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Technology Disrupting Global, Local Travel Industry

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By Gbemisola Aruwayo-Obe

 

Nigerians from all walks of life love to travel. Like folks elsewhere, they feel deeply emotional about travelling. Although they may chit-chat about banking, shopping and similar experiences, discussions about their favorite airlines, miles, discounts, upgrades and boarding privileges also strike a deep cord with them. Regardless of social status, we all seem to be united by two things: our aspirational lifestyle and our individual and collective urge for excellent service delivery. Embracing digital innovation (technology) would help fast track the attainment of these social and economic realities.

 

While travelers around the world may differ in their hospitality tastes and preferences, the Internet has helped to flatten the world. Commercialization of the Internet has also introduced digital innovation into the travel and tourism industries, bringing with it a raft of new products, services and experiences. The digital influence is daily transforming the entire value chain of the hospitality sector, and this digital disruption is being embraced by travelers and operators alike. Take online checking in and self-service terminals at airports, for instance.

 

What about software which allows travelers to select destinations, flights and airlines, hotels, car hire companies and concierge services from the comfort of their laptops or hand-held devices? 20 years, you would have needed to visit or place a phone call to an airline or travel agent to access these sorts of services.

 

In hospitality establishments across the country and even around Africa, innovative technology is gradually bringing disruption to business models and customer expectations. Digital innovation is creating new challenges and opportunities for the travel industry. As with other industries, travel services customers have grown accustomed to individualized arrangements.

 

Whilst service quality levels may not be optimal in the fast-developing economies of the world, travelers in these regions are also not shy of demanding more comprehensive and consistent experiences and are becoming less tolerant of both inconsistency and imposition. Travel customers now expect streamlined processes, convenient self-service options and one-of-a-kind experiences. They are willing to quickly shift buying behaviors and preferences if they do not get what they are seeking.

 

This is the way it should be. However, this is not always how things have been over the last 20 years or so for members of the public who need to patronize airlines, hotels, transportation providers and other service providers in the business or leisure travel value chain. While hospitality industry analysts have called for increased public sector investments in the sector and in some cases, sectoral reforms which will galvanize domestic and foreign direct investments, there is also the need to realize that the entire hospitality landscape is undergoing disruption, as new entrants continue to leapfrog established travel businesses by applying digital technologies in innovative ways, whether it’s businesses that rent private homes to strangers or provide one-way car services.

 

Executives in the industry recognize the ongoing disruption and the impact of digital innovation on their industry. In 2016, an IBM Institute for Business Value’s Global Ecosystem Survey, conducted in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit, consulted the opinions of more than 2,000 cross-industry leaders. Study findings include:

 

63 percent of the surveyed travel industry executives report that traditional value chains are being replaced with new value models.

Half of the surveyed travel industry executives indicate that boundaries between their industry and others are blurring.

57 percent of surveyed travel industry executives say that competition from new and unexpected sources is beginning to impact their businesses.

 

According to another report from the IBM Institute for Business Value, the global travel industry can sustain its momentum by meeting and hopefully, exceeding travelers’ personal expectations by embracing the philosophy of a Digital Reinvention.™ There is a three-step process, which includes:

 

1) Digitization improves efficiency by applying technology to individual resources or processes. Within the context of travel, digitization involves setting up digital systems that support processes such as online ticketing, but has evolved into online services where customers book directly with providers rather than through traditional travel agents.

 

2) Digital transformation involves the integration of digital functions or processes across an organization. By combining a set of systems and processes, digitally transformed travel businesses can offer their customers individualized experiences. An example of increasing importance is the ability of travel providers to combine data collected through travel booking sites, as well as customers’ personal social media channels, to deliver highly customized vacations.

 

3) Digital Reinvention of travel goes even further. Digitally reinvented travel involves a fundamental re-imagining of the way an organization operates and engages with customers and other stakeholders. Digital Reinvention at its most fundamental puts the customer first in all of the organization’s dealings to deliver travel experiences that are personalized for individual customers.

 

Digital Reinvention combines multiple digital technologies, including cloud, blockchain, mobile and the Internet of Things (IoT), to transform customer and partner relationships and to create new business ecosystems. Often, the most successful digitally reinvented businesses establish a platform of engagement for their customers and partners.

