The current public private partnership between the Delta State Government and Mobile Software Solutions Limited to drive technology innovation through a dedicated hub, will help diversify the state’s economy beyond oil, writes Emma Okonji
Following the dearth of technology skills among Nigerian youths, governments across all levels are beginning to device new ways of developing human capacity skills in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), designed to drive technology innovation across the country.
In line with the trend in boosting technology innovation, especially among youths, Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, recently signed a Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative with Mobile Software Solutions Limited to train and incubate technology savvy people of the state in software development, through the Delta State Innovation Hub (DS-IHUB) located in Asaba.
Speaking at the unveiling of DS-IHUB in Asaba on Monday, the state Commissioner for Science and Technology, Joyce Overah, commended the ‘Smarter Delta’ initiative and assured the state that the ICT Hub would help in actualising the dream, aside building colony of software developers that would disrupt the existing technology status of the state and position the state for technology innovation that would help diversify the state’s economy beyond oil.
According to the commissioner, the DS-IHUB, which is an accredited PPP project initiative, is positioned to showcase a world-class technology facility with interconnected knowledge resources, targeted at Enterprises, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) businesses, government and leadership economy, youth entrepreneur, women and girl-child empowerment, investment and finance, science and technology-based education, research institutions, social media, among others.
Benefits of DS-IHUB
Pleased with the initiative to groom the people of Delta State and beyond in software development, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Science and Technology, Delta State, Mrs. Augustina Onokpise, was joyful while explaining that the ICT Hub is a laudable project that will turn around the fortunes of the state for the better.
“There is so much to gain from science and technology, in the areas of economic gains and national development, which the ICT Hub is meant to promote in the state. Policy direction should therefore be channeled towards those areas. Expectations are high from the DS-IHUB because of the calibre of ICT stakeholders and Angel Investors that are partnering the state on the project. The idea is to incubate knowledge-driven people that will use technology solution to address individual, state and national issues,” Onokpise said.
Member, Local Organising Committee for DS-IHUB, Stella Anwulika Amata, also expressed satisfaction about the benefits that the ICT Hub would bring to the state. I will like to commend the Delta State government for the PPP deal with Mobile Software Limited to develop and groom ICT developers in the state. Technology rules the world today and I think the hub will go a long way in driving ICT development in the state. Speaking on the added value that the hub will bring it the people of the state, Amata said: “The hub will no doubt, bring a lot of value to the state because young entrepreneurs will spring up from the hub.”
Managing Director, Mobile Software Solutions Limited. Pius Ekeh Jnr, said: “The initiative, no doubt will deepen technology development in the state. The idea is to help actualise the vision of the state in diversifying the economy of the state and achieve its goal of taking Delta State beyond oil. The benefits of the initiative are great and we want to use the hub to disrupt exiting technology in the state, in other states, as well as the federal government level. The hub is expected to serve the South-south region of the country,” Ekeh said.
Speaking about the vision of the project, the Director General of DS-IHUB, Chris Uwaje explained that the ICT Hub would serve as a platform for technology development that will help in diversifying the state economy and the Nigerian economy.
“ Nigeria is a consumer nation and no nation in the world can be sustained when it continues to consume without producing,” Uwaje said.
“By the time you aggregate the quantum of consumed products that are imported into the country, we will find out that we are truly a heavy consumer nation and this calls for the need to develop the human capacity of the nation, and the DS-IHUB is one way to achieve this. Again Nigeria has not been thinking of innovating would-class skills that can innovate and crate development in West Africa and the African market as a whole.
“There is therefore a gross deficiency in the capability and capacity requirement in our country. The gaps are being filled by foreigners, to the detriment of our people. Ironically, the Nigerian population grows at 4 per cent yearly, compared to GDP that is growing at about 2.7 per cent and this means that we need more technology solutions that will address the needs of the growing population, and the DS-IHUB is designed to address such issues,” Uwaje said.
According to him, we need human capital development to drive technology projects in the country and that is what DS-IHUB stands for.
