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Startups Ecosystem Development in Nigeria

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The city of Abuja is not necessarily regarded as the city for Startup Entrepreneurs, but all that is changing with the likes of Abuja Technology Village, Box Office incubator, Ventures Platform, VP, and many other incubators, providing co-working space and physical infrastructure that Startups require to turn their ideas into viable businesses.

I recently met with Kola Aina, Founder, Ventures Platform and our discussion centered on issues in the Startups ecosystem and some of the challenges facing this model of Entrepreneurship.

Speaking on how the journey has been so far with building a community in Abuja, Kola stated that it has been an amazing journey, so far. He stressed that, when he started out, he had big ambitions and he is excited that the Abuja community has received his Startup well with the size of patronage that his co-working space has received, so far.

Speaking on numbers, he said that about 175 co-workers actively use its co-working facilities everyday and these include companies that work out of the park, Startups, Freelancers, Graphic Designers, etc. He stated that there are also 18 people living within the community at any given point in time, and also using the other facilities, such as the gym facility, etc. Kola stated that, up to date, Venture Platform has invested in about 14 companies. He further said that, on the average, these companies have a minimum of 2 or 3 Founders and employ 4 or 5 other people, hence, the spiral effect of that is really something worthwhile, but not yet reconciled to place a figure on.

In terms of events, Kola said that the platform also has events that many people have benefited from. He said he is really amazed at the impact, so far, even as he sees it as just the beginning, he is excited to see what happens next.

Giving reasons why he is building an ecosystem in Abuja that is seen as a city of civil servants and contractors, Kola said, he believes that a community that relies on rent is not sustainable. This, according to him, is because, many of them had to close up because of recession. Kola said he beliefs that tons of young people, if given the right environment and empowerment, can build amazing things and solutions that can then become  sustainable businesses. He said that is what is happening now in Benue, Niger and Kano States, etc., where new tech communities are springing up with young people building solutions and the volume of applications coming up is amazing.

Kola stated that the community on his platform has developed about 900 applications to solve problems in payment, health issues, etc., so, it’s amazing what people can do when empowered.

Reacting to a question on why local investors are not interested in investing in Startups, Kola stated “it is really a sad thing and what we hear is more of talk than action in Nigeria”. He believes that, if the community is able to get the big money bags to support and invest in the Startups, it will be better for the Startups. “Startups may have the best ideas, but if they run out of money, they are dead”, Kola emphasized. “There is more foreign participation in our Startups than we have from within Nigeria and before we know it, many of our Startups are going to be owned by foreign investors” he further stated.

Kola is of the opinion that the government can utilize just between 2% to 5% of the Sovereign Wealth Fund in backing up local VC’s and accelerators, it will make a huge impact.

Kola is of the view that there is no need reinventing the wheel for wealthy Nigerian investors to invest in the tech ecosystem. All they need to do is to take a look at the existing state of the ecosystem and decide where to come in. He stated that, truly, we have enough resources within Nigeria to solve our problems, but the problem we have is that, we are used to the old ways of making money, which are real estate, oil and gas, etc., however, until local investors start to support the tech ecosystem, the nation is not likely to move forward on the continent.

One of the challenges that Startups in the tech ecosystem face is the problem of infrastructure, especially, power. Another problem he identified is the inadequacy of bandwidth. The biggest challenge, according to Kola, however, is that of getting local investors to invest in the tech ecosystem. One other challenge he identified is the quality and commitment of Nigerian Founders, who, he thinks should raise the level of their ambition.

On support from government, Kola was emphatic that Ventures Platform has never received any support from government in any form.

Kola stated that, with VP investing in 14 companies within its accelerator program, the goal is to build companies that can achieve $1 billion valuation and this is possible. This is because some foreign investors, such as Startups from Belgium and Cameroon are interested in teaming up with our Startups and doing business here in Nigeria.

Kola concluded by saying that, the training program that VP carries out has graduated about 10,000 people, so far and that there are also plans of expanding the campus across Africa.

CFA is the Founder, www.CFAtech.ng & Co-producer/Presenter,Tech Trends on Channels Television

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FG Moves to Expand Digital Governance Platform

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Mr. Adebayo Shittu, minister of Communications

Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu, Minister of Communications, has said that efforts are on to expand the number of Data Centres in the country as part of government’s plan to expand its presence on a digital platform, 1-gov.net.

 The platform, apart from consolidating existing government ICT infrastructure, it also enables MDAs to exchange data in a seamless manner while allowing each other to remain independent and maintain its privacy and the security of its operatives.

