Similar to what is going on in developed societies, how Nigeria harnesses and deploys technology and innovation to address emerging challenges will be crucial to the country’s recovery from the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Prof. Osinbajo stated this on Monday, September 21, at the virtual conference of the Centre for Lion Gadgets & Technologies (University of Nigeria, Nsukka) themed “Technological Innovation for Holistic Sustainable Development”. The event also featured a virtual interaction between the Vice President and students from both the university and the secondary school in the UNN campus.
Speaking about the importance of technology and innovation in resolving society’s numerous problems, the Vice President said: “we must creatively imagine and pioneer our way out.”
According to him, “we are in one of the worst health and economic crises in living memory and our recovery must be innovative – we must employ never-before-seen methods to fight the never-before-seen plethora of issues before us. Whether we are discussing the delivery of social services to vulnerable communities and promoting financial inclusion or we are talking about boosting agricultural productivity and promoting the security of our communities, how we harness technology is crucial.
“The future will be decided in groups such as yours, where young Nigerians are actively thinking about how to deploy technology in creative ways for problem-solving.”
The Vice President, however, noted that such innovative ideas must be deployed in a manner that is inclusive and accessible to all Nigerians including the poor and vulnerable.
“…in thinking about solutions to our developmental issues, we are expected to be both creative, relevant and ingenious, which is what innovation is all about. But we must also be faithful stewards of our environment, we must be inclusive, innovation must be accessible to all especially the poor and vulnerable.
“So, innovating for sustainable development involves creating environmentally friendly low cost and contextually relevant technological solutions to our most pressing challenges,” Prof. Osinbajo added.
In his words, “recently the Nigeria Climate Innovation Center concluded its Climate LaunchPad, and some very innovative ideas were unveiled. One of the innovator companies, New Digits, generates power from water, the product uses water and conformed solar cells to generate energy for electricity and cooking. It actually works by collecting water automatically from any piping channel in the house, breaks down the water into hydrogen which is used to cook and to power the entire house without the need for batteries of any kind.”
He gave another example: “PowerStove Energy, founded by three young Nigerians, Okey, Abdulaezze and Glory. What they did was that they produced a low-cost, clean smokeless cookstove. PowerStove Energy is the first clean cookstove to be fitted with self-powered Internet of Things (IoT) cloud system to monitor in real-time, every day that cooking is done, the amount of Co2 that is used and biomass saved, black carbon prevented and total electricity generated. All of that is monitored in real-time every day.”
Continuing, the Vice President said “…everyone is turning to technology in search of new ways to solve age-old problems. So, we have health tech firms like 54Gene who are using technology to harness African genomic data and transform how we are able to study and diagnose diseases. This is so that you can grow up in a society where healthcare research can serve you better, an illustrative example of how technological innovation can be used for sustainable development.
“In education too, Covid-19 has shown us just how adaptive we can be and there are a number of ed-tech firms such as uLesson, where students can take lessons and tests on an app. If scaled, this could revolutionize how we approach challenges with access to education.”
Acknowledging that the relationship between industry and the Universities can be better, the Vice President pledged the support of the Federal Government to universities especially in enhancing their capacity for research and innovation.
He said: “Government is prepared but the university needs to do more by being proactive in the links with industry. Industry, as you know, is interested in commerce. If it will make profit and money, the industry is interested. I think that a lot of the innovations we are seeing are certainly profitable and can be lucrative. But where the government can come in is where there are needs for additional support to make the research easier or cheaper for the public to access. So, I certainly look forward to the cooperation between the Federal Government and the University of Nigeria.”
Interacting with Nigerian Students drawn from both the University and the campus secondary school in the South-Eastern part of the country at the event, Prof. Osinbajo spoke about specific innovation project especially among young people across the country.
“We started the Students Innovation Challenge for all universities in Nigeria. We came as far as the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. There is a hub called the Genesis Hub where the competition took place for the South East. Three winners emerged from the University of Nsukka. And each of them got N1 million, and there were 25 of them that emerged winners at the competition. The Innovation Challenge is our commitment. We are committed to ensuring that innovation is done on a continuous basis,” the Vice President stated.
Earlier in his remark, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Prof. Charles Igwe, said the university has, over the years, prioritized the deployment of technology in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Other participants at the conference include former Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi; Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, the Most Rev. Paulinus Eze Okafor, among others.