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Ottoabasi Abasiekong: Innovation and National Transformation(III)

By on December 24, 2012

As we observe with rapt attention the phenomenal growth the Information technology, Social Media and Innovation based companies have brought to economies in the globe, the question remains when will Nigeria come into the competitive level of being an innovative country.
It has not been a pleasant story seeing the promising African nation importing products than it exports and it is quite unfortunate that in the past years there has been no drive or passion to take a bold step in becoming a player in the technology world.

The cynicism displayed by Nigerians daily over the prospects of the nation becoming a key player in the innovative age has been pathetic, you ask a child , a young person or an elderly man, can Nigeria become a technology driver and most say ‘It’s a Joke’.
It is understandable that the environment typified by corruption, mismanagement and poor value systems has hampered several prospects over the years for the nation’s manifestation as a strategic technology player, but that must not continue in the cyber technology age of opportunities.

Dr Anand Girhadas the Indian celebrated writer in one of the sessions of the platform conference organized by the covenant christian centre made a clear statement on Nigeria and the innovation age,he said “Nigeria has been known for chasing and acquiring the high-tech products like the latest cars, gadgets and phones, but time has come for the nation to redefine its technology roadmap”.

At the conference he was proud to talk about his nation India and how it has risen above the tide to become a strategic economy driven low cost innovation like the story of the ‘TATA’ cars which have also flooded the Nigerian market.

But he left with a defining question for Africa’s hope in socio-economic transformation and revival “Where will Nigeria be ten years to come in the rapid growth of technology and innovation in the globe?”.

We have read, watched and listened to documentaries and interesting stories of the innovation drive and transformation of political economies like Brazil, Singapore, China and Malaysia and it is not something and so when will Nigeria feature.

The challenge number one is to overcome the ‘cynicism’ mentality which impedes the sense of creativity and value of innovation. If we look at the Japanese and South Koreans they embraced challenges of natural disasters and low depth of resources to become industrious and process driven people with incredible technology possibilities.

Second challenge that Nigeria must grasp and solve is the ‘inferiority’ mentality that makes us feel that a Nigerian designed technology cannot become a marketable product globally.

It calls us to become a brand in innovation and commendation must go to the co-creation hub a technology driven group based in Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria who have set a facility and environment and atmosphere for young innovative minds to converge and develop web based and mind blowing ideas that can improve the way things are done in the country.

Third challenge will be to break the ‘Cycle of Failed Government policies on Innovation and Technology’, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and that of the Information Technology must realize how crucial their sector is to the development and transformation of the nation’s political economy.

There must be concerted and intentional steps taken in partnering with identified groups that encourage the development of ‘Innovative and technological programmes’ in the country.

Young people that have developed new patents, apps and devices that can revolutionize the technology, social media and technology industry, must be sourced for and encouraged.

The concept of having technology parks is a laudable initiative, but Goverment must become more proactive in engaging public/private partnership in making this parks ‘hubs of innovation’ not edifices that beautify the streets.

This means Technology parks like the one in Abuja and Uyo, should be designed to woo the engagement of technology companies in Nigeria who can train and equip youth with skills in mobile phone making, gadgets making, discoveries and development of software and web designs, production of laptop and computer parts etc in partnership with key corporations like Samsung, Nokia, LG, Microsoft and RIM.
For decades we have become a huge market for products from countries like the United States, Japan, Canada, India, China, Germany, South Korea, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Italy,and France amongst others.

Time has come for us to develop our products and content that will be marketable anywhere in the world, and the Final Challenge will be to make a strong legislation backing the drive for innovation and technology.

There is need for an ‘Innovation and Technology Development Bill’, which will be designed like the Petroleum Industry Bill, to set the roadmap and pathway for ‘local content development’ and encourage investors to come in and partner with the government in revolutionizing the Innovation and technology sector.

Rwanda did it in the Information technology sector and there have become the leaders in that sector in Africa, we can overtake them if we take the sector more seriously. Within the window 2013-2020 if Public/Private sector partnerships are valued, Nigeria could become one of the emerging drivers of innovation and technology.