Emma Okonji writes that global technology development in the 21st century has prompted the need for government and the private sector to build an ecosystem of technology innovation in Abuja
Abuja, the federal capital territory(FCT), has always been known as the seat of government with little technology innovation.
A simple survey of 10 cities in Nigeria, which have history of supporting innovations in technology, shows that Abuja, the FCT, unlike other cities, is far from supporting technology innovation.
Whereas places like Yaba and Obalende in Lagos; Ife, Abeokuta, Calabar, Enugu, Kano, and Ibadan are regarded as homes to technology startups, Abuja is popular for government business and recreation.
This explains why Abuja did not meet the mark when Information Technology Developers Entrepreneurship Accelerator (IDEA Hub) was established in 2013 in order to leverage information technologies for disruptive change. Lagos and Calabar were the choice cities for the hubs.
Worried about the insensitivity on the part of government and the private sector to create technology innovation ecosystem in the FCT, the Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE), which was established under the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has finally come to rescue Abuja from its innovation inertia.
The agency has the responsibilities of nurturing, cultivating, and expanding the ICT innovation and entrepreneurship in Nigeria in line with National ICT Policy and the NITDA Act 2007.
As a specialised and focus organisation that addresses the challenges inhibiting the growth of entrepreneurs as well as create enabling environments to foster innovation and entrepreneurship across the country, OIIE, through its programmes, was designed to increase the contribution of various sectors of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to national GDP and wealth creation.
To deliver on its mandate, OIIE in 2016 launched StartUP Friday and has hosted Start-UP Friday three times in Abuja, since its launch.
Since its commencement, there has been a great awakening of the startup ecosystem in Abuja as the OIIE has bridged the growth gap by enriching the development processes of new tech businesses through a ‘meet-up’ programme with investors, mentors, technology buyers and enthusiasts in major technology clusters such as Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Enugu, Port-Harcourt, Ibadan, Ife, among other cities.
OIIE and the StartUp Friday initiative
StartUP Friday, as a gathering of critical startup development community, facilitates networking and exchanges of ideas and information such as business financing, marketing, pitch preparation support, among others. It offers community of tech-driven start-ups opportunity offline and online to connect, learn, interact, and re-scale their businesses. As such, many startups have exploited the platform to connect with influential people who have assisted them to move their businesses to the next level.
National Coordinator of OIIE, Bunmi Okunowo, said : “OIIE’s work has inspired new vision, new motivation, new knowledge, and new investment in the ecosystem. Through this new vista, OIIE has contributed to the development process of the start-ups, irrespective of hubs or community affiliation.
Building tech ecosystem in Abuja
Before now, the power to convene or galvanise the startups was not utilised. With the programme, OIIE has brought together the ecosystem players, including the hub operators to the demand and great yearning of the startups in growing their businesses.
Drawing strength provided by OIIE, three new hubs have emerged in Abuja in 2016. Startpreneurs Hub, Ventures Platform, and Co-Creation Hub. Two of these – Startpreneurs Hub and Ventures Platform, are working closely with OIIE to utilise its convening power as a government agency to enrich their pipeline. “We hope to link up with hubs, investors and mentors in those regions who will partner with us to drive this program even when we are not there,” Okunowo said.
With this development, Okunowo is delighted and viewed the new hubs as answers to prayers in finding private sectors that would act as the ‘last mile’ for startup development. This is an exciting moment for Abuja, and the startups communities in Abuja.
According to Okunowo, Abuja, a city that would not be considered when setting up ICT hubs, has now become a centre generating energy for other zones in the country.