Managing Director, Connect Marketing Services, Mr. Tunji Adeyinka, spoke with Emma Okonji on the need for the public and private sectors to adopt technology innovation in every aspect of business. Excerpts:
Connect Marketing is currently driving technology innovation through TechPlus. What exactly does TechPlus seek to address?
TechPlus is about technology innovation. The idea of TechPlus was conceived in 2015 by Connect Marketing, primarily to address the technology innovation gap in the country. We saw an opportunity to build a technology platform where technology innovators could use to develop technology in the country, through the creation and showcasing of technology products and services. That exactly informed our decision to come up with TechPlus. TechPlus also seeks to expose technology consumers to the future trends of technology development within their spaces.
We recognise the importance of technology in businesses and TechPlus seeks to showcase latest trends in technology that will enhance businesses.
Recent reports have identified cities like Lagos in Nigeria and Johannesburg in South Africa as upcoming smart cities that the world should look up to. How will TechPlus help in driving the Lagos vision of smart city project?
TechPlus has a lot to offers for smart city development in and outside Lagos. For instance, we will be holding the 2016 TechPlus exhibition and conference in Lagos this month, from 20 to 23. During that period a lot of discussions will centre on smart city and how technology will help in driving the smart city initiative. At the exhibition, we will be having about six different areas of discussions and one of them will centre on government, where technology innovation could be used to drive smart city initiative. Yes we are aware that Lagos has signed a deal with some companies to develop the state to a smart city state, and TechPlus offers ample opportunities for governments at all levels to participate in our show and tap into new technology ideas for smart city development.
We are bringing speakers from Spain, who have wealth of experiences in smart city development, to speak at our event, and we have invited state governments to be part of our event, to enable them take advantage of the opportunities that TechPlus offers.
Governments at the federal, state and local levels are currently pushing for more female involvement in science and technology courses in schools, to drive technology innovation. What is your view on this?
It is a laudable initiative to encourage female involvement in science and technology courses in schools. The importance of the gender involvement in technology has again prompted us to create opportunity for women in technology to discuss issues of female involvement in technology development. We have seen the gender disparity that exists in the area of technology in the country and we have section dedicated for women in technology in our TechPlus programme that is coming up this month. We also have key speakers who will be talking on technology as a vehicle for gender inclusion.
We have also dedicated some parts of the programme to development of education, using technology to drive smart school initiative. Schools in Lagos and outside Lagos will have the opportunity to experience new technologies that will enhance smart school initiative. We have since discovered that learning has moved to a different dimension, driven but technology adoption and TechPlus is out to showcase various technology solutions that drive smart school initiative.
In all of these, broadband availability plays an important role. Don’t you think that low broadband penetration as currently been experienced in the country could affect TechPlus technology development and innovation initiative?
One of our key speakers at the TechPlus forum, is the former Minister of Communications Technology and the current chairperson of the Affordable Internet Group, Dr. Omobola Johnson, and she will be talking about broadband penetration and internet connectivity. Yes, Nigeria is currently rated low in terms of broadband connectivity, but if you imagine the kind of investments that have been put in place by major players to drive broadband penetration, you will find out that in few years’ time, Nigeria will be talking about ubiquitous broadband that will be available to do businesses in the country and in the technology space. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), is currently issuing spectrum licences to operators, designed to deepen broadband penetration in the country. Besides, a lot of private companies have invested in broadband infrastructure in the country, which will also contribute to improve broadband access in the country.
What informed your choice of selection of the calibre of speakers that are lined up for TechPlus 2016?