 

These are the steps, the benchmarks if you like, that many Africa-based travel industry operators need to adopt to take their game to the next level. Digital disruption is a reality of the global travel industry. The earlier and faster we embrace digital disruption locally, the more efficient our travel and hospitality systems will be.

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#VPTourOfTech: NITDA Is Paying Close Attention

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By Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, PhD

 

When the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN, gave his steering speech at the 2016 e-Nigeria International Conference and Exhibition, emphasising the point that the President Buhari administration is set to reset Nigeria’s economic architecture by diversifying from oil dependency and leveraging on ICT as a critical contributor to the economy, some people felt it was the usual talk by political leaders, without any intention to bring the vision to fruition.

 

But events have come to prove that real change is happening in the way government is engaging with Tech.

 

In 2017, Mr President himself attended the e-Nigeria International Conference and Exhibition to give his scorecard on support for the Information Technology sector and his plans for its further development.

 

It was therefore not a surprise when I received the mail that I was to join His Excellency the Vice President (VP) for a tour of the Innovation Hubs in Lagos.

 

Although NITDA through its Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE) embarked on a similar trip in November 2017, having to accompany the VP is something special.

 

The purpose of the visit was to gain first-hand knowledge of the innovation ecosystem.

 

The Honourable Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonaya Onu, was also on the VP’s entourage.

 

This was not a regular official function, it was not a time of talking and lecturing the citizens about what government has done or not done; it was a time to LISTEN.

 

Indeed we listened to our young, vibrant, passionate and highly motivated youths. They demonstrated to us that the best of Nigeria is yet to be unveiled.

 

It was a tour that gave hope to all. The young people saw in the government team, a breath of fresh thinking.

 

They did not see the grand-standing and disruptiveness that such a visit would have caused in the past.

 

They remained at their work, coding, some were eating some were taking selfies with the VP. It was such a joy to see the glee on everyone that day.

We listened to the Paystack story, how Shola and Ezra began a quiet revolution in payments processing back in 2014.

 

Paystack has now become one of the most efficient payment processors in the country.

 

Many did not pay attention to Andela until Mark Zuckerberg announced an investment in the Startup.

 

Andela set out to solve the problem of top-class IT skills gap in Africa and the world.

 

Andela recruits interns after a rigorous process in which less than 1% of over 70,000 scale through.

 

The interns then go through a six-month intensive bootcamp that sharpens them to become world-class.

 

The energy, intelligence and zeal of the over 500 strong office of young people in T-shirts and Jeans is enthralling.

 

Sulyman, the VP Global Operations, gave the visitors an expose on the business model, opportunities and challenges of Andela.

 

Flutterwave is sited in a bunker-like structure. This company was founded by a team of ex-bankers, entrepreneurs and engineers.

 

In less than two years of its founding this payment gateway has processed transactions valued over $2 billion and has over 45,000 merchants.

 

Time would fail me to talk about Autogenius, Carido, Asoko Insight, Branch.

 

These are startups that provide solutions ranging from auto-mechanics, micro insurance, micro loans, corporate intelligence etc.

 

Indeed the Nigerian genius is unleashed and we at NITDA are paying close attention.

 

We visited 6 places and listened to 14 Startups tell us what they do.

 

FarmCrowdy solves the problem of under-utilized arable farm lands, help farmers access capital, help people invest in agriculture without owning a farm and everybody gets a share of the profit.

 

That is amazing indeed. At Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF) operated by Access Bank Plc.

we saw an organisation getting itself ready for the new face of banking and finance.

 

The final stop was at Co-Creation Hub, Yaba.

 

This pioneering beehive of innovation is not resting on its oars.

 

Cc-Hub is giving Nigeria its first home-grown cyber-security platform called Safe-Online.

 

In the same place we met Re-Learn, a Startup that is working to transform difficult educational concepts into funny cartoons.

 

We spoke with the Managing Partner of Growth Capital, Tunji Eleso who told us how they are helping fund innovations of Nigerians by Nigerian investors.

Throughout the tour, I as the Director General/CEO of the National Information Technology Development Agency(NITDA)paid very close attention and took notes copiously.

