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When I still had a Twitter account (I deleted it), I would occasionally comment on anyone's tweet who would mention Nigeria's population with: "based on what data?" I did this for the laughs but it is also a serious matter because any population data on Nigeria quoted by anyone or any media organization is pure speculation or as some like to say, forecasting or modeling.

This is because not only did Nigeria have its last "official" census (or rather an attempt at a census) in 2006, but those census statistics are also in dispute. Simply because as Feyi Fawehinmi puts it in this article: "Implausibly, each state had managed to maintain its exact share of the population across two censuses, 15 years apart."

A suggestion that perhaps the numbers were cooked.

However, I digress.

Fast forward to 2020 and Nigeria's government is yet again botching another attempt at not only getting some meaningful data about its population but also failing to finally have a functioning national ID system.

Summary of the database that SAGEM, a French company, has that contains the data of millions of Nigerians. The data was collected as part of Nigeria's national database identification project which was kicked off in 2007. SAGEM is refusing to hand over this data to the Nigerian government citing overdue payments. This not only jeopardizes Nigeria's attempt at building infrastructure for a national ID system but also raises questions of sovereignty and national security.

This is because somehow, a project that kicked off in 2007, hasn't been completed despite being allocated a budget of millions of dollars, somehow has failed to allegedly pay a French company that was contracted to develop and maintain the country's national ID infrastructure. As a result, there's now a dispute between France's SAGEM and the Nigerian government with the French company refusing to hand over the database containing over 52 million records of registered Nigerians.

As Zulkhifli Balogun puts it in his feature article for iAfrikan titled "Nigeria has a poor data collection culture", Nigerian authorities don't seem to have a good understanding of what their tussle with SAGEM means for the country."Technically speaking, the fact that a foreign company still has access to an offshore database it collected on Nigerians implies that the stakeholders have not comprehended the implications that a compromise of such data has on its citizens."

This then has me asking, how has Nigeria's government been making decisions on how to allocate resources in order to develop the country if it cannot even account with a certain level of accuracy for its population?

It appears that, despite many professionals, leaders, and analysts across the world repeatedly saying that "data is the new oil," some people in Nigeria's government seems to still believe that crude oil is forever.

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Nigeria has a poor data collection culture

As I have often said in many previous issues of the iAfrikan Daily Brief, it is imperative that African governments put digitization at the top of their list of priorities. This is because digitization comes with much-needed data that can be used to inform policy and service delivery decisions. It seems Nigerian authorities don't take this seriously enough. Nigeria's National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) received a funding of 30 billion Naira to collect data and operate a turnkey infrastructure created by SAGEM; a French telecommunications company. This was for the national database identification project which kicked off in 2007. Now, there's a tussle where SAGEM, a French company, is refusing to hand over a database containing the registered data of approximately 52 million Nigerians because Nigerian authorities still owe them money. [Article]

Taxation fuels the digital divide

A study carried out in the first quarter of 2020 found that the price of 1GB of mobile data in Somalia is $ 0.50, way much cheaper than most African countries, and among the cheapest rates for mobile data in the world. The cost in Kenya is $1.05. This is mainly because of the taxes in Kenya (which are much more than in Somalia). This observation by Jacob Mugendi explains partly why the digital divide continues to increase across Africa. [Article]

Terry Virts on life in space

I don't about you but I occasionally (regularly actually) wonder what life is like in space. So much so that I eventually reached out to retired NASA astronaut and former International Space Station commander, Terry Virts, to have a conversation with him about life in space. [Podcast]

MTN has launched what they call Africa's largest API marketplace

Telecommunications companies across Africa are peculiar in that they seem not to know what to do with their customers or dominance. Most have attempted things like music streaming services, video on demand, payments, and more without much success. However, I think MTN Group's new offering is something in the right direction. They have announced the launch of their API marketplace - Chenosis. They say it will enable developers and businesses to discover and subscribe to what will become the largest library of open APIs published in Africa. [Article]

Understanding South Africa's cyber laws

On this episode of the Tech Legal Matters podcast, we are joined by Sizwe Snail ka Mtuze, an attorney and Director at Snail Attorneys as well a Part-Time Member of the Information Regulator of South Africa. Sizwe explains the various cyber laws we have in South Africa and how they apply to our lives and organizations. [Podcast]

Quote of the day

Despite general consensus that "data is the new oil," some in Nigeria's government seem to still be stuck with the idea of crude oil being around forever. (Tweet this)

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