In fulfilment of its promise to engage with startups in technology ecosystem in co-creating solutions for its Smart City agenda, the Lagos State government has partnered with a technology startup, Eko Innovation Centre, on tech-driven innovations.
This was the crux of an event, Art of Technology 1.0, themed ‘Bridging The Gap’ held, at Oriental Hotels, Lagos, recently. Sponsored by the Lagos State Government, through the Office of the Special Adviser on Innovation and Technology and the Eko Innovation Centre, the event attracted over 1,500 people drawn from government, tech, finance and academia.
According to the Curator of Art of Technology Lagos 1.0 and Founder of Eko Innovation Centre, Victor Afolabi, the two-day summit was aimed at building on the earlier engagement of government and the tech community during the design thinking parley which saw the co-creation of solutions in the areas of access, infrastructure, talent and capital culminating in the Lagos Innovation Masterplan.
“For the first time in this country, whether state, sub-regional, or national, we are having a government committed to an innovation masterplan. It is part-product of the co-creation session. It is called Lagos State Innovation Masterplan; it tells us where we are going, where we need to be and how we can achieve more,” said Afolabi.
The Lagos Innovation Masterplan was unveiled by the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in the company of his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat; Commissioner of Science and Technology, Hakeem Popoola Fahm; Special Adviser, Innovation and Technology to the Governor of Lagos State, Tunbosun Alake.
The governor, however, announced a tech fund of N250 million to be managed by the Lagos State Science, Research and Innovation Council (LASRIC) headed by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.
Buoyed by its commitment to deepening collaboration between government and the tech ecospace, Sanwo-Olu also launched the Open Government Initiative and Lagos State Solution Hub. It is expected that these initiatives will further drive synergy between policymakers in the public sector and innovative entrepreneurs in the private sector.
Commenting on the Lagos State Solutions Hub, he said, “Democratising access to state actors is a critical strategy of this government as such, the Lagos State Solutions Hub serves as the first point of call for innovators, solutions providers and innovators on proposing their solutions to the state. It will enable us to evaluate different solutions from you, our most important stakeholders. The website is LagosSolutionsHub.com.”
On the Open Government Initiative, he stated: “Data Access is seen as critical for the building blocks of a solutions culture. Open data promotes inclusiveness, participation and more fit for purpose solutions. The Open Government initiative has kicked off and we will be communicating subsequent milestones with the public soon.”
Andrew Nevin, Advisory Partner & Chief Economist, PwC made a case for Lagos becoming a major player in Nigeria’s tech ecosystem given the growing number of Nigerian startups coming up with innovative solutions to societal problems during his keynote address. Juliet Ehimuan, Country Director, Google Nigeria, also a keynote speaker, discussed how technology is being deployed to solve problems in education, transportation, health and business. Kola Aina, Founder, Ventures Platform shared practical ways for government and tech to work together in his keynote address, ‘The Enabling Role of Stakeholders in Innovation.’ He posited that Lagos should focus on enabling market creating innovations and strengthening the ecosystem. Amauche Emenari, Doctoral Researcher, M.I.T., looked at how humans can leverage on artificial intelligence to build better solutions to individual and societal challenges during his keynote address. The highly interactive event also featured hard talk conversations as well as plenary and breakout sessions on tech & culture, building MVPs, consumer-centric products (not just apps), the future of work, funding mechanics and women in tech.
The Special Adviser, Innovation and Technology to the Governor of Lagos State, Tunbosun Alake, launched Idea Hub, a mentorship platform designed to help innovators take their ideas from conception to actualisation. He said, “The platform allows people to input their ideas, get matched with mentors to get their ideas validated for execution.” He added: “The Idea Hub is supposed to professionalise your idea, structure it properly, so that you get a minimum viable product and then launch into the market.”
Another high point of Art of Technology Lagos 1.0 was when StanLab claimed victory in the keenly contested maiden edition of Collaborate Lagos Pitch Competition. StanLab is a 3D virtual laboratory that leverages Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to provide practical science education to schools without traditional science laboratories.
The CEO, StanLab, Job Oyebisi, confessed that, “It was an awesome experience exhibiting our product and participating in the pitch competition. We had insightful feedback from judges and participants who came to know about our EdTech product. The highlight was the MoU from the Lagos State Government and the acceleration support from Eko Innovation Centre.”
Commenting on the involvement of Eko Innovation Centre, Afolabi added, “Our emphasis is on localising technology to solve our problems. As part of our commitment to Collaborate Lagos, Eko Innovation Centre will offtake the winner, StanLab and accelerate them for government adoption.”
He also expressed his satisfaction with the high turnout and quality of engagement recorded at Art of Technology Lagos 1.0. “AoTLagos is positioned to continue the engagement. We have to solve our problems ourselves, let’s get to work now!”