At about 16:00 GMT on Monday, October 4, smartphone users around the world noticed a lull in Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp updates, the second time in 2021. In Nigeria, many initially thought it was the periodic outage of network services. There is high data usage in the country of 200 million people but telcos and internet providers are generally criticized for slow data connection.
Amid the confusion, phone owners restarted their device(s) in a bid to “find network”. Within an hour or two, information spread that Airtel, Etisalat, Glo and MTN were not guilty as charged in this instance. Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were down! Family, friends, colleagues and neighbours were left with no option but to fall back on “normal call”. The phrase was coined and made popular after the launch and subsequent dominance of WhatsApp voice and video calls.
I jokingly told a pal that telecommunications companies in Nigeria would be happy “now that people must buy call credit”; I’m sure they made hundreds of millions that day. I further observed that despite confirmation of the social media platforms dormancy, users were jittery about the chats, documents, images and information in their accounts. “An ongoing hack”, some fumed.
Eventually, the downtime, which affected around 3.5 billion people, was fixed at about 22:00 GMT. Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for the internal technical issue. “Sorry for the disruption today. I know how much you rely on our services to stay connected with the people you care about”, he said in a post.
News about his loss of $6billion in Facebook shares-dive went viral. A Facebook user in Nigeria, King Prestige, contested the figure. “It’s a lie. If this man makes such, per some number of hours, what stops him from being the richest man? The richest is worth 200bn dollars if am not mistaken.” The comment generated more than 50 interesting replies in 5 hours.
The debate of whether Mark Zuckerberg lost $6billion in 6 hours or did not will continue. One thing we can at least agree on is that the American tycoon, internet entrepreneur and philanthropist is the Tech King of his generation. The fact that he founded, cofounded, purchased or invested in the three apps that shut out close to half of the world’s population – including his “rivals” – would make him an unopposed member of the “Planet Earth Board” if there was one.
Facebook currently has a market cap of over $1trillion and 2.8 billion active users monthly. Instagram, worth an estimated $100billion, has 1.3 billion active users monthly. Facebook acquired IG for $1billion in 2012. WhatsApp, the most popular messenger app in the world with 1.6 billion active users monthly, was worth $5billion in 2020. In 2014, Facebook bought the startup from Jan Koum and Brian Acton – two former Yahoo! executives – in a $19 billion deal.
The ingenuity, rise and influence of Mark Zuckerberg and the likes should serve as a reference for countries, especially in Africa. They must heavily invest in education to boost the capacity and knowledge of hundreds of tech gurus yet to be discovered. The laxity of governments on the continent is the major factor causing brain drain.
In November 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari presented the N8.6trillion 2018 ‘Budget of Consolidation’ 2020 to the National Assembly; Education got N605.8billion (7 per cent). As expected, Nigerians complained it was below the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) “recommendation”.
Defending the allocation, Education Minister, Adamu Adamu told reporters that UNESCO never fixed a benchmark. “I led the Nigerian delegation to UNESCO and the issue came up. UNESCO said they never, at any fora and under any circumstances, suggested 26 per cent as the optimal level of funding for education for any nation.”
However, a UNESCO report, titled ‘Education for All 2000-2015: achievements and challenges’, notes: “Direct aid to education plus 20% of general budget support (aid provided to governments without being earmarked for specific projects or sectors) to represent the estimated 15% to 25% of budget support that typically benefits the education sector.”
Also, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office Social Policy and Education Working Paper December 2020 provides that for the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 to be achieved, all countries have the responsibility to sustain a certain level and quality of public investment in education.
“While external support is critical in the short term, domestic revenue mobilization is the most sustainable way of investing in education. If anything, COVID-19 should strengthen the resolve of ESA governments to keep education on top of their spending priorities by meeting or exceeding the 20% minimum education spending as a percentage of total government expenditures or 4-6% of their GDP”, it reads.
The Nigerian government must increase budgetary allocation to education if it is truly interested in global competition. Those in positions of authority should stop gaslighting the young citizens with the “youths are the leaders of tomorrow” line. It will only make sense if adequate resources are earmarked to help them grow intellectually.
I urge the federal government, 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to start/renew the establishment of Special Schools. These institutions, which can be tuition-free or highly subsidized, will take in kids exceptional in different fields such as architecture, building, engineering, environment, health, information technology, natural and physical sciences.
I maintain that the insistence of being the ‘Giant of Africa’ will remain lip service without conscious effort to aggressively upgrade all facets of the economy. It’s like football: games are not won based on club status, players’ names or statistics, they are won by tactics, cohesiveness and determination.
Nigeria has many more hidden Iyinoluwa Aboyeji (Flutterwave), Ezra Olubi and Shola Akinlade (Paystack) and other young techpreneurs, their potentials must be harnessed. Millions of youths were delighted when Stripe’s acquisition of Paysatck for $200million made headlines in mid-October 2020. Interestingly, it was during the End SARS protest against police brutality.
The story of how Mark Zuckerberg attended the prestigious Harvard University and later dropped out of the Ivy League school to focus on his dream is not new. He remained loyal to his dream and is a success story. Married to Priscilla Chan, the 37-year-old is now worth $123billion. Take a bow, Mark.
Wale Odunsi tweets from @WaleOdunsi; email: [email protected]