Strategic steps to grow local capacity

Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr.

One country that I have often referred to here is Taiwan because of how it has evolved over the years to become a technology powerhouse now. I believe that there is a lot Nigeria can learn from them as we continue to grow local capacity because that is simply the way to go.

It is totally unacceptable to import every single solution we need, whether hardware or software. This informs why I’d like to use two recent developments as the foundation for today’s piece and they both neatly tie with the mission of the National Information Technology Policy which seeks to make Nigeria an IT powerhouse in Africa and a key player in the information society by using IT as the engine for sustainable development and global competitiveness.

So the story begins. A few weeks ago, I got a call from Sunday Folayan, President, Nigeria Internet Registration Association. He informed me that he had made a Facebook post condemning a communal clash that occurred in his community due to yams and farms.

The post had said that such communal clash at a time man was planning to explore mars was simply a shame.

Following the post, Folayan’s community decided to take him up on the challenge he posed to them that instead of fighting over yams, they should work towards empowering dwellers, particularly the youths to become IT compliant and ‘netizens’ in the information society, by using IT as the engine for sustainable development and global competitiveness.

Consequently, his community association decided to initiate, sponsor and execute a 40 computer-capacity Digital Literacy Centre at a cost of N10m, a rare feat these days! That is, however, the way to go if we are serious about promoting digital literacy.

In Sunday Folayan’s words, “The Imode ICT Vision will be achieved by reliance on technology, carefully backed with traditional methods that are functional. A significant number of indigenes will continue to live outside the community or the country, and their needs and requirements to stay connected to their roots will continue to inform the community’s development policies. ICT will be used to solve practical problems, such as educational deficiencies, as well as the security of lives and properties.”

Owing to experience, one of the fears I expressed was sustainability but I was sort of comforted to learn that Paradigm Initiative, founded by Gbenga Sesan, had been partnered to conduct training and capacity building for users of the centre.

Imagine for a moment the impact this project can make in the lives of the young folks residing there? Yes, they may not have as much exposure as their counterparts in major cities but the reality is that computers and the Internet will no longer be strange to them.

Imode Development Association deserves commendation for its vision and I urge every community-based association to borrow a leaf from this laudable project, even as I encourage IDA to make adequate provision for maintenance of the centre’s equipment.

By the way, this digital literacy centre is located at Imode Community in Oke-Ero Local Government Area of Kwara State.

Talking about national IT development, one person I had a long conversation with during the just concluded GITEX Technology Week 2017 was ‘Lanre Osibona, senior presidential adviser on ICT, who is extremely passionate about technological development.

The conversation cantered around the fact that we cannot continue to be major importers of technological solutions because we have adequate talents in the country to drastically change the game.

The conversation was pretty detailed but we both agreed that for there to be any meaningful development, then the right policies have to be in place and this is something he says this administration is working on.

Nigeria is a major consumer of hardware products and devices. Unfortunately, we do not produce any here. We don’t even really assemble. This is basically why I am glad about the commissioning of Nigeria’s first indigenous (university) laptop assembly complex located at University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

This is a significant project, as the complex; with a capacity to produce 100,000 laptops a year will deliver jobs for not less than 500 people. Why is this interesting? This project was not delivered by a foreign firm.

Rather, it was initiated and delivered by an alumnus of the famous tertiary institution, Charles Emembolu, CEO of Crestsage Limited, a Lagos-based indigenous technology company, under a management arrangement with BOC (Benefiting Our Community) Innovations Limited.

Speaking at the event, Emembolu confirmed that the complex would employ about 500 people, when producing at full capacity and affirmed that it offered an on-campus manufacturing and learning environment to the university community, students and researchers.

The strategy is such that the ultra-modern complex will serve as an avenue to empower the youths with the much needed applied technology skills to take a leadership role in Nigeria’s economic emancipation.

In my opinion, these are strategic and practical steps towards preparing us for the future, even as this initiative is in line with the vision of the university’s founding fathers, “To restore the dignity of man.”

With these two projects commissioned, almost at the same time, it is my hope that we do not allow them to end there. Rather, they should challenge governments and private entities as well as community development associations to innovate and make Africa proud.

May I conclude this piece by sharing an excerpt from a previous piece: “I grew up witnessing Taiwanese products branded inferior. Statements like “it is Taiwan” meant that it was not good but today, all that has changed and that is because Taiwan kept at it, encouraging its people to continue to make improvements on past products.”

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