By Bolu Adeosun
WHEN, shortly on assumption of office, the Ogun State governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, unveiled the Ogun Job Portal to link youth in the state with opportunities in the job market, his objective was not just to fight the unemployment scourge. Unemployment being one of the most potent threats to Nigeria’s survival as a sovereign entity, any initiative aimed at addressing it would no doubt be welcome in Nigeria’s increasingly volatile space, but the governor’s aim was to let the state’s teeming youth see and key into the vast opportunities in the global digital space and to leverage on such opportunities for their future. In other words, the governor wanted them to have and to create jobs. Realising that the ICT revenue of a country like India is 20 times more than what Nigeria earns from oil, he declared that there could be no future without ICT. To manage the Ogun Job Portal, he brought on board no less a personality than Olalekan Olude, the co-founder of Jobberman Limited, the leading job site in sub-Saharan Africa; founding partner of the African Talents Company in South Africa, and co-founder and Executive Director at Rovedana Limited, a business process outsourcing company that provides employment to more than 2000 Nigerians across different industries and specialises in upscaling and placing them into employment with over 100 companies. The results have been phenomenal, and it can therefore not be surprising that in recognition of his pursuit of an ICT economy, using various initiatives which we shall mention shortly, the Daily Telegraph recently decorated the Ogun State governor as Governor of the Year in Digital Economy at a ceremony which took place at the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos.
Among others, the organizers of the award noted the empowerment of youth in the state through the creation of the Ogun Tech Hub and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem) Centre. At the centre, ICT experts and trainees deploy ICT gadgets as information technology prepares the ground for the pursuit of a digital economy. As experts have acknowledged, the centre provides fertile ground for tech-preneurs, tech-enthusiasts, innovators, creative and design thinkers, the academia and other stakeholder in the IT ecosystem to project innovative solutions to existing socio-economic issues in the state. As noted by analysts, the centre is home to the Bureau of Information Technology along with its partners in the tech space, namely 21st Century, OLARMS, Software Business Solutions Consulting (SBSC), Ogun Tech Hub Academy which has 3 sub-units viz-a-viz: Cisco Networking Academy, STEAMAcad, IBM Digital Nation Africa, Abocoders, Ogun Innovate, and GETFUNDEDAFRICA. For animation, electrical circuitry, robotics, coding and programming, capacity development on Cisco-certified courses, data analytics, on IBM-Digital Nation Africa platform, STEAM training, among others, the centre is the place to be.
As Governor Abiodun observed, the hub was conceptualised to make Ogun “the one-stop-shop for technological innovations across Africa where start-up companies will conveniently be set up. This step is firstly a result of the collaboration of tech enthusiasts and private sector players largely independent of our government.” It is an innovation hub that provides ideal conditions for entrepreneurs to collaborate, flourish and accelerate the growth of their businesses. The hub, using world class practices, tools, techniques and technology, has vital components, including the Ogun Technopreneurship Programme which has the crucial objective of nurturing high quality ideas in various industries to become tech-startups and Tech-SMEs. There is also the Ogun Innovate Startup meant to empower people in the state with essential skills needed to succeed in business, to create opportunities for entrepreneurs and to empower the unemployed.
There have been various training programmes at the hub, including EDMS training for technical support team and EDMS training for state officers from OGIRS. Capacity development has included ICT training in collaboration with Cisco Networking Academy; Cisco learn-a-thon cybersecurity training and cybersecurity training and STEM training for girls. Others include the Train the Teacher Python Programming and AI, admission and registration into the third cohorts with Aspilos’s Abocoders programme; ongoing collaboration with IBM on ICT digital toolkit for the 21st century, validation of e-government master-plan for Ogun State with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), digital literacy gap-analysis subject to the mandate from South-West Digital Literacy Implementation Commission (SW-DLIC), Ogun Investment Summit-Roadshow, solution convergence workshop on SDGs, and ICT summer camp for primary and secondary school students.
Indeed, government digital platforms dot the Ogun landscape, whether you are looking at the Billing and Payment Management System (BPMS), Ogun State Electronic tax Management System, Ogun State Land Administration & Revenue management System (OLARMS), human rights complaint portal at the Office of the Governor; Human rights Complaint Portal, Collaborative workplace platform, or the Bureau of Lands. Doing business with all ministries has been digitized, together with the Ogun State Disability Agency, Ogun State Waste Management Agency, Ogun TechHub, the E-Document Management System and the Ogun State Health Insurance Agency, among others. Part of the government’s ICT strategy is to convert all the colleges built across the state’s 20 local government areas into technology hubs for young and aspiring technologists. And among others, there is the Adire Digital Market at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta, advocating the promotion of Nigeria’s indigenous fabrics to the world. Given the foregoing, it is no surprise that the ICT industry accounts for more than 21 per cent of Ogun State’s GDP. This is the reason Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the state, with its massive investment in digital infrastructure, has been positioned to become a major global site in the emerging innovation economy.
Only in October, the Ogun State government reiterated its commitment to developing young innovators that would promote Nigeria’s digital economy. Governor Abiodun’s Special Adviser on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Mr. Dayo Abiodun, while declaring open a training organised by the Bureau of Information Technology (BIT) in commemoration of the 2021 Digital Nigeria Day, said the objective was to develop secondary school leavers seeking admission into higher institution on a career pathway, help job seekers on how to be managers of the digital economy, and welcome ideas from young innovators which would help the state government in achieving its set goals on the digital economy. The Director, Information Technology (IT), Mrs. Olatundun Adekunle, said that the training was an opportunity for participants to acquire more knowledge and showcase new innovations that would boost the digital economy of the state. The government, she said, would pick the best among the participants, encourage them financially, and recommend to the public, private and international sectors that needed their services.
Given the foregoing, it is clear that the Abiodun administration is poised to make Ogun State an ICT hub, which is why his recognition as Governor of the Year in Digital Economy was so richly deserved.
• Adeosun contributes this piece through [email protected]