Thoughts of a Nigerian Technology Genius, Jelani Aliyu (2)

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Last week, on this page, TECH FUTURE published part one of the Thoughts of a Nigerian Technology Genius.
This week concludes the publication and is focused on: Creating Market Opportunities for Nigerian ICT Products and Services: The Philosophy for Success. Excerpts…

There are two incredible creatures, one mythical, one real that will forever be associated with the history, culture and achievements of Asia, these creatures are the dragon and the tiger.
Whereas in old Europe dragons were believed to be fire breathing flying monsters that needed to be hunted down, in Asia the dragon is a symbol of power, leadership, and new beginnings. Although mythical, it occupies a position of strength in the minds of Asia, so does the tiger.
Which in itself is an unbelievably powerful creature, the perfect balance of brute force and flexibility, calm and ferocity, when it hunts it does so with calculated strategy, utter focus and unyielding tenacity. These are also the exemplary characteristics of four unique Asian countries which have exhibited so much achievement that they have now come to be called the ‘Asian Tigers’, these are the countries of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. Four countries that have created nothing short of a miracle:
within a relatively short period of about thirty years, from the mid-sixties to the nineties, they would transform themselves from underdeveloped economies into some of the world’s most advanced nations, moving their populations from a life of hardship to that of prosperity. How did they do this? They employed a number of strategies, key amongst which were intensive education that led to the development of a highly skilled work force, free enterprise and the aggressive manufacturing of goods exported to the West.
They had a concerted effort to make primary and lower secondary school education compulsory. A strong curriculum was put together, teaching was made an important profession and the best graduates were encouraged to go into that field. They were trained to create highly competent and enthusiastic faculties at all schools. Salaries of teachers was made competitive with other contemporary professions. The governments of the Asian Tiger countries supported major corporations and public initiatives to establish strong ICT solutions that were deployed directly within the country, enabling the successful establishment of the new systems on a massive scale before further scaling up globally.
In the case of Taiwan, the country moved from a virtual nonexistent ICT sector in 1960 to a powerful global player by the 90s, and it has continued to be in that league. The government created two mega companies in the heyday of the country’s ICT development, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Limited (TSMC), the world’s first dedicated semiconductor foundry, and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC), with such momentum the country became the research and development hub of the Asia-Pacific region. With South Korea, their technology initiative led to the development of one of the world’s most successful and actually the first 100-percent electronic customs e-government information systems in the world, The Korea Customs Service’s Universal Pass, known as ‘UNI-PASS’. It has since been exported to a number of countries around the world.
South Korea also gave priority to Industrial design, the concept of creating new products that are solutions for everyday applications and economic growth, this enabled a strong industry that designed, manufactured and exported these solutions overseas, especially to the United States. The Asian Tigers moved from just manufacturers of ICT products to pervasive nationwide users of it, integrating the technology in all aspects of government and social life. They developed a highly skilled workforce which in turn fostered strong innovation and entrepreneurship, bringing unprecedented progress to their populations.
Can we emulate this miracle of the Asian Tigers as they did with their leap from poverty to prosperity, can we also emulate their success as high caliber ICT global innovators and exporters? We, as Nigerians, are now at an exciting moment in our country’s history, we have never been ordinary, we may have had challenges, but we have never lost our zeal. It is now our turn to muster and leverage all our capabilities and usher in a new era of advanced progress and abundance, in effect, to bring back the greatness of our people, to recapture the magic and prosperity of our histories, cultures, kingdoms and empires. To bring back the era when our societies engaged the authentic capabilities of all citizens and prospered. And so the answer is yes, just as the Asian Tigers transformed their economies and became crucial players in the global ICT sector, we too can do the same, and must be done in an even shorter period.
Our greatest enabler is Intelligent Technology, technology that is in tune with Africa, technology in tune with our culture, histories, climate and geography. And the encompassing phenomenon to bring about this transformation is a nationwide development and adoption of the most advanced ICT. So, who are we? Who are the Nigerians? Environmental consciousness has become an integral part of global development, nature is now once again no longer seen as a force to conquer, but rather, it is seen as a medium from which to learn, efficiently draw energy from and live in harmony with.
And when we do observe nature, we see that we live on a truly magical planet, a gigantic orb of life hurtling through space, everywhere we look around us, we are surrounded by wonders of our natural world, from the tiny leaf only fractions of a millimetre thick and yet a highly efficient factory to the amazing sea rays that glide within the deep waters of the Atlantic, planet earth is a perfect balance of beauty and practicality.
