Lagos: Will Service Innovation Secure the Future of Nollywood?Friday, February 25, 2011 16:31
Q&A with Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, Commissioner for Science and Technology of the State of Lagos, and Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Centre for Internet for Society of Banglaore.
Lagos is one of the world’s fastest growing cities, and the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa; the destination of choice for mass numbers of job seekers who migrate to Lagos everyday in search of opportunity. To sustain the economic growth of the city and region politicans, administrators and community leaders are faced with complex and locally rooted urban challenges, and piracy is on the top of their list. Lagos launched a global call for solutions to fight piracy, which draw on the latest available mobile or other technologies as part of the Living Labs Global Award 2011. You can submit your own solutions here until March 6 2011
In this entry Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, Commissioner for Science and Technology of the State of Lagos, and Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Centre for Internet for Society in Bangalore, share opinions on the role of service innovation and mobile technologies in tackling piracy to secure the future of Nollywood.
Marcia Caines: Eight global cities from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, very different in terms of scale, economic situation and societal needs, call for solutions that can solve their diverse urban challenges. What is the benefit for Lagos in participating together with such different cities?
Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat: The benefit is that it helps to globalise Lagos, highlighting one of the many challenges facing the city-state.
MC: Please could you explain why you consider the fight against piracy as one of the greatest challenges facing the city of Lagos? How is piracy a threat to society in Lagos today? Why the focus on piracy, and not healthcare for example?
Dr. KOH: Piracy control is extremely important when it comes to safeguarding an industry that currently employs close to 100,000 (one Hundred Thousand) people in the State. The entertainment industry in Nigeria, popularly referred to as Nollywood, generates a huge number of plays, drama and other African-based entertainment, mainly distributed as CDs and DVDs. This industry is currently being decimated due to copyright infringement. The sustainability of this important creative knowledge-based industry is of the utmost importance. Naturally healthcare is also extremely important. However, we must realise that the health of a citizen is part of a chain, where only about 20% depends on medication, hospitals and doctors. Clean environments, the ability to access and eat good food, and other factors, are necessary components of healthcare. These key components are being aggressively tackled by the state government. The State government has just built eight maternal and child centres, creating about 900 new hospital beds for women and children.
Sunil Abraham: I don’t consider the fight against piracy as the greatest challenge facing the city of Lagos or any other developing city or country for that matter. If Nigeria configures its IPR regime only taking account of the interests of rights-holders, it could trigger many negative consequences, for example stopping the supply of generic medicines to its population, preventing a local generics industry from emerging and undermining indigenous research and development. Overall, unlike developed countries, developing countries earn less from IPR than they are forced to pay. Therefore, this particular policy lever must be tweaked very carefully so that protecting the interests of a small elite minority does not end up compromising public interest. All societies need producers of culture and knowledge and suitable incentive schemes must be designed and implemented. However, this cannot happen at the cost of access to knowledge. The producers of knowledge and culture have high visibility in society and they are able to lobby policy makers assertively to extend their rights and also step up enforcement. But if this is done without a sense of balance then there can be devastating effects on society.
Dr. KOH: Sunil Abraham’s conclusions are based on information available to him. I would like to say that this issue was selected due to the need to focus on a specific problem, which if not addressed will lead to the loss of over 100,000 jobs with all the attendant problems. One of the major challenges of most African cities is the issue of unemployment. The issue here is that because of copyright infringement, an industry that should be growing in leaps and bounds is gradually dying. Relating this to the supply of generic drugs is really out of context. As it relates to this submission, this not a question of protecting the elite but safeguarding the intellectual work of average Nigerians who cannot finance their own productions, and therefore have to sell their work at poverty rate because of the fear of piracy. This can also be linked to the answer given above.
flickr: hyperscholar / Guido ”random” Alvarez
MC: How do you envisage citizens will respond to service innovation that is designed for intellectual property protection? Is it not the citizens themselves who are engaging in piracy to fulfil their own needs in the first place?
Dr. KOH: Fantastic question. The basic idea is to protect the industry, and then grow it. If the product is protected, outlets can then be properly licensed to distribute and market. As it now stands, those that play by the rules are made to suffer while those engaged in illegal activities are making a profit while they decimate the industry. If this is not controlled, everyone will lose out. It is important to streamline the whole process. The growth that will arise from proper business activities will lead to other feeder industries and create more jobs.
SA: It really depends on ethics rather than design or technology. From my limited understanding both Christianity and Islam are silent on the question of paying rent on tangible property – for example – your home or office. However, both religions frown on the system of rent on intangible property – usury or interest on capital. Islamic banking and the Christian Jubilee are two systems that provide an alternative to the contemporary regime. On the question of charging rent on intangible property – royalties on intellectual property – I have heard many conflicting opinions. And in practice in all three systems of property and rent there is considerable variety in terms of compliance with legal and ethical principles. In other words, consumers will only accept a service innovation that they think is fair. They may suffer incredible damage to their privacy and autonomy if they feel that the service is unfair.
Dr. KOH: Well both religions also frown on stealing in general. More importantly, the idea here is to prevent the destruction of people’s jobs, allow the country’s economy to grow and reduce crime, which is also directly related to unemployment.
MC: How successful do you think service innovation can be in tackling piracy? What do you expect from the winning solution?
Dr. KOH: If the solution is capable of addressing the piracy problem technologically, then it can be deemed successful. What we expect is the ability to control the duplication of a CD or DVD that already has content without a license or key. This way, it will be impossible for anyone to buy a machine and mass produce the work of a fellow citizen.
SA: When it comes to tackling piracy, service innovation cannot be in the form of more sophisticated digital rights management and other systems of digital surveillance and control that undermine consumer rights and the privacy of citizens. Service innovation for tackling piracy could take different forms – getting telecom operators and ISPs to pay rights-holders; a flat rate for unlimited content or private copying levies.
Dr. KOH: I totally agree with this. In fact, that is not the problem. The problem is what I stated in the paragraph above.
MC: Each city will invite the winner of the category to pilot the winning solution in the city. This will take place without any financial commitment for the winner, and with the offer of support. It is an opportunity to showcase the efficiency of the solution and give providers the chance to enter new markets. Is the city of Lagos committed and prepared to be an ideal testbed to pilot a solution?
Dr. KOH: I will say yes. Though I expect to see a solution that is relevant to the city of Lagos.
MC: If the solution is a success do you intend to replicate it for use in other cities/regions/countries?
Dr. KOH: Certainly.
MC: Will your participation in the award help Lagos to activate the dynamic process of service innovation within the city?
Dr. KOH: Yes. It is important to state that if this is resolved, Lagos, as the financial capital of Nigeria, will be able to propagate the essence of innovation to tackle other issues affecting cities.
Dr Kadri Obafemi Hamzat
Dr Obafemi Kadri Hamzat holds a Doctorate Degree in System Process Engineering from Cranfield University, UK. He has over 17 years experience in Project Management, Enterprise Software Development, process re-engineering and general automation of systems across an enterprise, covering financial institutions in the U.S and the Oil & Gas industry in Nigeria. He currently serves as the Commissioner for Science and Technology, Lagos State Government, Nigeria.