 

I noted the opportunities and challenges of the sector as well as the impact or gap of our interventions as an Agency of Federal Government.

 

Since we came on-board, I had often reiterated my resolve to impact the ‘Forgotten Ones’ in the tech ecosystem.

 

By this I mean the enterprising Startups, the Women, Children and small enterprises.

 

One of the things we did was to reposition OIIE not as a competitor with the Hubs, rather to be a facilitator and policy compass to ensure the sector got all what it needed to grow.

 

In this regard, we prepared a draft of the Nigerian ICT Innovation And Entrepreneurship Framework(NIIEF).

 

The objective of the Framework is to cast a vision for the ICT innovation ecosystem, identify the stakeholders, define critical roles of NITDA in their development and responsibilities of all stakeholders.

 

A stakeholders’ engagement was held in the 4th quarter of 2017, where representatives of the Hubs, Academia, States and Federal Government all made inputs to the Draft.

 

The Draft was further scrutinized at the recently organised I4Policy Hackathon held in Lagos and Abuja.

Inputs of stakeholders have been taken and would continue to be until we have a document fit-for-purpose.

 

 

The IT Projects Clearance function of NITDA has also become a veritable instrument to empower Startups in Nigeria.

 

The Committee has been gathering data to identify IT projects that can be reserved for the small-scale tech companies.

 

Our goal is to engage the relevant Agencies to find a way to reduce the entry barrier for young people to bid and win government contracts in areas they have shown relative competence.

 

Also, we have insisted on local content where such capacities exist. Another initiative we are experimenting at NITDA is to match Startups and Hubs with successful winners of our project bids.

 

This has proven successful in some of our programmes and projects as the young innovators bring agility and fresh-thinking to the process while getting experience and finance.

 

We would ensure this programme continues and grows to become a model for implementing IT and other projects in Nigeria.

 

Indeed, the creative zeal and passion of the Nigerian youth has caught the attention of the world and President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is paying close attention and giving the necessary support without disrupting the disruptors.

 

 

 

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Mainframes,Millennials and A Tale of Two Nigerians

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For those who may think mainframes were history, think again. Mainframes are the silent engines behind today’s industrial and commercial behemoths, namely, banks, phone and ATM networks, transportation systems, oil exploration and production operations, smartphone apps and more.

So, the mainframe never really went away.The reality is that mini-, micro- and mainframe computers have all benefited from advancements in hardware miniaturization and processor speed engineering. And while almost anyone can easily identify what a laptop or desktop computer looks like, mainframeswere the building blocks (the genesis) of modern computing and remain the pillars of enterprise computing today.

Empirical evidence shows that Nigeria’s (nay Africa’s) business and technology industries remain keenly in touch with mainframe systems. But even more importantly, millennials, today’s high school and university students are also rediscovering the versatility of modern mainframe computing concepts and techniques as evidenced by two Nigerian students, Salisu Ali of Bayero University Kano and David Ntekim-Rex of the University of Lagos, who have emerged regional winners in the annual “Master the Mainframe” competition, organized by AngelHack, a global hackathon company and the IBM Z Academic Initiative.

Salisu Ali, 21, and David Ntekim-Rex, 19, came 1st and 2nd respectively in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, and were also among the top 12 finalists globally. Both student’s entries, according to the judges, showcased innovation and their clear understanding of software security and utility principles, two key attributes of mainframe systems. The other 10 finalists are from Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Nepal and the USA.

The Winners:

Name Country Age University
Anna McKee U.S. 22 University of North Texas
Brendan Early U.S. 16 UT High School
Trung Chu Japan 29 Nagoya University
Hiro Fuchiue Japan 27 RWTH Aachen University
MuriloAndrande Brazil 34 Universidade Federal de Sao Carlos
Diego DeFranco Brazil 33 FATEC Rubens Lara
Sebastian Wind Germany 26 University of Leipzig
Christian Ziegler Germany 20 Hochschule Coburg
Salisu Ali Nigeria 21 Bayero University Kano
David Ntekim-Rex Nigeria 19 University of Lagos
Prince Dey India 23 RCC Institute of Information Technology
Dinesh Poudel Nepal 23 Tribhuwan University