Victor Oluwadamilare, Special Assistant to the Minister on Media in a press statement said Barr. Shittu stated this in a keynote address titled Empowering Digital Governments to share latest innovative technology trends and government solutions with emphasis on Microsoft’s Technology platform to improve the capabilities of government within Nigeria”.

Which he delivered at the 2017 Microsoft Digital Government Conference held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

The minister said through the 1-gov.net, government has become more participative and accessible where citizens can participate in policy process through discussions, suggestions and online-polls.

“Various Government Departments are using this platform for seeking inputs on a wide range of issues. Using the 1-gov.net Platform, Government has been able to save 30% of what it would have expended on a unit per unit cost. As at date 90% of all MDAs within Abuja are linked with fiber backbone and 3,500 locations of different MDAs have been touched across the country. About 270 MDAs websites and applications are being hosted on the network, adding that “Government has recorded success in 1-gov.net, we now focus on some services that have direct bearing on the present administration’s priorities, and we determined to continue with the shared ICT infrastructure and services initiative in the MDAs. The 1-gov.net is promoting Whole-of-Government approaches in the information Age based on shared services. This approach will enhance productivity of government officials, increase experience of patrons of government services, enhance security and drive out the menace of corruption.

He said the government recognizes the urgent need to increase efficiency and transparency, improve and align processes, smart government and smart cities, attract new investors, bridge the digital divide, transform government transaction services, data-driven government, better access to and management of information, thereby enhancing citizen satisfaction and trust, meeting the needs of rapidly changing demographics and balancing costs while optimizing efficiency.

According to him, digital government is a vision statement that seeks to bring about citizen empowerment by harnessing the potentials of ICTs as well as seeking to transform government into digitally empowered society and knowledge economy in a manner that government is available on the palm of every citizen, where – The Government is open and the Governance Transparent.

Digital Government, he said, does not comprise the digital architecture alone, but it encompasses digital delivery of citizen-centric services, and ultimately, digital empowerment of the people.

He said, “Internet users in Nigeria have crossed 90 million. The mobile users have also crossed 156million mark. The smart phone users are more than 60 million. Today, from booking of train tickets to payment of fees and taxes, from post office and banking transactions to issue of digital documents, online registrations to online applications and e-services, Digital Revolution is seen everywhere and touches almost every aspect of life of a common citizen.

Barr. Shittu disclosed that government invests in shared ICT Infrastructure to secure the benefits of lower cost, increased security, increased innovation and faster service delivery, adding that government is supporting the development and sustenance of ICT applications that are driving cost effectiveness and transparency in Government Service Delivery. He added that applications supporting the Treasury Single Accounts (TSA), IPPIS, Budget Portal and BVN verifications among others are already resulting in huge savings.

The Ministry of Communications, he said, has expanded the Open Government Data Portal which is a part of the Federal Government Open Data Initiative, stressing that many civil servants have been trained across MDAs on the use of the portal.

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5 Interesting Ways To Create Website For Free

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There is in fact such a thing as a free website builder (i.e. tools that help create websites), and thankfully it has over time become easier to use these free website builders to create personal or professional websites.

These free website builders are great tools that start-ups and other small businesses can take advantage of to create decent websites for their businesses. Jumia Travel, the leading online travel agency, shares 5 interesting ways to create a website for free.

Weebly
With this tool, you can build a website in at least 15 minutes. Weebly is a do-it-yourself free website builder with a reasonable variety of attractive and decent website designs to explore.
However, it’s designs are quite simple and streamlined, but that’s fine if you intend to build a website to use for such simple and streamlined activities, as opposed to robust e-commerce work.

Freewebs.com
This offers a free version and a pro version, but with the free version you can still set up a decent and great looking website.
The free version doesn’t offer a wide variety of features like the pro version, but it provides you with the basics for building a decent website.

Wix
This is a website builder that provides you with practically all you need to create a fully personalized and high quality website for free. It also provides a platform to create a decent professional web presence. Wix is one of the best and most popular website builders that’s user friendly and has a wide variety of professional looking website templates and template categories.
The best part about this website builder is that it offers an SEO guide to help increase your website’s online visibility.

Website Builder
This is another user friendly, free website builder. It’s unique for its provision of smart options for both established businesses and startups to build mobile-friendly websites.
It has a wide selection of template combinations, analytics tools, social media integration features and one-click launch processes that makes it one of the best website builder options for both professionals and amateurs. As a plus, it also offers e-commerce solutions, SEO improvement tools and CRM features.
It’s starter plan is free but you would have pay to access its other packages that offer free ad credits, hosting and domain services.