“DS-IHUB was set up to build an innovative capacity for Delta State and the country as a whole. Our concept is to build a world-class innovation centre and groom world-class people that will come out with technology products that address the needs of the state and county,” Uwaje added.
The whole concept of the DS-IHUB, was the initiative of Chris Uwaje, who pioneered the IT Policy for Nigeria. The concept of DS-IHUB, according to Uwaje, started between 1997 and 1998, but was actualised in 2001.
“I saw the vision of technology for the state long ago and I also saw where Delta State should be in terms of IT development in 20 years from now. I have since discovered that without leveraging ICT, the state cannot move forward the way it supposed to move, despite the availability of oil in the state. Oil and gas will not develop the state, instead it will keep the state as a perpetual consumer of products from other countries,” Uwaje said.
According to him, when the project was being conceived, my team was looking at national competitiveness and the role of the state in securing her future in the ICT space. Other state governments have taking ICT seriously and they are getting developed, and my concern for Delta State is to use ICT to drive development in the state. We will use the DS-IHUB to disrupt existing technology and help the state to regain its lost ground in the next three years.
“We happy that the governor of the state, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa is listening and he is ready to move the state forward through ICT. The state Commissioner of Science and Technology, Joyce Overah is also listening and we are committed to drive the state. We have the passion to raise globally competitive technology developers for the state and we are going to use the hub to create innovative and disruptive technology wizards that will move the state forward,” Uwaje said.
Addressing the issue of broadband availability, which is key to sustaining the ICT Hub, Uwaje said: “We have broadband of 10 megabyte capacity already deployed at the DS-IHUB and it can be distributed to serve a whole lot of people and facilities at the hub. Our plan is to deploy a broadband colony for people to use effectively and we are encouraging the state to build a broadband duct around the state in readiness for the ‘Smarter Delta’ project of the state.”
He explained that the state must invest in broadband because it is the way forward.
“Developing broadband is like developing the brain bank of the state, and we need to develop more content that will be driven by broadband.
Nigeria must build knowledge parks that will make use of the broadband. We can’t talk of broadband in isolation. Knowledge parks and software parks must be developed and the DS-IHUB is one of such parks. It will create opportunities for the development of education, sports, e-Commerce and e-Government among others,” he said.
At the DS-IHUB, there are several faculties, with facilities attached to the faculties. The faculties include: E-Government Academy, Software and Autocard Academy, ICT Innovation Platform, Electronics and Multi-Media Development Centre, CBT Practice and Monitoring Centre, E-Library, Research and E-Learning Centre, ICT Process Centre, Business Process Centre, as well as Oil and Gas Training Centre.
The Software and Autocard Academy has about 70 installed and connected computer systems, while the Electronics and Multi-Media Development Centre also has about 70 installed and internet connected computer systems.
The E-Government Academy will be concerned about new trend towards reforming the public sector, while the ICT Innovation Platform will address various innovations that will drive business ideas. The Electronics and Multimedia Centre will train students on acquiring expertise in various technology disciplines, while the Business Process Centre comprises of a team of mentors, business coaches and strategic thinkers that will groom and mentor startup business and SMEs.
ICT Expert in Software Development and Angel Investor, Mr. Charles Omordia, said: “From these departments, we will groom and mentor young developers, invest in their solutions and we will be producing world-class innovators and we will be collaborating with foreign training institutions on ICT development and we will domesticate core aspect of curriculum that will help drive development in the state and the entire country.”
Highlights of the unveiling of the Delta State Innovation Hub, is the brand presentation and induction of some distinguished personalities into the Delta State Technology Hall of Fame, who have contributed to the growth of technology development in the country.
They included: the Governor of Delta State, Okowa; Chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr. Jim Ovia; former Publisher of Guardian Newspapers, late Dr. Alex Ibru; Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu; former Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe; Director, Centre for Applied Economics, Lagos Business School, Prof. Pat Utomi and CEO, MainOne Broadband Company, Funke Opeke.