Policymakers all over the world are now emphasising innovation as one of the drivers of economic growth in an economy. Innovation as driver of economic growth already proved its credibility in developed countries, and now it's time for developing countries to follow suit.
Over the past few years, new technological innovations are shifting and transforming countries in Africa. Smart young entrepreneurs, developers and programmers have sprung up in innovation hubs, accelerators and incubators centres around the continent to build information and telecom solutions that exploit the continent's blend of challenges and opportunities.
Innovative solutions are beginning to define how far businesses, even governments initiatives can and will go in transforming the economy, especially with a feedback mechanism.
Lately, technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning, Fourth Generation (4G) and Fifth Generation (5G) networks are beginning to disrupt the global landscape, and create more developmental opportunities.
Indeed, in Nigeria, business developments have had it rough due to policy inconsistencies, tough environment, poor feedback system, and alleged government insensitivities, among others.These challenges have crippled business development, especially the Small and Medium scale Enterprise (SMEs). But experts have often times stressed the need for innovation and a dedicated feedback mechanism, especially from governments at various levels to bridge the growing gaps.
In yielding to these calls, the Federal Government launched the Reportgov.ng app, an official public service feedback and complaints platform to support business climate reforms implemented by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC).PEBEC was set up in July 2016 to improve the doing-business environment in Nigeria for SMEs by working to remove critical bottlenecks and procedural restrictions to doing business in the country, and move Nigeria upwards in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) Index ranking.
Indeed, in the EoDB, Nigeria is on a steady increase with the target to rank among the top 100 in the 2020 World Bank doing business index.According to PEBEC, the Reportgov.ng app is to ensure government become more sensitive to business plight and guard against unnecessary abuses.
At the launch of the app in Lagos, last week, it was emphasised that the purpose was to further build business confidence in Nigeria and improve the ease of doing it. Unveiled by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Dr. Okey Enelamah, alongside the Chairman of Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, Adedotun Sulaiman, the platform, which is also a website, will facilitate the escalation and resolution of issues encountered with Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) towards ensuring a more business-friendly environment.
In his speech, Enelamah emphasised that it was launched to create better enabling environment for the businesses, citizens, and SMEs operation in Nigeria.Describing the entire process as a means of leveraging technology to improve businesses, Enelamah said: "The important thing about this PEBEC App is that it is a tangible tool for achieving the important objective of better interaction, communication, and feedback mechanism from the users of government services.
"This is basically leveraging technology on the app for a feedback mechanism that people can have on their phone instead of a portal or website. Given the inclusive usage of phones and digital means of communication in Nigeria, I am highly confident that this will make a difference leveraging technology to achieve better services to people," he added.
On the efficiency of the app, which was developed by a team of 60 young Nigerian entrepreneurs, led by the Chief Executive Officer of Convention on Business Integrity, Soji Apampa, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, who has been driving the initiative, said complaints lodge with relevant evidence, will be attended to within 72 hours.
Oduwole said the initiative would help to reduce costs and time and to make the processes of setting up and doing business in Nigeria simpler and effective - from starting a business to getting a location to getting finance to dealing with day-to-day operations and ultimately to operating in a secure business environment
To boost use, she said: "Use data to support whatever complaints you are lodging to make it credible. PEBEC has reduced of cost, time and increased transparency since its operation in Nigeria. Also, the issue of multiple taxations will stop because we have one economy.
"We are looking at meeting the local, state, federal governments to form an action plan on that level. Servicom have to be retooled to deepen skills. We started from compliance, training and capacity building. We also encourage private sectors to assist in training government parastatals," she added.
Furthermore on how the App works, she explained that complaints can be made in simple ways. First, after downloading it or visiting the web portal on www.reportgov.ng, users will be able to selct from a long list of ministries, departments and agencies, click on 'create complaint' or 'send feed back' fill out the form and submit.
She said given the approved 72-hour response time, complaints immediately go to the PEBEC, which then assigns the complaints to the MDA and follows up to ensure it is treated in line with the Service Level Agreement. After then, the complainant will receive an email that the complaint has been resolved, or with information on the next steps required.
On when the App can be used, Oduwole explained that reports can be made on it or the web portal when information on any of the MDAs is not accessible or is incomplete on the advertised website, when applications filled are taking longer than the specified time, when payment for services are being delayed unfairly, if a civil servant or government official requests for money, which is not in line with the disclosed sum for the service provided by the relevant MDA, and if any right of an entrepreneur or business owner has been violated.
Project Manager, Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES), Ayokunnu Ojeniyi, who was strategic to the development of the App, noted that the local business environment plays a vital role in ability of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to thrive. Ojeniyi added that the MSMEs, which currently make up to 90 per cent of business in Nigeria, can be encouraged to move from informal to the formal sector when a friendly environment is enabled.
He said SMEs access to loan is still limited but a legal framework is in process for businesses that do not have offices to use movable collateral.One would recall that the PEBEC was established in 2016 to oversee Nigeria business climate reform agenda with the aim to remove critical bottlenecks and bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria.
According to him, 32 states have implemented business reforms in the 2018 sub-national rankings which have moved the country closer to the global best practice frontier with Kaduna, Enugu, Abia, Lagos and Anambra charting the course.The World Bank doing business report 2019 stated that starting a business, electricity, paying taxes and enforcing contracts are part of the reformed indicator areas with improved business regulatory framework.
"There is a notable improvement of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies capacity by 11 points. We also seek better interactions, collaborations and continuous improvement; hence, we created another avenue for engagement, which is the PEBEC App," he added. Ojeniyi informed that the Reportgov.ng mobile App is available on the Google Play store, and is coming soon to the iOS store to enable users give feedback or complaint that will drive continuous improvement in service delivery and public protection efforts.