 

More than 17,000 young people from around the world participated in this year’s Master the Mainframe contest, an introduction to programming and application development competition designed to teach students how to code and build new innovations using the mainframe. 80% of registrants were new, and 23% were female. Students were introduced to the enterprise systems behind their smartphone apps and gain hands-on experience to inspire interest in pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

 

By participating, students learn, prepare for careers and can win prizes. Attracting participants from more than 120 countries across six continents, this year’s contest “was truly a global contest” and drew the largest turnout since the contest began in 2005, according to Brian Collins, IBM Technical Solutions Manager and Ross Mauri, General Manager, IBM Z Team.

 

They observed that “millennials were a perfect match for mainframes”and that in a world where the focus often seems on designing the latest app, these contestants entered the competition with the hope of getting a job working on the mainframe, which was first introduced in the 1960s.

 

Even though the mainframe was built before many of these contestants’ parents were born, tech savvy millennials are increasingly intrigued by the significant role the mainframe plays globally. Mainframes are the backbone of 92 of the top 100 worldwide banks, all 10 largest insurers, 23 of the largest 25 airlines and six of the 10 top global retailers and powering every ATM transaction on earth.

In Nigeria, West Africa’s largest economy, 80% of the country’s 20-plus commercial banks including the financial industry regulator, the Central Bank of Nigeria, depend on IBM enterprise systems to run their most critical operational tasks.

As creativity, innovation, big data analytics and machine intelligence increasingly become the currencies of Africa’s fast developing economies, the need for mainframe skills cannot be overemphasized.

Thankfully, the “Master the Mainframe” competition has helped to showcase the fact that today’s millennials see mainframe skills as a path to a good-paying job and career path. Glassdoor currently lists more than 6,380″mainframe” jobs in the United States, and based on current growth patterns, IBM predicts that approximately 37,200 new mainframe administration positions will emerge worldwide by 2020.

 

“Ali and David’s performance in this year’s edition of the “Master the Mainframe” contest reflects well on the ongoing efforts of IBM and other technology firms which continue to invest significantly in Nigeria’s technology ecosystem. This is a positive development,” says Dipo Faulkner, Country General Manager, IBM Nigeria.

For this year’s contest, IBM had all contestants create their own application that dealt with flour, oil and sugar with over 600 different companies worth of data that needed to be sorted and tracked. Contestants needed to translate multiple flat files of data into dynamic applications that could run on the mainframe without error.

According to US-based technology writer Kristin Lewotsky: “By developing and implementing a plan to develop a skills pipeline before the need arises, organizations can place themselves in that smart category that allows them to continue to support their business operations and growth without a hitch.”

For more than five decades, IBM has continuously reinvented the mainframe to address the biggest challenges of today and tomorrow. The latest version of the IBM Z mainframe unveiled last year is now built to handle modern workloads such as AI, blockchain, data encryption, and deep learning.

Analysts reports show that IBM grew its mainframe revenue 71 percent year-to-year in the fourth quarter of 2017.

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6 Best Tips To Improve Your Networking Skills

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By Ogunfowoke Adeniyi

Networking is all about interacting with people to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.

Clearly, it is everything in the business world. From gaining job opportunities to bringing in business for your company, networking is the key to success. Jumia Travel, the leading online travel, agency shares tips for networking like a pro.

Have your business cards with you all the time

You do not know whom you might meet on your itinerary, it is therefore important for you to have your business cards with you all the time. You never know when you’re going to need your business cards.

Brag about your accomplishments

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with bragging about your accomplishments or your company to get people interested. However, do not overdo it so that you won’t appear arrogant.

Use social media

You should be on all of the major social media platforms, and you should use them often. Network with everyone in your industry that you can, and post frequently so that you stay on everyone’s minds.

Network with everyone

There is no need to discriminate when you network. So, endeavour to network with everyone and do not forget to be friendly.  This will make everyone remember for good reasons.

Attend Events

You can’t network if you’re stuck in the house or the office. Attend industry and community events so that you can meet people.

Make plans

When you hand over your business card, ensure that it results in something concrete. Tell the person to call you on a particular date or you can tell them to expect your call. And ensure you call.

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