By Job Osazuwa
Recognising the impact of technology in today’s world, the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has said that its potential in providing massive employment could not be over-emphasized.
As explained by different innovators, discoveries by young Nigerians were already having positive impact on health, agriculture, construction, finance, clean environment, content development, power generation and other areas of the economy.
The governor reaffirmed this during a meeting with start-ups in the ecosystems for a discussion on expanding funding opportunities and infrastructure development. He said he needed a one-on-one conversation with tech-savvy residents of the state on how they intended to make life easy for residents with the help of technology.
Sanwo-Olu acknowledged that the state government had a role to play as a direct enabler of young Nigerians and a springboard to nurture their ideas into fruition. He submitted that every responsible government should be able to provide solutions that could create opportunities for citizens so that they could seamlessly do what they love to do in order to earn a living.
He promised that the state would do everything to encourage those eager to tap into the opportunities that abound in all areas of innovation.
Stating that anyone who wished to remain relevant in the scheme of things in the future must embrace technology, Sanwo-Olu said that the state government’s intervention in the technology space was already creating opportunities and providing platforms to make start-up businesses thrive.
During his tour to Venia Hub and Impact Hub ecosystems in Lekki and Ikoyi, housing over 100 start-ups, Sanwo-Olu said he needed to engage youths who were in the forefront of driving the technology industry. He said it was amazing to see young entrepreneurs bringing their collective intelligence to solve everyday problems in Lagos, and government cannot do it all alone, hence, the need for collaboration with the private sector.
In the same vein, the governor has also announced the state’s readiness to build the biggest technology hub in Yaba, Lagos, in a bid to ramp up its intervention in provision of technology infrastructure and expand the tech space to accommodate more start-ups.
The Yaba tech hub is being developed by the Lagos State government in collaboration with Facebook, Google and other giants.
Accompanied by members of the state’s executive council, including Commissioner for Science and Technology Hakeem Fahm, Commissioner for Agriculture Bisola Olusanya, Commissioner for Finance Rabiu Onaolapo Olowo, Commissioner for Information and Strategy Gbenga Omotosho, Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget Sam Egube, the Special Adviser for Sustainable Development Goals and Lagos Global, Mrs. Solape Hammond, and the Special Adviser on Innovation and Technology, Olatunbosun Alake, the governor met young entrepreneurs, who excitedly engaged him for hours.
Sanwo-Olu said the Yaba Technology Cluster, called Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (KITE), would be a free zone that would allow the growth of innovative ideas generated by entrepreneurs in the tech industry and fintech space, adding that the ecosystem would also offer free labs for the use of start-ups to take their innovations from ideation to the next level.
He said: “Technology is the new oil of Lagos, Africa’s largest megacity, to exponentially generate wealth and jobs for its young population, and the basic element for the fourth industrial revolution globally. As a state with a massive population of young people, we need to play a major role in the development of technology, which is an enabler to leapfrog into rapid socio-economic growth. We take technology as an important deliverable in our government’s development agenda.
“For us to make lasting impact in the tech industry, we said to ourselves, we needed to build the infrastructure to support the sector.
“We are currently laying 3,000 kilometres metropolitan fibre optic cables across the state to drop reliable and fast Internet connectivity in homes and workplaces. These are parts of the infrastructure required as backbone for the industry to flourish and empower our young people in the space to take their businesses and ideas to the level of stability.
“We really need education and technology to drive our policies, particularly in building a smart city that would make life pleasurable for the residents.”
Aside from the infrastructural initiatives, Sanwo-Olu said the state government had been providing support for start-ups through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) and Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council (LASRIC), which provide grant opportunities for innovators and tech researchers.
The governor disclosed that two out of the 20 start-up ideas supported through LASRIC last year had secured patents for their innovations and were ready to transform into fully-fledged businesses that would create jobs.
He said: “The visit to your ecosystems today is for you to be assured that this government is not sitting back in taking steps to ease access. We fully understand the role which technology plays in our lives and how technology is important to any society that wants to be relevant in the coming decades. We are happy to be building the capability for Lagos, so that we can compete with other developed cities in the world.
“We certainly need all the solutions we have seen today in driving our policies. We don’t want to believe that we know it all as a government. The grants we are giving might not be that much, but it is our own way of encouraging people who have uncommon ideas.”
Some of the start-ups, including GasMonkey Energy and Gricd Integrated Services Limited presented their business models and innovative solutions to the government’s team. The engagement showed the governor and his team the possible areas of intervention.
CEO of Venia Hub, Kola Oyeneyin, said his group hosts over 100 entrepreneurs bringing their intellect to bear in providing solutions to contemporary problems.