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Opinions of Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Columnist: Jacob Apagbo jnr

As Ogun expands digital economy infrastructure

Since being sworn-in as the fifth democratically elected governor of Ogun State on May 29, 2019, Prince Dapo Abiodun has left no one in doubt about his administration’s interest and focus on the information super highway.

Just weeks into the job, he launched the Ogun TechHUB , described as an innovation hub that provides ideal conditions for entrepreneurs to collaborate, flourish and accelerate the growth of their businesses.

The hub, using world class practices, tools, techniques and technology, has vital components, including the Ogun Technopreneurship Program (OTP) which has the crucial objective of nurturing high quality ideas in various industries to become tech-startups and Tech-SMEs.

There is also the Ogun Innovate Startup meant to empower people in the state with essential skills needed to succeed in business, to create opportunities for entrepreneurs and to empower the unemployed. The objective is clear: to transform Ogun into a hub for successful businesses and attract local and foreign investments in multiple folds.

To be sure, any government that wants to develop must invest in ICT. India’s revenue across the world is 20 times more than what Nigeria earns from oil, a clear indication that technology is the way to go.

As Abiodun noted months ago, the Ogun State government’s partnerships with the public-private sector stakeholders was aimed at creating opportunities and expanding the job space for the state’s teeming youth and anyone with innovative talents. To actualize this objective, Abiodun said his government would convert all the colleges built across 20 local government areas into technology hubs for young and aspiring technologists.

The digital focus has of course been sufficiently demonstrated over the last two years. To take just one example: in November last year, Prince Abiodun flagged off the Adire Digital Market at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta, advocating the promotion of Nigeria’s indigenous fabrics to the world.

This explains why no one was surprised when, on Thursday, Prince Abiodun further launched the Ogun Digital Economy Infrastructure Project (OGDEIP), at the Ogun TechHub, Abeokuta.

As he noted during the virtual event, “Since our administration came on board in May 2019, we have continued to demonstrate our commitment towards developing the ICT industry for the continued growth and expansion of all sectors of the economy. The fact is that developing and leveraging digital resources will provide us with a sure way to harness a globally competitive citizenry and economy in our dear state. This particular effort of our administration of providing a digital economy in Ogun State will not only help to resolve many challenges, both human and economic but also provide more opportunities to improve the people’s know-how, productivity and innovations as necessary for nurturing their potentials and the continued development of our State’s economy.”

Abiodun argued that digital economy infrastructure was the backbone for the ICT revolution of the state, adding that the launch would further enhance the ease of doing business in the state, as recent events had shown the various roles of digital technologies in solving human challenges and transforming every aspect of the economy.

It is indeed cheering news that the ICT industry has continued to account for more than 21 per cent of Ogun State’s GDP while providing countless job opportunities for the growing educated and creative citizenry. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was clearly enthralled by the launching of OGDEIP, about which he spoke eloquently, saying it had positioned the state to become a major global site in the emerging innovation economy.

Lauding the fact that Ogun had taken the lead in digital technology in the country as a result of its massive investment in digital infrastructure, Osinbajo said making digital technology available to all citizens and businesses was the most foresighted action any government could take, as broadband and other technologies had become compulsory for any community seeking meaningful growth, prosperity and security for its people. “Bridging the digital divide in the state will begin to improve education outcomes and provide opportunities for improved access to education across the State starting from primary to the tertiary level. The digital revolution that this project will bring will be a game-changer in every aspect not the socio-economic life of the state,” he concluded

For the Minister for Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ibrahim Pantami, the project would create new economic opportunities and improve the lives of the people. According to the minister, the digital economy is widely acknowledged as one of the drivers of the world’s economy, as it helps in creating jobs, adding that it was one of the factors that helped the country exist recession.

Also speaking during the event, the Chairman, House Committee on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Hon. Abubakar Suleja, lauded the state for being the first to achieve such a remarkable feat, saying that it would go a long way in creating opportunities, particularly for the youth and exposing the state to the international community.

Suleja promised that his committee would work towards encouraging other states to emulate the example set by Ogun State. And in his own remarks on the occasion, the Special Adviser to the Ogun State governor on ICT, Mr Dayo Abiodun, stated that OGDIEP was a culmination of the ICT policy of Abiodun’s administration to further digitalise government activities by creating digital inclusion and providing tools and education to empower the youth and business owners in the state.

Truth be told, the launch of OGDEIP represents a first in the country. It is thrilling that a government is creating digital opportunities for its people: anyone who wants to use the internet in any area can gain access at the press of a button. This comes against the backdrop of the establishment of a hub providing a platform for technologists, tech companies, social entrepreneurs and impact investors to co-create new solutions to the state’s social problems.

This is where the world is migrating to: digital technology creates access to security of jobs, of life. Simply put, the world has gone digital. If you want to do well in agriculture, education, business—name it—you must invest in technology. This is an initiative that demonstrates foresight: it will facilitate industrial revolution. It is instructive to note that the Abiodun government is collaborating with IT companies to ensure the success of the project. Jobs are in the offing especially for the youth. The project will make Ogun youth globally competitive.

Speaking on behalf of traditional rulers in the state, the Olu of Ilaro, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, went into the heart of the project when he lauded the Ogun State government for bringing technology to the doorsteps of people at the grassroots, which would help in improving their socio-economic lives. That, precisely, is what it is all about.

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