ICT Clinic (Punch Newspaper)

Supporting homegrown solutions and start-ups [ICT Clinic]

THE year 2019 is already counting. Unfortunately for the average Nigerian, we are neck deep in electioneering and if you are a student of history, you know what this means. It means that there will be little or no attention paid to meaningful development until the elections are over. Everything and anything can and will be subjected to politics. This is one of the reasons I have a lot of respect for entrepreneurs and innovators, who are working hard to build against all odds. If you think building a business in Nigeria is easy, then give it a shot and come back to share your experience. One of the quick things you will discover is that the system has a way of placing multiple stumbling blocks before you, but if you are able to persevere, then you might come out victorious.

My career today grants the unique opportunity to interact with young men and women across the country, who truly want to make a difference in their chosen fields. A few weeks ago, I interviewed Daniel Chinagozi, Founder, Innovation Growth Hub, Aba, on my TV show. Based on the discussion, I could clearly see that what he was trying to do with technology and innovation in the city of Aba is something that the governments of many other countries would have supported based on its potential impact. Daniel is getting none of such support here. So, I asked him this question: “I can clearly see that you are bootstrapping. What would your impact have been, assuming you did not have to bother about a number of things?”

I got what you’d call a light ball response, as he looked excited and responded by saying, “the impact would have been amazing because, at the moment, we run our generator every day, just to keep the hub going. Also, data is so expensive, as it costs three times more to get the same amount of data you pay for in Lagos here.”

He added “The government should support us, particularly, with infrastructure or they can outsource certain technology services that we can provide for them so that we can earn some money that will help us sustain the hub,” he concluded.

My hope is that in 2019, we will truly look inward technologically? How many serious nations would continue to expend billions in foreign exchange annually, renewing all sorts of licenses with foreign solution providers and seem not to be bothered? How can we explain that at the beginning of 2019, critical national infrastructure and initiatives such as the BVN, national identity, immigration, national accounting and Central Bank of Nigeria’s software and many more too numerous to mention, are all foreign-sourced? I cannot remember whether or not I have seen any high powered delegation from the Estonian government visit Nigeria, but that small but technologically advanced nation is certainly grateful for our lack of foresight.

My argument here is not to completely shut our doors to foreign investments or companies. No. Far from it, but as we patronise them, are we sure those services cannot be provided locally? Assuming the answer is a no, is the contract or agreement made in such a way that there would be an adequate transfer of knowledge with respect for intellectual property, of course? On the other hand, how are we consciously positioning to play in the international space? — Finish Reading on the Punch