A virtual workshop organised by the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the 29 and 30 of March 2023, has explored regional perspectives on, and impact of the use of Internet of Things and Emerging Disruptive Technologies in terms of governance, regulation, confidentiality, and security 

The aim was to provide a harmonious framework for the region’s adoption and use of such technologies while minimising associated risks.

With the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), which hinges on the integration of digital technologies, we are gradually experiencing the merging of our physical and digital identity, and perhaps soon, even biological identity. This has brought about profound albeit revolutionary changes to several sectors including agriculture, health, education, the government, trade, financial services, and the environment.

At the opening of the workshop, Kouame Raphael Koffi, director of digital economy, and post, speaking on behalf of the commissioner for infrastructure, energy and digitalisation, Sediko Douka, highlighted the considerable potential of IoT and Emerging Disruptive Technologies to increase efficiency and productivity and its potential contribution to a gradual break away from the mold of traditional development, resulting in the rapid economic growth of our Member States.

According to Koffi, it is critical, at present, to think about the sustainable resilience of sectors where the relevance of Emerging Disruptive Technologies has become increasingly and universally clear. The aim is to make such technologies the catalysts for the transformation of sector activities through regional ownership.

It is therefore necessary to create an enabling environment for adoption of the technologies, which would be dependent upon infrastructure availability, education reinvention, capacity building and finally, adaptation of the standard, legal and operational regulatory framework for the 4IR era.

Vahan Hovsepyan of the Internet Society’s (ISOC) Internet of Things special interest group, which aims to create a smarter world through IoT technology, gave member states a comprehensive presentation to enhance understanding of IoT, its opportunities and associated challenges.

Agu Collins Agu, the research and development director at National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), agency responsible for coordinating the development of information technology in Nigeria, described how IoT and Emerging Technologies can support sustainable development in the ECOWAS region through pilot projects such as smart energy, mHealth, smart water management, smart remote monitoring. He also introduced the programme Unity Board for Emerging Skills (UB4ES) which is an initiative that aims to provide ECOWAS region with the necessary knowledge and skills to prosper in the 4IR era.

Participants at the workshop gave presentations on emerging disruptive technologies in their respective countries before agreeing with the ECOWAS Commission on the fundamental principles that should guide regional action. This includes an institutional framework, regulation, cooperation with different stakeholders, and regional texts, to encourage adoption of IoT and Emerging Disruptive Technologies and ultimately support socio-economic development.