The Nigerian economy is facing several challenges, including the need to diversify and grow Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The National Development Plan (NDP) 2021-2025 recognizes this need and emphasizes the importance of investing in critical physical, financial, science and innovation infrastructure to create a more resilient business environment and drive economic growth.
In line with this, the Federal Government has also released the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) 2020- 2030), which aims to leverage the potential of digital technologies to drive economic growth and create new opportunities for businesses and individuals.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has also released its own Strategic Vision Plan (SVP) 2021-2025, which outlines the key priorities and goals for the Commission over the next five years. One of these priorities is to encourage and support the development of innovative solutions and digital startups that can drive growth and development in the ICT sector.
The Commissionn in keeping with its strategic intent as encapsulated in the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS 2020-2030) pillar 8 “Indigenous Content Development and Adoption” is committed to promoting innovation for the sustainability and continuous development of the Nigerian Communications Industry.
Pursuant to this, the Commission has called on Startups, Tech Hubs, Investors and the ICT ecosystem to participate in the third edition of the Annual Innovation Competition with the theme “Utilizing Indigenous Digital Solution to Bridge the Digital Divide.”
The ICT Innovation Competition is a medium for showcasing talents and innovations in ICT ecosystem. This is aimed at motivating and encouraging Nigerian youths to engage in innovative developments for the telecoms industry and improve the nation’s ability to compete in the global economy.
This competition is designed to promote indigenous solutions to bridge the digital divide. The objective is to assemble Tech Hubs and Techpreneurs with solutions in respect of the theme to showcase their innovations and solutions.
Eligibility for Participation
According to the Commission, prospective technology hubs and startups entering the competition are required to submit proposals that meet the following criteria for consideration: The project should be relevant to the ICT/Telecommunication industry; Interested parties should be duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria (CAC).
Also, they should provide Proof of concept (feasibility of idea with diagram, algorithm, etc.); Novelty of the project; The pitch idea should demonstrate clear commercial sustainability and profitability framework; and Team diversity and indigenous capacity to develop and support the solution.
The ICT Innovation Competition which is free for participants will have fifteen (15) Tech Hubs and Startups shortlisted to showcase their technologies to a Panel of Judges at the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI), Oshodi, Lagos Campus. Those shortlisted will be announced on the 23rd January, 2023.
The Tech hub and Startups with the best three Innovative prototypes will be awarded cash Prizes of N2 million, N1.5 million and N1 million, respectively. Consolation prizes will be given to the other competitors. Accommodation will be provided for the competitors for four (4) nights.
Fostering National Innovativeness
The Executive Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta represented by the Executive Commission, Technical Services, Engr. Ubale Maska kicked-off the 3-day 2022 ICT Iinnovation Competition and Exhibition yesterday at the Digital Bridge Institute, Oshodi, Lagos.
In his welcome speech, the EVC/CEO of NCC said the event is designed to foster increased national innovativeness and sustainable digital startup development, and to provide a platform for entrepreneurs and innovators to showcase their ideas and solutions to a wider audience.
According to him, over the next two days, participant would have the opportunity to see and learn about the latest innovations and technologies in the ICT sector, and to network with like-minded individuals and organisations. “We are confident that this event will not only showcase the incredible talent and potential of our innovators, but will also provide valuable insights and inspiration for those looking to drive growth and development in the ICT sector.
“We are grateful to all of you that are present with us here and virtually. We also extend our sincere thanks to the NCC R&D team, who have worked tirelessly to bring this event to life. We hope that you will enjoy this event and take full advantage of the opportunities it provides. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas, and to working with you to drive innovation and growth in the ICT sector,” said Prof Danbatta.
The chief executive officer Datstrat Consulting Limited, Dr. Abdullateef Bello who presented a technical paper at the NCC‘s Annual ICT Innovation Conpetition & Exhibition, said Nigeria is confronted with multidimensional problems and indigenous digital solutions can help in eight key areas namely: Oil theft (apps for early warning system, for tracking activities of thieves (e.g TrackR).
Insecurity (apps for anti-kidnapping, anti-Banditry, antiterrorism, cyberattack et); Illiteracy (value-added apps for digital learning, digital talent development, education apps in local languages, self-paced software training, MOOC connection app etc.); Diseases apps to monitor disease outbreak, early warning system for cholera, malaria, lassa fever, etc.).
Others are: Corruption (apps to tackle fraud, bribery, corruption etc.); Poverty (apps to create jobs, address climate change related issues, energy poverty, cash transfer etc.); Financial institutions (locally developed software and apps, currently about 90% are foreign-made software); and Fake News + Other sub-sectors (app to authenticate news, for farmers, environmental such as potential flood, famine etc).
He however, noted that the country is facing four critical digital issues in addressing the above. These are: Data breaches- Digital system compromises by hackers to steal information from authorised owner; Brain drain- Loss of experienced human capital in critical digital jobs to other countries.
Others are: Lack of fund -Resources constraints to develop digital solutions and meet demands for the products; and Skills mismatch- Match skills supply with demand.The good news is that NCC has generated excellent ideas and creativity for indigenous digital solutions to address myriad problems through the following initiatives.
Among these were: COVID-19 Virtual Hackathon in areas of Community, Education, Health, Productivity and Transport. Also, the Commission organized the IOT Code Camp and Hackathon 2021 which developed IoT solutions for kidnapping and banditry in Nigeria (Clearflow System Hub & Aelaus Engineering Teams/Hyech Electronics Solutions emerged winners).
Others were: Assistive robotic solutions for effective e-waste management (Kalibotics and CyberNorth Tech were winners; Telecommunications – Based Research Innovation from Academics in Nigeria Tertiary Institution; and the ongoing NCC Annual ICT Innovation Competition.
Dr. Abdullateef Bello listing the benefits of indigenisation of digital solutions, said it help attain self-sufficiency and self-reliance, heralding “Made-in-Nigeria” leapfrog development (change in development status), reduce dependency syndrome on foreign countries, reduce foreign exchange spending, promote inclusive society and standards of living of citizens (narrowing inequality).
Others are: Create new digital jobs (i.e new employment opportunities), Reverse brain drain (i.e Brain Gain), Promote innovation culture (i.e. promote industrialisation), Engender collaboration among various research institutions and private sector.
Utilizing Indigenous Solutions
The third edition of the annual ICT Innovation Competition, organized by the Research and Development Department of the NCC with the theme: „Utilizing Indigenous Digital Solutions to Bridge the Digital Divide,“ is an incredibly vital and relevant one, as it recognizes the importance of providing equal access to technology for all citizens.
The Director, Research and Development Department of NCC, Ismail Adedigba said the competition is a fantastic opportunity for the participants to showcase their innovative ideas and solutions for bridging the digital divide.
“It is important to note that this competition is not the end, but rather the beginning of our collective journey towards bridging the digital divide in Nigeria. We must continue to support and invest in local, indigenous digital solutions to ensure that all citizens have access to the technology and opportunities they need to thrive in today‘s digital age,” he added.