And so in these days of environmental consciousness, sustainability and renewability, who more environmental than the African, who more sustainable than the Nigerian? Who better to understand this global movement and position themselves as high calibre creators of world class solutions than Nigerian innovators? Africa is a unique continent, with extreme climates and geographies, extreme heat and rough terrain, but these are not problems, they are not negatives, these are what Africa is. They are the beauty of Africa, and are the magic and the characteristics that have for millennia engaged a people and crafted them with immeasurable wisdom, virtue and prowess, characteristics that have fashioned a continent full of wonder, awe and adventure, and given us the magnificent Obudu hills, Serengeti and Ngoro Ngoro, the incredible Zambezi River, and the beautiful landscapes of the Sahel. Yes, there are challenges in infrastructure, energy supply, transportation, and education. But that is just what they are, challenges, they are not us, we are bigger than them.
Having the right technology is crucial in any society or locality. A major reason for the failure of a lot of infrastructure and systems in our nation is because they were not fundamentally designed for our applications, they do not fall within the critical physical and mental patterns that are natural for Africa, and so they don’t fail because of an inherent lack of local human support. It is no surprise that our physical environment is absolutely different from the conceptual birth place of a lot of the technology that finds itself transplanted into Africa. From time immemorial, Africans have had tools, systems and technologies that have assisted them in their daily lives. These technologies had been developed and evolved over time to be the most conducive for our people and environment. For example, most of Africa is hot, and historically homes have been built to be comfortable with local natural materials and passive cooling technologies without the need for added energy. In the last couple of decades we have equated progress with completely disregarding and forgetting a lot of our local and very effective technologies. This is not right, we must not dismiss them, but rather we must build on them, so as we progress, we must leverage advanced product development and intelligent Information Technology, coupled with our honed inherited understanding of extreme circumstances, to create advanced new systems that best suit our terrain, climate, psyche and histories. Therein will lie the secret to the success of our ICT products and services, making them authentically African for the unparalleled extreme African solution and hence effective for the world.
And so, imagine integrating these advanced effective solutions into our cities, infrastructure, institutions and patterns of life, making them the pride and jewels of modernity while upholding the very core values of our heritage and our respect for the magnificent natural world around us, for example:
1) Based on our cultures and ways of living, we have millions of children spread all across the country who cannot come to a traditional classroom because they are an integral part of their family’s vocation, some are not even in their towns or settlements but out there farming, herding, fishing and hunting, so how do we take education to these kids wherever they maybe? How do develop a self-adapting and un-tethered educational system, with intelligent networks, specialized sustainable hardware and software that would reach and engage these students while they are out there farming, hunting and fishing?
2) A majority of our citizens live in rural areas with no access to public or modern private services. Delivery of medicine, goods and needed supplies is a challenge over inhospitable terrain, across unbridged rivers and impenetrable forests. How do we provide intelligent logistics systems that can autonomously and safely service every town, village and settlement, making irrelevant the lack of roads to any of those places, to operate either by air or by land, perhaps autonomous delivery drones or selfdriving off-road solutions with the capability of efficiently and expediently traversing any natural terrain and leaving it pristine and undisturbed?
The two examples mentioned above are but a window to the advanced future of Nigeria and Africa, without expensive roads crisscrossing and destroying natural habitats we can reach every citizen of this country with essential goods and services, without building a physical school in every village and settlement we can give world class education to each and every Nigerian child.
While maintaining the natural environments of Africa we can, through leveraging strategic ICT solutions, create advanced nations where our people will once again live in harmony with nature, in abundance, peace and prosperity. Once we pioneer and develop these types of advanced and highly applicable ICT solutions, we can very easily scale them up and provide them to the world. And so, what are some of the enablers to creating these Africa conducive ICT solutions?

knowledgment of the miracle that we have all around us: the magic that is Africa that must be preserved.

sign courses and making the profession an integral factor of ICT and general technological development, through its discipline of creative hardware innovation and development. To set up departments at tertiary institutions, and integrate the course in the curriculum of secondary schools.

and Artificial Intelligence courses right from secondary school to degree courses at universities, polytechnics and specialized schools.

sionals in the diaspora in collaborative initiatives and projects, to merge their collective international experiences and contacts with Nigerian based experts and opportunities.
a) Engage in collaborative advanced Research and Development, and
b) Organize exciting local challenges and competitions to expose our local talent to the international community.
It is an exciting new world, and we must be strong valuable members of it, we must go for the seemingly impossible and make it reality. We must brave new paths with no fear, we must all come together and courageously strive towards the achievement of all that which will positively and most dynamically impact multiple facets of the Nigerian human experience.

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