Inside Abuja

Unlocking ICT potential among Nigerian undergrads

Last week, undergraduate students from 28 tertiary institutions across the country, gathered in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for an Information Communication Technology (ICT) Innovation challenge that produced amazing results. CALEB ONWE reports

 

The Innovation Challenge, themed ‘TechonDemand’ was organised by Financial Services Innovators (FSI) in collaboration with Nigeria Association of Computing Students(NACOS).

 

The event showcased the abilities of Nigerian youths to create better ICT platforms that could address global problems like the popular Facebook, twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and other social media platforms.

 

The students, who had already being grouped with mentors attached to them, created different ICT platforms that could address particular problems that have been identified in various economic sectors of Nigeria.

 

The presentation and demonstration made by the different teams before selected judges who scrutinised their works in accordance with global technological standards, revealed that Nigerians youths were capable of competing favourably with their peers anywhere in the world, if given equal opportunities.

 

Participants and even observers at the grand finale of the event were dumbfounded, but elated seeing the excellent innovations being introduced into the ICT world by the undergraduates.

 

Inside Abuja gathered that some leading private sector players like banks and other financial institutions who also partnered with the organisers, are already willing to adopt the platforms created by these students for rendering inclusive public services. To encourage and appreciate the ingenuity of these students, the organisers said the first, second and third winning teams will smile home with N1 million, N500,000 and N300, 000 cash prizes respectively.

 

There were also other consolidation prizes for the 4th to 10th positions. At the end of the Challenge, Team Wakanda emerged first, followed by team AAU, Ambrose Ali University, while Team STEMInnovators got the third position.

 

It was also learnt that apart from rewarding the innovative minds of these students with cash prices, there were plans to integrate the winners to what the organisers called “Campus Ambassadors Programme”, where ideas birthed during the challenge can be refined .

Executive Director, Financial Services Innovators (FSI) Aituaz kola-Oladejo, said the motivation for the event, was the belief  that ICT is a major driver of world economy and critical to the future of Nigeria as a nation.

 

She stated that over the years her experiences in the country showed that Nigeria has great untapped potential in the younger generation, which if well harnessed could end the economic malady in the country. Kola-Oladejo said she desires to see a nation where solutions to problems are never lacking.

 

She also disclosed that the training focused on young undergraduates, because that community has a rich reservoir of talents that should be nurtured for nation building. She said Nigeria had lost many of her young talents through brain drain to other countries, due to lack of opportunities and inclusiveness in economic planning.

 

According to her, the talents discovered during the ‘ TechonDemand ‘ challenge will be further refined to build Nigeria’s economy and also contribute to global development.

 

Kola-Oladejo, said: ‘TechonDemand’ is to provide inclusive platform for underserved and under-banked market and provide solutions that they can use. “Solutions that speak to all sectors of the economy, like the health sector, transportation, financial services and the education sectors.

 

“To enhance access and accessibility to these sectors, especially for people in the streets who are not educated. We want to come up with a solution that will help those who don’t use financial platforms.

 

“This is why we focus on tertiary insti-tutions, to see how we can provide solutions to sub urban communities, we are also raising leaders that can bring up such innovation.

“We are focusing on the young people because the kids in the school have a mind that is a reservoir, and we are not just asking them to go and identify solutions, we are also telling them how to do those things. “We have had capacity building sessions with them teaching them how to identify problems and they understand what they were supposed to do.

 

“We focused on youths in Computer Science Department , we got them to work in groups and not as individuals. We also gave them mentors that will guide them throughout the process.

 

“I am impressed with the presentation that these students have made in this median edition. Nigeria has a reservoir of knowledge and talent and we’re being exploited, we are loosing our talents everyday to Canada, US and even UK. “Some of the them are even going to Ghana and other neighbouring countries, because there is a platform. That is why we decided to create that platform.

 

“We have participants from the six geopolitical zones of the country. We see Technology as something that can unite the whole Nigeria.

“Over 530 people registered for this event . The start up package for them is that the first winning team will get N1 million, second team will get N500,000 and the third team will get N300,000 , while the 4th to the 10th team will get N100, 000 each.

 

“Beyond the cash reward, the winners will be recruited into what we call the Campus Ambassadors Programme, which is an incubation programme to help them refine their ideas and also learn in a business school.” Damilola Akinnayajo, Product Manager, Sterling Bank, one of the partners of the ‘ Techon- Demand ‘ challenge, said the undergraduates students have given more hope to Nigeria.

 

Akinnayajo expressed optimism that if talent hunts and sustainable coaching plans were adopted by all stakeholders for the young generation in Nigeria, the technological innovations gap would soon be bridged.

 

She disclosed that her organisation decided to partner with the organisers as a way of contributing to Nigeria’s ICT development and economic growth. According to her, the presentation of ideas by the undergraduates were, “so amazing and mind blowing. For the fact that they are undergraduates tells of what the country is going to be in terms of technology.

 

“Our bank is very innovative and the trend we have followed in recent past is in the part of supporting innovative challenges like this one.” Some of the student leaders of the participating teams expressed delight over the opportunity given to them to showcase not just the knowledge they have gotten from their studies, but their innate abilities.

 

One of them, Tamunokorite Briggs, a Software Engineering student of Nile University of Nigeria, said though it was very tasking getting to the grand finale, the experience had been worthwhile.

 

Briggs said the training opened a new dimension for them beyond what the class room experience offers.

 

Another student, Abdul-Azeez Tunde, a Computer Science student from Kaduna Polytechnic, noted that three days given to them to develop a solution to the problem they identified was a tedious task, but all the members of his team had a sense of fulfilment with the result of their work.

 

Tunde said the competition had enriched participants knowledge in divers ways and had equally prepared them for any global interface with their peers in the future.

 

One of the judges, Stephen Ambore, called on the participants to understand that the world is now a global village, and must recognise the role of Information Communication Technology (1CT) as a major driver of world economy.

 

He said the participants should continue to leverage on digital knowledge and cooperative management techniques, learnt during the challenge to curb the upsurge of unemployment in Nigeria.

 

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