Imagine if your grand mum in the village can simply type the batch number of that malaria drug into the app on her phone and she gets an immediate response in her local language indicating if the drug is fake or picture your aged dad using his mobile phone to check-up his own blood pressure without going to the hospital or calling the nurse?
Imagine if you can simply exercise your voting right at the touch of one button without leaving your home - yet the election is devoid of every iota of rigging and corruption.
If you do not know that technology exists that can make all these happen, chances are you belong to the old school.
Technology can save lives, protect and make our society a better place; it is the elixir which gives life, power and action. It is the oil in the wheel of the modern world and the basis on which modern development has found new pace.
To analyse it from the alchemist’s mystical view, technology is like the philosopher’s stone, a portion of which when given - grants eternal life and immortal elixir. During the past 10 years, tech 2.0 has not only become the tool upon which we can create, use and preserve knowledge and make things happen, it has indeed become a veritable instrument for solving many problems which we have inherited from our great grandparents.
Health, agriculture, logistics, communication, food, crime, economy, diseases, business, lifestyle, culture, information, you name it – technology has a solution.
But why are we not using this tool effectively to make change to some of the most fundamental problems of our society?
Why are we not as people matching our skills, talents and resources to create simple and yet effective technology that can solve many of our mundane problems?
I guess we as Nigerians have waited for too long to find solution to our individual and collective problems from the government without paying attention to the world of technology and what it can do for us.
But it is time to wake up and recognise how much problems we can solve with this new force. Yet, not as government but as individuals, community, businesses, entrepreneurs, NGO’s and thinkers.
Imagine how many lives we could save back home if few diasporas can pull funds together to build simple mobile phone apps that can help people with no access to hospitals to diagnose common diseases like malaria, typhoid, and so on at home without going to the hospital.
Imagine if our young techies can develop a remote sensor technology for our police using radiometers with hundreds of miles capacity to detect elements of bombs under development by the Boko-Haram while building a remote disruption system that is capable of destroying such weapons before they can be detonated. How many could we not save?
Imagine how many lives we can save if some few who care amongst us can fund developers to design simple but yet sophisticated technology for our police to detect drunk drivers. Imagine if with few of our thousands we can develop mobile phone apps that can help every Nigerian driver to prevent accident thorough early warning and other preventative measures.
Imagine if we can crowd fund the brightest business ideas amongst us through an intelligent platform and how many dreams we could bring to reality.
Imagine if we can create smart techs for investigative journalists to investigate and expose our corrupt politicians.
We can indeed solve many of our everyday problems by using simple technologies that don’t need to be assembled from heaven. We can improve the quality of our graduates, make our farmers manage their produce more effectively, reduce traffic on our roads and improve efficiency of businesses.
We might have missed out of the party of the industrial revolutionists of past but we certainly have not missed out of the new technological force.
The force that through the creation of simple software’s, chips, semi conductors, biotech and multimedia can make a huge difference to our lives, can create millions of jobs; can win us new contracts from abroad. This technological drive if smartly adopted can help us to improve efficiency across many industries, prevent thousands of deaths, preserve knowledge, foster innovation, detect corruption and enhance education.
But where should we find the inspiration to embark on this drive?
I guess we have to find our inspiration from everywhere. Through thinking, unthinking and rethinking. Through the recognition of what works in our society and through ideas from models that exists in other parts of the world.
We can borrow and model the best tech ideas from Silicon Valley to our own system and environment. Look to the east of London to get the best technology ideas that works. Take on Bangalore of India and learn how it is done cost effectively and more efficiently. One common thing about all this tech cities is that they have not only become the hotbeds of innovation and development powering some of the best advances and ideas that we have continued to see in the world today, they have also become some of the best creators of jobs and sustainable development for their cities and economies.
Without following the crowd of the new world of technology - we can create for ourselves what works for our society. We have more than enough youths who can lead this drive; we have the market which is ever ready for consumption and we have the knowledge and ideas to kick start this revolution but we lack the motivation and the resources to get our own Silicon Valley started.
We must acknowledge that technologies like every development are built on infrastructures that exist, where there is electricity and a society where there is sanity - but for us technology can be the agency through which we can create all these things.
