Professor Chukwuma Ozumba, vice chancellor, Universities of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), has suggested intelligent application of data as panacea to Nigeria's multifaceted socio-economic challenges.
Prof. Ozumba who was a panelist at the Nigeria International Technology Exhibition and Conference (NITEC) 2017, held in Lagos on Tuesday, said, the University community as a critical ecosystem for generating such useful data, expects the society to create a conducive ground for productive cross-fertilization of ideas, innovations and partnerships, especially, with the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry players.
The University Don agreed with other panelists that research and data analytics form crucial part in deepening local content in ICT sector.
"Universities are centers for learning, researches and educating the public. We talk about our universities graduating three million students annually; there are lecturers and non-academic staff, who are generating and warehousing data relevant to the society.
"We know that most of these data are warehoused in the ICT systems. That is why Google is thriving; they harness the data they have to make fortunes out of them. So, we need infrastructure and intelligent use of data," he said.
Prof. Ozumba said that UNN has shown example with the establishment of Roar Nigeria, the first full-fledged university embedded technology hub in West Africa. "We are trying to make UNN a Smart University. Everybody on campus has bought into it. Recently, Roar Nigeria hub was opened to the public with a mission to produce the next generation of entrepreneurs by creating an enabling environment, support systems and relevant skills to succeed with technology entrepreneurship. With about 50 kilometers of fibre optic cable connecting the university, we also intend to solve the challenges faced by businesses available data on the campuses.
"University is where you are taught and explore. There is no infinity to acquiring knowledge. It's where you get education before exploration to getting problems solved. Exploration requires a lot of components or tools; but in Nigeria where the laboratories are not functional how do you want it done. This motivated us to pursue the meeting the town and gown- a meeting point of the universities and the industry.
With the new trends of creating innovation/incubation hubs, such as Roar Nigeria, we will move Nigeria from commodity to a country creating items," he said.
Emeka Okoye, highlighted that the relevance of Universities' researches to the economy has become more impactful as the world enters the fourth industrial generation driven by Big Data, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence/robotics and machine learning.
"Focusing on research is actually very huge. We need to understand the current trends. We are about to enter the 4th industrial revolution focused on data- IoT, AI, etc., the way we understand data has changed. We need to start incorporating data into our daily usage.
"We have three million students coming out of the universities yearly; and when they interact with the non-academic staff, they ought to generate data, but are they allowed to be used by the public. The mission of the universities are to educate the public. We need the data to know who needs support (like dropouts); who is doing fine; who can conduct research in what areas", he said.
Mr. Okoye, said it has become expedient for universities to rethink on how to commercialize their huge repository of researches developed over the years. "They ought to make lot of money from data. A university in Kenya is earning close to $1billion dollars from patents. University as a mini-community is very crucial in research and a test-bed for new technology. To businesses, Data is like the mirror to observe you performance; you need it to improve", he added.
Nodding in agreement, Mr. Charles Emembolu, chief executive officer, Crestsage, said, value creation should drive universities' drive to monetized their data and research works and assist the government's ideas on local content concepts and development of young people with relevant skill sets.
He said that such research works contain useful facts capable of solving puzzles in the ICT industry and the society in general.
Mr. Emembolu who played pivotal role in the establishment of Roar Nigeria, said, "Standardization, skilled professionals are needed in our industry today. More so, awareness creation for people to understand the essence of Big data must start from the universities. The University system needs to improve the system to understand graduation and post-graduation achievements of the students. This is the essence of establishing Roar Nigeria and it's heartwarming that NITEC 2017 has recognised the importance of this concept in driving future businesses".