The theme for TechPlus 2016 is ‘The Connected World’, and we have placed our choice of selection of speakers, based on the subject matter, which is the theme, and this has to do with technology and connectivity. So we looked at people who have vast knowledge in technology innovation and connectivity. We carefully picked our speakers to look at the various dimension of connected world, and these are speakers with good knowledge of the theme. For example, we have as one of our speakers, the acting Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Vincent Olatunji. So what informed our selection of speakers is the connection between our team and the experience and investments that the speakers already had in the technology space. The former Managing Director of Chams City, Mr. Demola Aladekomo, who has so much passion about smart city programme, is also one of the speakers who will offer practical views in his presentation. We have speakers that will also talk on alternative to oil. We also invited Mr. Tony Scott from the US, who reports to President Barack Obama on cybersecurity, to speak on cybersecurity. So we have a mix of international and local speakers who are well grounded in technology that will be speaking at the TechPlus forum.
What are your expectations for the 2016 TechPlus forum?
Our expectations are huge. We are looking at having a more impactful session at the 2016 TechPlus forum, than the 2015 forum. Last year we had over 6,500 attendees and this year we are targeting over 10,000 attendees. Again last year, we had 30 speakers and few panelists, but this year, we are looking at 80 speakers and panelists. Last year, which was the maiden edition, the forum lasted for two days, but this year, we are extending it to three days. More importantly is that this year, we have gone into key areas of the Nigerian economy that will have multiple effects on the economy. This year we are targeting agriculture and finding ways of using technology to enhance agriculture, from farm production to supply, including the value added chain.
Nigeria has a lot of technology startups that are looking for opportunities to further develop their homegrown solutions. How would TechPlus assist such startups?
Again, we have provision for technology startups, where they could be encouraged to have access to funding. What is most important to them is funding. They need venture capitalists to invest in their solutions in order to give them the kind of access and exposure that will grow their solutions, and TechPlus have a session dedicated to technology startups and venture capitalists who would want to take advantage of scalable solutions that are economically viable, which would be showcased at the forum.
From your personal perspective, what do you think is the acceptance level of technology adoption in Nigeria?
Nigerians have come to embrace and adopt technology innovation and more people are adopting technology in their businesses. The rate in the use of technology solutions may be low, giving the setup of different demographic groups, but the acceptance level is increasing based on awareness creation from both the private and the government sectors.
In Nigeria, the younger generation tends to adopt technology faster than the older generation and I think this is a global trend. So the younger generation is gradually shifting into the work place and businesses to disrupt existing technology structure that is becoming obsolete. So we have speakers that will be talking on available opportunities that will enhance disruptions in the technology space.
In all of these, how can various governments in the country, benefit from the technology experience that TechPlus is bringing on board?
The Lagos State government is already taking advantage of the TechPlus forum to further develop the state through partnership. Other states can take a clue from Lagos State to use technology to drive governance. We have invited states governments and we are expecting more states to come on board.
e-Commerce is an emerging market in Nigeria. How can TechPlus help in boosting e-Commerce development in the country?
We have plans to use the forum to also address the issue of e-Commerce business in the county. For instance, one of our partners is Jumia, which is a big player in the e-Commerce space. Somebody from Jumia will be talking on how to further grow the e-Commerce business in the country.
There has been clamour from industry stakeholders for the diversification of the country’s economy from oil to technology. What is your view on this?
The clamour is right because Nigeria can no longer depend on oil because the prices of oil are dropping by the day, so the county needs to diversify its economy in the area of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). One may ask, why ICT, and the answer is not far-fetched. Technology is the bedrock of any society, and globally technology is beginning to drive the world, so there is a great need for Nigeria to move from oil to ICT. One good aspect of ICT is that you can use it to drive development in any section of the Nigerian economy.
In spite of efforts put into technology innovation in the country, most Nigerians still prefer foreign developed technology solution to homegrown technology solution. How can this trend be reversed?
The trend started long ago, when Nigerians were not able to develop quality solutions, but today, all that have changed, as we are beginning to see quality products developed in the country, even though the likeness for foreign brand is still there. Sometimes people do not realise how Nigerian brands are growing and the products are beginning to compete with foreign products. So there is a quiet revolution going on in the county and the TechPlus forum will be able to showcase homegrown solutions and present a platform for entrepreneurs to showcase their products and services.