Lagos State Backs Technology Hubs To Unclose Wealth

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The Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has channel his energy on how to build a tech ecosystem that can assist the state unlock higher levels of prosperity.

In collaboration with Facebook, Google and other giants, Governor Sanwo-Olu said he believes that using the power and resources at the disposal of the government can help to propel the growth of technology infrastructure and the tech space where more startups can spring up – to the benefit of Lagosians in terms of more opportunities and greater prosperity. The tech ecosystem, which will be sited in Yaba, is being developed by the state government in collaboration with Facebook and Google.

Although the tour was part of efforts to deliver on his campaign promise under the T.H.E.M.E.S. agenda (education and technology), Governor Sanwo-Olu further unveiled his vision in this regard during a recent tour of two tech hubs, Venia Hub in Lekki and Impact Hub in Ikoyi, both in Lagos. Venia Hub is an ecosystem housing Flutterwave and 100 other tech start-up companies; while Impact Hub also has scores of startups operating in its ecosystem. This, in no small measure, further availed him the opportunity to meet scores of startups in the ecosystems for a roundtable discussion on expansion and funding opportunities and infrastructure development.

In its ambition to make Lagos the technological hub of Sub-Saharan Africa, the state government, in conjunction with internet giants, Google, Facebook and other tech giants, is to build the biggest tech campus in Lagos. He said the Yaba Technology Cluster is intended to be a free zone that would allow for growth and financing of innovative ideas. In the tour of the two major innovation and technology hubs in the state, Sanwo-Olu was accompanied by his cabinet members, including Commissioner for Science and Technology, Hakeem Fahm; Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, and Special Adviser on Innovation and Technology, Olatunbosun Alake.

According to him, the hub would be populated by entrepreneurs in tech industry and Fintech space, adding that the ecosystem would also offer free labs for the use of startups to take their innovations to from mere ideas to the next level. In a bid to ramp up its intervention in provision of technology infrastructure and expand the tech space to accommodate more startups, the state said it would embark on the construction of the biggest technology cluster in West Africa.

Knowledge, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship (KITE)

The Yaba Technology Cluster, called K.I.T.E (an acronym for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship), is primed to be a free zone that allows the growth of funding and financing for innovative ideas generated by entrepreneurs in the tech industry. The governor described technology as “the new oil” for Lagos, Africa’s largest megacity, to exponentially generate wealth and jobs for its young population, while also leveraging on it to raise the status of the state to attain fourth industrial revolution.

“Technology is the new oil and the basic element for the fourth industrial revolution globally. As a state with a massive population of young people, we need to play a major role in the development of technology, which is an enabler to leapfrog into rapid socio-economic growth. We take technology as an important deliverable in our government’s development agenda.

“For us to make lasting impact in the tech industry, we said to ourselves we needed to build the infrastructure to support the sector. We are building a tech campus on a 22,000 square meters land in Yaba, which we christen K. I.T. E. We are working with global brands in the tech space, such as Facebook and Google, to deliver this important technology hub.

“We are currently laying 3,000 kilometres metropolitan fibre optic cables across the state to drop reliable and fast internet connectivity in homes and workplaces. These are part of the infrastructure required as a backbone for the tech industry to flourish and empower our young people in the space to take their businesses and ideas to the level of stability,” Sanwo-Olu said.

While promising to continue to improve on its infrastructural development initiatives, the state government said it is proud of feedbacks from beneficiaries of the grant opportunities for innovators and tech researchers, which it provides for startups through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) and Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council (LASRIC). The Governor said he deliberately peopled the two bodies with giants in the private sector in order to free the disbursement of opportunities from political interferences. The design is to make the state government’s interventions in the technology space achieve the set objectives, which are to create opportunities and provide platforms for start-up businesses to thrive.

Out of the 20 start-ups ideas supported through LASRIC last year, two had secured patents for their innovations and ready to transform into fully-fledged businesses that would create jobs, Sanwo-Olu said. “The visit to your ecosystems today is for you to be assured that this government is not sitting back in taking steps to ease access. We fully understand the role which technology plays in our lives and how technology is important to any society that wants to be relevant in coming decades. We are happy to be building the capability for Lagos, so that we can compete with other developed cities in the world.”

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While promising to continue to improve on its infrastructural development initiatives, the state government said it is proud of feedbacks from beneficiaries of the grant opportunities for innovators and tech researchers, which it provides for startups through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) and Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council (LASRIC). The Governor said he deliberately peopled the two bodies with giants in the private sector in order to free the disbursement of opportunities from political interferences. The design is to make the state government’s interventions in the technology space achieve the set objectives, which are to create opportunities and provide platforms for start-up businesses to thrive.

According to the LSETF executive secretary, Mrs. Teju Abisoye, more than 38 partner hubs across the state have received support from the agency. She enthused that the objective of the funding, which is support startups from idea to exit stages, is being met.

In his presentation during the tour of the two tech hubs, Fahm explained that the unified metro fibre project, which the administration of Governor Sanwo-Olu kick-started, is a multi-year smart city programme. He added that Lagos targets installing 6,000 kilometre fibre optic cables across the state, an ambitious project that will be done in two phases. In the first phase, which started last year, 3,000 kilometre of fibre optics cables are being rolled out within the metropolis. “The plan is to drop high-speed Internet connectivity into all communities within the state and extend it to our public schools, institutions of learning, health centres, and all government offices and parastatals. We will also be using the digital infrastructure to enhance security and safety, as we will be installing security cameras in public places. This will also be deployed in our operations to achieve efficient traffic management.”

Fahm, who commended Sanwo-Olu for the bold initiative, said massive installation of close-circuit TV cameras across the state was part of the strategy to implement smart city projects and beef up security in Lagos; while the Fibre Metro Network connection is part of a comprehensive Smart City programme that seeks to provide a 24-hour driven economy. According to him, the aggressive installation of the CCTV cameras for effective monitoring and security surveillance across the state is part of the implementation of Lagos State Smart City Project, which would enable e-governance, connectivity and environmental security. The Commissioner added that the cameras have the capacity to capture happenings around the place where they are being installed, stressing that security breaches can be monitored with technological innovations that have commenced operations in some parts of the state.

The investment in technology is a game changer for development, he said, adding that governments at all levels must adopt e-governance in order to effectively serve their citizens. Fahm, who explained that the use of technology would make reporting of security incidents easy to reach and promote access to major stakeholders in the government, said that there are plans to also incorporate smart technologies into transport infrastructure surveillance and security, healthcare services, education and other sectors. All government services would be technologically driven through the provision of affordable internet access in order to close the gap between the people and the government, he said.

On his part, Alake, Special Adviser to Governor on Innovation and Technology, said Lagos stands to benefit immensely from the fibre optic cables and other innovations going on across the state. He added that it will bring about a turnaround development of all sectors of the state. He said tech platforms allow people to input their ideas and get matched with mentors to get their ideas validated for execution. He said the platform would enable them to professionalise their idea, structure it properly so that they will get a minimum viable product and then launch into the market.

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