SiteBuilder
This website builder is a great platform that people, especially entrepreneurs, can take advantage of to build websites and stores for their businesses in just a matter of minutes.
SiteBuilder is such a great website builder because its free package comprises free web hosting and domain registration.
It has a user-friendly canvas editor with a wide variety of templates and customizable layouts and attractive images.
It also has SEO tools, e-commerce functions and smart CRM solutions that can assist you in creating mobile friendly websites and help enhances the visibility of your site. SiteBuilder also allows users create blogs, stores, portfolios and custom-made forms.

 

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Why Internet of Things Is Not Just A Tech Project

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The Internet of Things is here to stay as a range of connected devices become mainstream in our work and business lives, says Keith Fenner, Vice-President Sage Enterprise Africa & Middle East.

Writing on the subject, Fenner quoted forecasts from Gartner, which show, this year will end with around 8.4 billion connected things in use worldwide, a number that will grow to around 20.4 billion by 2020.

“Yet the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) remains misunderstood”, Fenner opined.

He went ahead to emphasis that the technology industry is on a drive to connect everything from electric toothbrushes to heavy factory machinery to the Internet.

Fenner writes “Many senior executives are thinking about it as a new technology or platform rather than what it really is – a way to completely change businesses and its processes.

“Taking full advantage of the IoT takes some radical thinking and a willingness to break from business as usual. As MIT researcher, George Westerman, puts it: “Successful digital transformation is like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly…many senior execs aren’t thinking about butterflies. They’re just thinking about faster caterpillars.”

“Many IoT projects fall short of the mark in helping companies to drastically improve their business processes. As was the case with mobile – success in the Internet of Things will come from understanding how it will reshape consumer and employee behaviour and how it can be used to transform businesses’ operations and operating models

More Than Just A Tech Project
“The hard part is not transforming processes through technology, but transforming the organisation and its culture. The future will belong to the organisations who are better at embedding the technology in business processes to drive radical improvements, and who do this not just once, but over and over again.

“The IoT isn’t a simple technology project – ‘implementing the Internet of Things’ isn’t a viable or interesting goal in itself.  The IoT is a value creation tool, a way to transform the customer experience and reinvent business processes for the digital age. To make the most of its potential, the business’s senior leadership should drive the IoT strategy and consider how it can enable new business models, underpin innovation and bring massive improvements to efficiency and productivity.

“The greatest digital opportunities across Africa reside in customer experience, business operations and business modelling. Business leaders should look at how connected sensors and devices, and the reams of data they produce, can be put to use to lift competitiveness by reinventing business processes.

“The IoT is a complex interconnected network of related parts that sense context, transfer data, process information and initiate action. Data streams originating from all sorts of sensors built into a wide variety of “things” (e.g., machines, cars, mobile and immobile goods, clothes, or even human beings) enable companies to create all sorts of innovative processes, services and products”.

The Real Magic Comes From Using Machine Learning To Put That Data To Work

He continues, “Smart algorithms and AI can be applied to data collected at scale to find patterns, trends and indicators the human eye might miss. A few of the possibilities include: 

“Using predictive maintenance for technical infrastructure in cities, factories, plants and others to improve reliability of machinery while reducing maintenance costs”.

He added that leveraging traffic data from many different sources including smart city data from traffic lights, streets, or other vehicles to optimise the management of corporate and government vehicle fleets. “In fact, Uber already uses smart data to match drivers to passengers and find the smartest routes for its riders.

“Creating innovative consumer offerings, such as Amazon-style dash buttons to supply customers automatically and predictively with goods and services.

“Providing medical care services, for example using wearables and even (in future) ingestible sensors, to monitor elderly people living alone at home.

 Changing The Way Industries Work
“Looking to the future, the IoT promises to change the way industries work as much as the invention of the assembly line, just-in-time manufacturing or the creation of the Internet itself.

“Picture a world where a customer places an order for a running shoe on an e-commerce site, uploading video footage of the manner in which he walks and a scan of his foot.

“From there, a tailored running shoe is manufactured at a nearby facility using a 3D printer – with components shipped from other facilities as needed – and delivered to the customer’s home in the evening. From sales to logistics to manufacturing, a network of sensors works towards getting a personalised product in the customer’s hands with as little friction and as much speed as possible.

“In the background, big data analytics and advanced artificial intelligence will be used to make sense of the flood of data from the IoT. This could be all about some business gains, such as reducing stock held in warehouses to free up working capital or vastly reducing the costs of managing complex machinery.

“It will also enable various ‘as a service’ business models, where everything from car insurance to shoes can be customised to customer needs. The leaders in digital transformation will master the ability to build, deliver and repeat innovations based on the IoT better than their competitors. But to get it right, they will need business leaders who understand the role the IoT can play from a business outcome perspective”, he concludes.

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