Support for Tech-driven Solutions to Disabilities

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With 15 per cent of Nigeria’s population, representing 25 million people who are physically-challenged, Chiemelie Ezeobi, writes that in providing support for technology-driven solutions for disabilities, the United States Consulate in Lagos recently partnered CampusLabs to host a hackathon at the University of Ibadan

Recently at the University of Ibadan, 26 participating students representing seven teams pitched their ideas before a jury of leading tech leaders and disability inclusion advocates. The occasion was the 2019 CampusLabs Disability Hackathon. This was following a five-day boot camp facilitated by three Mandela Washington Fellows; CEO, CampusLabs, Emeka Ossai, Busola Majekodunmi and Tobiloba Ajayi.

So from April 13-18, students of the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, gathered for the hackathon that sought to address the challenges and needs of people with disabilities using technology solutions.
The hackathon was supported by a public diplomacy grant from the United States Consulate in Lagos.

Call for Inclusion
Speaking last Thursday at the grand finale of the hackaton hosted at the University of Ibadan, U.S. Consulate Public Affairs Officer Russell Brooks lauded the students for working collaboratively to improve accessibility and mobility for people living with disabilities. Brooks, who also served as a member of the jury for the pitch competition, explained that hackatons provide opportunities for solving problems in novel ways.

He said: “The United States government is proud to support initiatives like this which seek to leverage the exponential power of technology to solve problems and promote a culture of social innovation and inclusion.”

While stressing that about 15 per cent of Nigeria’s population representing 25 million people have disability, he called for concerted efforts to promote inclusion and reduce the obstacles they face.

“Inclusion is a good indicator of how much we value and respect human life. We must become more actively involved in creating a more inclusive environment for all,” he added.

Commitment
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor Idowu Olayinka, who attended the event alongside principal officers of the institution, expressed his commitment to supporting students working hard to promote inclusion of people living with disabilities.

Pitches
All seven teams in the pitch competition came up with varying technological solutions after meeting with families and people living with disabilities to gain a better understanding of the challenges they face.

Winner
Team Afia won the competition with their pitch for an app that will ease access of people living with disabilities to connect with providers of basic social services. They were rewarded with a cash prize of N500, 000 for their impressive performance.

CampusLabs
CampusLabs works across Nigerian universities to raise a community of budding social entrepreneurs capable of implementing high-impact projects that benefit their local communities. According to the group, they want to create a bigger economy by creating spaces for entrepreneurial minds on campus to launch innovative ideas and also learn from each other. Campus Labs also makes it easy for organisations to recruit outstanding human capital on campus by creating talent pipelines for Human Resources teams to source from.

On their website, they lamented there is a dearth of student entrepreneurs because Nigerian universities lack the enabling ambience for students to build, breed and sustain enterprises, start-ups and successfully implement laudable impact projects within the campuses. Thus, they stressed that Campus Labs, they bridge a critical gap by creating an environment activated with team formation mechanisms, collaboration for resources mobilisation and inter-campus networking channels.

They further stated that since students work best motivating and pushing through setbacks in ideation process, together, so, their innovation lab is a fundamental radical shift towards a partnership enabled environment for students to co-build ideas and acquire fourth industrial revolution skill sets that will remodel Africa’s economy.

Pix caption : United States Consulate Public Affairs Officer Russell Brooks (right); Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation & Strategic Partnerships at the University of Ibadan, Professor Olanike Adeyemo (left); with Team Afia ––winners of the U.S. Consulate supported 2019 CampusLabs Disability Hackathon Pitch Competition held in Ibadan last Thursday.