I am very certain that if all our bright young techies and thinkers can converge, within a little time we can create solution to our electricity problem through simple and less costly technology without building another Kanji dam in the middle of nowhere, yet allowing the government to do its work.
Experience from Bangalore and the Silicon Valley’s of the world has shown that all that makes it work are tacit and implicit knowledge which our youths have in abundance and which we can improve through learning.
Let’s leave the half baked ones in Nigeria aside; there are thousands of the Nigerian born MIT, Princeton, Stanford, Cambridge, Uxbridge, London and Harvard graduates who alone are exposed to the beautiful world of technology – who have gone through the rigours of solving real life problems through class room case studies and practical experience, who have worked in small tech companies and know what it takes to create one, who have helped others to succeed and who are blazing the trail in their field.
These guys need motivation to come back home and be given opportunity to launch the next social media that can help solve multitudes of our social problems, they need to come back home to write codes and build software’s for our emerging financial sector and other industries which could perform better with technology.
We need these guys to come and build chips and systems which would help us to be forewarned when the next flooding is about to happen and so people can be prepared. We need these bright graduates to come and use their knowledge of technology and multimedia to strengthen our next to garbage Nollywood.
We also need those in Nigeria whether half baked graduates or dropouts to be part of the revolution by starting to recognise the power of the mobile phone which almost 80 million people have access to and how to harness such power to create the next “paga” (the Nigerian mobile platform where you can make a local money transfer through your phone). We need those in Nigeria to tap into the almost unexploited power of millions of Nigerians who use the internet every day.
We need the next generation of Nigerians to start recognising the opportunities inherent in the world of technology and how they can capitalise on these opportunities to make money and solve problems.
But we must acknowledge that we also need the government to give the right support to budding and potential developers and entrepreneurs who want to capitalise on the opportunities, I propose the creation of our own tech cities to make the industry more attractive and entry barriers reduced. I see Lagos and Port Harcourt as two major cities that can be used as homes to our new technology hub to stimulate the needed growth.
Focusing on Lagos - whichever government cares (federal or state) can simply identify a reserved, yet central and accessible location and create a plan for it and make it the new tech city. I see Surulere in Lagos as very feasible for a modern tech city. If you don’t know, Surulere is an axis that connects the western avenue, a major Lagos road that links Lagos east and south.
Surulere is central and offers quick access to different parts of Lagos. It is a developing locale that already has tons of growing businesses It is also a place with many facilities which attracts youths and which thousands of peopl can access easily.
To create a Surulere tech city, the government can simply implement supportive laws to attract tech businesses by giving tax incentives to new and existing tech ventures. The government can set up a tech fund which will support tech start ups; it can create a tech mentoring program which will be freely accessible in the tech city to young starters. It can set up tech parks that will mainly be a home to young and thriving tech businesses. It can fund or support existing tech academies to train more potential techies, it can create what I call the “tech-from-abroad-program” where our young and bright minds from overseas will be attracted and supported to start their tech ventures in the city if they can commit to create jobs and develop programs that can help the course of development.
Like the free trade zones, our tech hubs can also be structured to attract foreign tech companies and individuals who want to capitalise on the opportunities inherent in operating from surulere.
As groups, NGOs, businesses, entrepreneurs, diasporas and individuals, we can also do a lot by putting resources together to advance solutions through the power of technology.
To start the new tech revolution, as parent - you should encourage, empower, guide and provide resources to your kids. As a young starter, you must start to build confidence in yourself that you can do it if others can; you must start to build a solid foundation by breaking barriers through thinking. As entrepreneur, you must do your market research and recognise where there are market opportunities and how you can harness such opportunities to your own profit while solving problems.
As NGO’s and groups, you can influence policies and create opportunities for your members or the society through socially oriented technological ideas. As diasporas, we can put ideas and funds together, we can identify the best ideas from the Silicon Valley’s of the world and polish and adapt them to solve our problems.
I am certain that if we start making the right moves now, we can create the next global tech giant. We can lead Africa in technology and we can fight the scourge of poverty through simple technology solutions.
I remember the very first word I heard when I ventured into the world of enterprise few years ago. It is that: “What the mind can conceive, it can achieve”.
That should be the spirit.
If Bangalore is doing it, we can also do it.
Yes. We can build our own tech city and solve many of our problems through the power of technology.
Folks are you ready for the new revolution!