Nahimah Ajikanle Nurudeen
At last, the long awaited knowledge olympiad has arrived at the shores of Nigeria. Those who think that Software Nigeria cannot compete in the global IT Innovation market arena to solve critical national problems should better have a rethink.
Just recently after no fewer than 56 energetic/creative young Nigerian with passion for technology innovation had pitched their solutions ‘Hacked within 36 hours nonstop coding’ at the just concluded Delta State open innovation hackathon focused on resolving the SDGs challenges for Nigeria and Africa. There were convincing signals that products showcased have the resilience and capability to solve local challenges if properly harnessed and deployed.
For the Delta State, the Delta State Governor, Senator. Ifeanyi Okowa and the panel of judges who were thrilled with the innovative solutions on showcase, ‘the tech entrepreneurs must scale up their solutions to meet up with national and global market challenges.
The event was developed in response to the need to engage and build up Tech-creative minds and young innovative software developers and start-ups in Nigeria
Before the pitch, the tech start-ups were camped in the DSIHUB for 36 hours of tech-innovation design and coding in a 10Megabit PS Domain with strong internet connection powered by MainOne.
One thing was clear after watching their presentations. They all have amazing solutions that could deliver the benefits of the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs).
For the judges, if the solutions on showcase which cut across health, e-Gov, Water, Shelter, environments, education, agriculture, employment, among others, are scaled up to market application level, the set targets of challenges for Nigeria/Africa on Sustainable Developments Go als (SDGs) of the United Nations would be solved to the barest minimum.
Representation of skilled workforce
Speaking after the competition that Team Artisan made up of two students from the University of Uyo took the first position, the Governor of Delta State Senator. Ifeanyi Okowa who was tickled with the innovations showcased by the participants, said that they represented skilled workforce needed to accelerate the Local content solutions deployment and take Nigeria to the next level.
While urging the participants to scale up their solution to the next level, the Commissioner of Finance, Olorogun David Edevwe, who represented the Governor, told the gathering that the hackathon would position the participants well for challenges of modern ICT-driven economy and should be done annually.
“Everybody is a winner. In today’s world, there is need to engage in a paradigm shift, which is focused on knowledge research and , aggregate experimenting with new and innovative ways of achieving rapid economic development for the good and prosperity of Deltans.
“The essence of this drive is to reduce poverty to its barest minimum while simultaneously improving lives, aggregating wealth and promoting the well-being of Deltans. The DSIHUB is a PPP Initiative between Delta State Government and Mobile Software Solutions It is establishment as a platform to manufacture knowledge. The state government believes that the expertise in the knowledge, practice and adoption of technology can be effectively harnessed through constructive innovation to curtail poverty and ignorance”, he said.
Building ICT manpower
To sustain and build these benefits, he said that there is needed to build a critical mass of ICT manpower across the state.
He agreed that running a hackathon represented a strategic roadmap for building, accelerating and improving capacities and capabilities of required ICT manpower.
Engage the youths
With optimism, he believed that the youths could be engaged with hackathon as a way of getting them out of the street.
The Governor challenged the tech entrepreneurs to put their skills and energy to enhance technological drive which would identify areas of need, proffer solutions and engineer sustainable development to meet the myriad of socio-economic challenges currently staring Nigeria in the face.
Out of digital slavery
For the Director General of the Delta State Innovation Hub, Chris Uwaje, if the ideas on showcase are well crafted through knowledge mentoring and turned into concrete solutions, Nigeria could be free from digital slavery.
With their good ideas, concept and solutions, Uwaje noted that all the main pillar of DSIHUB is Jim Ovia , the Chairman of Zenith Bank, who remains a source of inspiration to me and Nigerian Youths.
Moving forward, Uwaje said it was time for the government to establish Innovation Development Fund and indeed an Innovation development Bank to provide seed funding and support for the startups. Furhermore, Uwaje advocated for a true National open Hackathon where 50,000 Nigerian Youths would be assembled to shoot at creativity and innovation to select the best 1000.
While commending Mainone, Smile, IXPN, Zinox, NIIRA, Open Media, SchoolVille, Mobile Software and other sponsors of the hackathon, he informed that that innovation hub has the capacity to retool Civil Servants and Government Policy Makers, through e-Government and in particular, millions of youths hanging around without jobs.
For the judges, the solutions must be retooled to meet market demands. According to Gaul Iheanocho of Gaulis Technologies of Chigago, USA, who held brief for Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, the Chairman of the event who is also the chief judge, the participants have done well, adding that everyone was a winner.
The next challenge
Admitting that the tech start-ups have good ideas, he said that what they lack is processes for bringing their to the market to make money.
“The process is to develop it, test it, put it in the market and get feedback for better testing. I will like them to harness their great ideas into reality. But they must move away from thinking of how to make money immediately. Money will come when the products are fully developed . Great ideas but we need to turn them into products”, he explained.
Citing case study, he said that it took his company about 18 months to develop their product and another 18 months to put it to market, adding that these tech startups need seed funding to scale up. Earlier at the opening ceremony, Professor Charles Uwadia , the Head of Department of Computer Science Department, University of Lagos, urged the Hackathonists to give their best and shoot at all angles of Innovation for the development of Nigeria.
For the Permanent Secretary, Delta State Science and Technology, Mrs. Augustine Onokpise, the participants have amazing solutions that could solve real life challenges.
According to her, “You must go back into drawing table again. Fine tone your solutions and scale it up to meet up with market demands”.
“You all have mazing solutions. But there is need for you to turn your ideas to realities, Mr. Yinka Tanimowo, the Managing Director of Connect Technologies, the Chief Hackathon Consultant and Technical Officer said.
Speaking with excitement shortly after announcing them as the winner, Emmanuel Essiet who is the spokesperson of Team Artisan commended the Delta State government for given them the opportunity to pitch their product.
“We are very happy to win the cup. We will take our solution designed for job creation to the next level. The app will help self-employed people to connect via the artisan software and locate jobs. We will test it and move to the market to solve a problem. We also need seed support and mentorship to scale up” Essiet who said that they are Computer Science Students from University of Calabar, said.
According to Junior Pius Ekeh, the facility Manage, the DSIHUB will be a force to reckon with in the very near future, even as he commended the the State Government for partnering with Mobile Software.
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