Many African countries, including Nigeria, have not been so fortunate in the area technological innovation when compared with most countries in Europe, North America and Asia. And technology experts said for Nigeria to build a fundamental innovation paradigm that will give it incredible economic growth it has to pump more money in research and development. The investments in research and development by government and private sector players must be consistent and not faltering, said Engr. Lookman Adahunse, a Lagos based IT expert.
“If we truly desire to grow improve on technology innovation in the country, we will certainly need more R&D investment”, Adahunse said. Adahunse however commended the present Federal Government for its efforts increase budgets on innovation to make Nigeria a tech hub.
But in his “Inside Real Innovation – How the Right Approach Can Move Ideas from R&D to Market – And Get the Economy Moving” (2011, World Scientific), Eugene A. Fitzgerald, the Merton C. Flemings-SMA Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT argues that a more holistic approach to innovation will be needed to develop the next big tech engine. The book was co-authored by Andreas Wanker, director of operations for the Innovation Interface, a joint MIT-Cornell University program; and Carl Schramm, former CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
“People imagine that technology research is a linear process that moves from stage to stage, but we found that’s not really what happens,” Fitzgerald says. “It’s actually an iterative process. Even when you’re in the research stage, you have to think about potential applications and how you might build and sell a product in the future. If you constantly update all those factors, it allows you to have a better chance of having an impact.”
“People tend to think of innovation as either being pushed by technology or pulled by the market,” Fitzgerald says. “Yet, all these components are always pushing and pulling and affecting each other, including implementation issues. The great innovators continually reexamine each element over the length of the entire project. From the very start, you have to think about how the implementation and market applications might impact the technology 10 to 15 years out.”
He said successful startups and development teams require expertise in all three areas. According to him, it’s rare to find someone like Apple’s Steve Jobs, who can iterate through all three elements. However, he adds that startups can gain an edge if a few leaders know two out of three elements.
“Typically, you may have a tech person who has gained experience in a particular application in the marketplace, and maybe a person who knows industry operations, but then learns about the tech side,” he says. “It’s important to have this crossover in order to communicate and come to common ground. If you have somebody who knows only one side, even if you have all three elements covered, it’s difficult to speak the same language and evaluate risk together.”
To meet this need, there’s been a recent focus at universities on entrepreneurship and integrated teams, notes Fitzgerald. For example, at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, business students are encouraged to learn more about technology, and MIT engineers are taught more about business than in previous years.
Now it’s time for corporations to do more on their end, says Fitzgerald: “A lot of the information entrepreneurs need about product implementation and activation is found inside companies. So the closer we can bring corporations to the university, the better it is for everyone. Corporations can influence the birth of an idea in the university, which improves the chance for successful implementation.”
NASENI to manufacture electric vehicles
Probably, this is why the Federal Government directed one of its agencies in charge of engineering infrastructure, the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) to prioritise need-oriented products such as electric vehicles, microchips and solar cells among others.
NASENI’s Executive Vice Chairman, Prof Mohammed Sani Haruna said that the directive was part of the resolutions reached at a retreat organised in Abuja by NASENI for the technical board of directors and managing directors of its development institutes across the country.
Haruna said manufacturing electric vehicles would enhance the agency’s visibility and participation in the global market.
He said it was also resolved that, “the synergy between NASENI, universities, polytechnics, research institutions and the industries should be enhanced to fast track industrialisation.”
He said: “We have resolved that each institute should identify at least one need oriented product for full development and commercialisation within a maximum time frame of 24 months for immediate production and commercialisation.
“That NASENI should create baseline indices for the Development Institutes to set targets and measure performance.
“That NASENI Promotes R&D through home grown technologies to boost confidence in made in Nigeria products and discourage importation of similar goods.”
Haruna who said NASENI had partnered with the private sector in order to achieve some of its mandates, added that Nigeria would soon witness industrial revolution.
Firm launches app to track borrowers
And an Abuja based IT firm has launched an app to identify and track debtors. UNICCON group of companies said it launched SmartSee, a data borrowing solution that provides lending institutions the means of using artificial intelligence to identify and retain borrowers in their portfolio.
Speaking during the unveiling of the product in Abuja, the group’s chairman, Chuks Ekwueme, said with the product, lenders could effectively profile borrowers that would likely take loans again, those that may borrow from other institutions and those who may stop borrowing in entirety or for a duration of time.
He said the product comprises five modules, which customer are profiling, credit scoring, risk assessment, fraud detection and cost monitoring.
Ekwueme said: “Nigeria and Africa have been lagging behind in technology. This is pure artificial intelligence in financial institutions. It would make our financial institutions level up and be able to profile customers rightly and render services that the customers should get especially in credit scoring, because we are really lagging behind.
“Businesses need finance, they need to assess banking advantages to run business in Nigeria, so it will Aorchange a lot of orientation. The overhead costs for financial institutions would also be mitigated.”
Airtel launches data centre
Meanwhile, telecommunications services provider, Airtel Nigeria, on Tuesday in Lagos unveiled its state-of-the-art Tier 3 data centre for commercial use, declaring its mission to help provide perfect uptime and peerless security for servers it houses as well as cloud services for businesses and government establishments across the country.
Awarded the high-end Tier 3 ANSI/TIA-942 certification by EPI, the world’s leading certification body for data centres, the Airtel ultra-modern data centre runs on superior technology that enables it to perform efficiently in Nigeria’s tropical climate while also providing multiple paths and backups to its users.
Commenting on the data centre, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Surendran Chemmenkotil, said the launch of its data centre for commercial use is in response to its overarching objective of promoting digital inclusion as well as creating unfettered access and opportunities for entrepreneurs, businesses, and other organizations to enjoy premium data centre services in a world class and reliable facility.”
Ogo Ofomata, Director, Airtel Business, and Airtel Nigeria, commented: “We are inspiring and pioneering a new wave in the Nigeria’s data centre landscape as we offer a compelling and affordable data centre to both large enterprises and small and medium scale businesses. Through our data centre, businesses will benefit from uninterrupted power and hyper secure storage for servers and data transmission equipment for various sizes of private and public sector establishments.”
The Airtel Data Centre would begin full operations immediately. The tier 3 data centre possesses multiple paths for power and cooling, as well as redundant systems that allow staff to work on the setup without taking it offline.
Communication Week’s Innovation Award
And this year’s Beacon of Information and Communication Technology (BoICT) awards/lecture series scheduled for May 28, will be exploring Impact of Blockchain Technology in a Digitalized Nigeria.
Now in its 13th year, the BoICT Distinguished Lecture Series is widely regarded as the most prestigious annual event available in the ICT industry in Nigeria.
Mr. Ken Nwogbo, chief executive officer and editor in-chief, Communication Week Media Limited, and the organisers of the lecture, said that the choice of the theme is based on the potentials of the new technological paradigm that have not yet reached wider public debate for economic and societal growth.
“Distributed ledger technologies and blockchains stem from an ideological open-source movement and facilitate the exchange of assets via a complementary technical layer on top of the internet.”
This article was first published in Daily Trust