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Important Open Letter To Governor Seyi Makinde By Barr. Timi Olagunju

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Let’s Establish an Innovation and Technology Agency or Ministry in Oyo State

As I sat on my couch in the weekend preparing notes for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Conference in Lagos, I thought through the challenges confronting Nigeria and the precarious situation of a young Nigerian in the global ‘street’ with the entire ‘invictus saga’.

Young Nigerians with so much energy and ‘native intelligence’, but little ‘legit’ and numerous ‘illicit’ opportunities to harness these endowments. I thought ‘what can we do to make life better for Nigerians who are blessed with talents and ‘a rising debt profile’ (An Irony!).

Then it dawned on me, as a policy and innovation enthusiast, ‘how about we tackle this from a policy angle?’ I remembered my research culminating to findings for the need to set up an Agency or Ministry focused on driving policies, programmes, and partnerships that stimulate and intensify ‘innovation’ in order to improve economic growth and the quality of life.

However, this is best suited for States first. And which State is better suited to achieve this than a State with a Governor who has shown a quest for excellence and innovative leadership with his language and appointments (particularly with his appointment of Seun Fakorede as ‘Commissioner’ despite odds) within only 88 days in office.

Why an Agency or Ministry of Innovation and Technology in Oyo state?

In an age where there is an increasing demand for skills that fit into the ‘future of work’: an age where wicked problems such as poverty, poor healthcare, and unemployment persist, there is need to develop robust policy frameworks that exploit innovation and technology for different sectors, for the benefits of Oyo state indigenes and residents. This can start as an agency with KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), from which it grows into a full-fledged Ministry serving to identify challenges to innovation within the State, drive policies and programmes, and pursue partnership and opportunities for innovators and innovation in Oyo state.

Under the leadership of Governor Makinde, the Agency can help Oyo state become a conscious catalyst for innovation as well actively bring in investments and partnerships in innovation and technology, which serve national and global needs irrespective of proximity.

For example, Akanbi Segun a teenager in Oyo state, created the ‘Feather Plucking Machine’ – and there are thousands of opportunities, scholarships, and grants available to such persons as Akanbi. The Office or Agency can pursue partnerships that make this happen for many ‘Akanbis’ in Oyo state.

Also, Adebayo Alonge, a 30-year old indigene of Oyo state with a start-up in Ibadan called ‘RxAll’ which I advise, recently received a global award for being the first to invent a handheld Artificial Intelligence Nano-scanner that can scan and detect fake drugs in 20 seconds.

Therefore, the Agency can develop policies that help us celebrate and locally support ‘Adebayo’ to ensure we produce more ‘Adebayos’ – what we promote is what becomes popular.

At the moment, I am privileged to information about some investment interest in setting up an ‘Ibadan Digital City’ with funding from investors from Canada and China.

But we need to show commitment in driving innovation policies and ease of doing business in Oyo state. In fact, with investments like this facilitated by the Agency with the private sector, there can be Professional programme that ensures a selected few with digital and tech skills do some weeks of internship with the Oyo State Government and Ministries after their training, which can help such participants learn how public governance works and use their rare skills to improve the public governance architecture in Oyo state.

The “Agency or Office” for Innovation and Technology under the Governor’s office can focus on driving policies, programmes, and partnerships that will attract investment in innovation and technology for youths and for harnessing the intellectual resource in Oyo state’s higher institution in solving challenges in rural communities across Oyo state.

This Agency can create policies that encourage the building of an ecosystem that supports capacity development in specialized technology skills, to achieve accelerated economic prosperity and decent jobs whilst tapping into the potential market that Lagos, Africa, and the world offers for innovators and tech.

For example, data science and cyber security are in high demand. Harvard calls ‘data science’ the ‘sexist’ job on earth, with a need for more than 150,000 data scientist (irrespective of talent location) in United States alone.

The ‘hustle and bustle’ in Lagos isn’t encouraging the survival of innovators and tech skills, even though it has the market. Here lies the opportunity, an opportunity for Oyo state to show leadership and commitment to attract talents and start-ups. For example, Law Pavilion is based in Challenge Ibadan, and its AI innovation is serving the entire Law Industry in Nigeria and West Africa.

How can we ensure more businesses and startups such as Law Pavilion, Interswitch set up ‘technical base’ in Oyo state whilst serving the Lagos, Nigerian, and global market? These are the kind of challenges the Agency or Ministry will solve through policy.

Oyo state is the Pacesetter State and can show the way on how Nigeria can do such at the Federal level by starting first from within. Thank you for reading and sharing – let the conversation begin from here to the Governor’s listening ears. Ire O!!!