Guest of Honour at 50th Annual Accountants’ Conference recently held in Abuja by Institute of chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), said: “For all of us in general and accountants in particular, the journey towards digital and growing cloud adoption is the mother trend of all changes.”
She, at the event themed ‘The 4th Industrial Revolution: Boom for the Accounting Profession and Panacea for pandemic’, which also marked the Golden Jubilee celebration of ICAN, noted that the federal government of Nigeria has been fostering and nurturing enduring relationships with professional bodies such as the ICAN towards the realisation of its vision of managing the Nigeria’s finances in an open, transparent, accountable and efficient manner that delivers on the country’s development priorities.
“The Ministry is also poised to continue to nurture these relationships in order to help us design better policies against these priorities. We count on members of ICAN both at home and in the Diaspora to buy in into current reforms undertaken by the Buhari-led administration and provide support in the area of policy formulation to improve the fiscal condition of our nation.
She stated that the federal government is willing to partner academia in information technology profession (AITP) and other stakeholders for Nigeria to play an active role in the fourth industrial revolution era. Mrs. Ahmed promised that the present administration would continue to support legislations and policies that will enable professional bodies such as ICAN to deliver on the core mandates of their professions.
She noted that the fourth industrial revolution is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, 3-D printing, biotechnology and the internet of things.
“As the world we live and work in becomes more digitalised, the ways in which accountants and their clients can connect, collaborate, communicate and collect information are being reshaped. This creates potential for automation, innovation and disruption. These disruptions are deviations from the status quo and are not always negative.
“The development of industries and the development of the internet as two main drivers of the fourth industrial revolution would increasingly transform how organisations and institutions do business, operate their productions, affect society, make their ecological footprint as well as how people live their lives. Despite claims from some that careers will be lost, professions destroyed, and accounting and audit services made redundant by new digital technologies, there are uncountable opportunities for those with knowledge of the new world order triggered by digital technologies.
Mrs. Ahmed also noted that the fourth industrial revolution offers huge potential which are not limited: “It renders production much more flexible and enables companies to meet individual customer requirements, with low or negligible additional costs; it can connect billions of people in less developed regions to digital networks and provide them access to knowledge and services; it can tremendously increase resource productivity and efficiency; it will create value opportunities through new services and new forms of employment. In particular, it will offer significant opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups which already play an important role in the fourth industrial revolution.
“It can help us to respond to demographic changes in the workplace: flexible career paths will enable people to keep working and remain productive for longer, which can partially compensate for the shortage of a skilled workforce because of aging; and finally, it will enable companies to offer to their staff a better work-life balance.
On the new technologies and social settings, she said that professional accountants who become well versed in the new technologies and social settings remain strongly in demand. “However, for those who have not yet embraced technology, it requires adjustment everywhere.
“Consequently, accounting leaders need to move along the transformation journey and close this gap between the ‘old world’ and ‘new world’ of accounting by leveraging on technology solutions to gain an understanding of how digital technologies are disrupting organisations’ business models and then investigate and implement solutions as well as to develop the team’s human skills, leadership, empathy, creativity, decision-making and judgement skills that machines are not able to replicate.
Noting further, she said that the fourth industrial revolution will inevitably affect industries across economies. “Given Nigeria’s developing services sector, the fourth industrial revolution could greatly engender economic growth in the future.
“There are, however, possible challenges of workers being displaced due to automation and widened income inequality. Nigeria must realistically anticipate, be positioned to harness the opportunities embedded in the fourth industrial revolution and adopt policies to cushion the negative effects of these technologies, towards maximising the net gains from the fourth industrial revolution.
On government intervention on digital transformation, Mrs. Ahmed said “Our role as an agent of government is to continue to work closely with all stakeholders to design initiatives that would engender economic growth, improve contribution to gross domestic product (GDP), wealth and job creation. It is my belief that the outcome of this conference will assist the government in evolving an effective policy framework and defining the path for inclusive sustainable growth and development.
She pointed the gathering to the fact that the present administration has made tremendous efforts and progress in the digital transformation journey. “A lot of resources and commitments have been invested in the digitalisation of public finance management processes in areas such as integrated payroll and personnel information system (IPPIS); government integrated financial management information system (GIFMIS); project lighthouse; biometric identification infrastructure such as tax identification number (TIN) etc. All these are reforms aimed at improving the overall fiscal conditions with respect to revenue generation and optimisation.