From Cyriacus Nnaji, Lagos
The Director General, National Information Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, has urged a leading provider of innovative, data-driven solutions, Venture Garden Group, to join the Bridge to MassChallenge Nigeria.
Abdullahi made this call during a visit to Vibranium Valley, the company’s headquarters in Lagos, on Friday. He added that “NITDA recently came up with Bridge the MassChallenge Nigeria initiative in order to promote Nigeria as an emerging entrepreneurial hub and leader of innovation in Africa, foster the growth and success of Nigeria’s startup enterprises by connecting its entrepreneurs with markets, networks, and capital in the global innovation ecosystem, and facilitate key strategies to complement growing innovation initiatives within Nigeria.”
Abdullahi further noted that a critical activity of the initiative is the hosting of quarterly technology innovation challenge. While working with Stakeholders, key challenges within the Nigerian economy and challenge the startups to come up with solutions for them. He therefore urged the Venture Garden Group (VGG) to come onboard the Bridge to MassChallenge Nigeria initiative.
The Director General (DG) indicated that NITDA is keen on working with the tech community to develop use cases as the technology evolves so that everything can be regulated. He said the Agency has developed key regulatory instruments in this fashion. The Nigerian Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), for example, was developed and perfected through close collaboration with stakeholders. This, he said, is the strategy the Agency is adopting for each of the technology innovation use cases.
Citing one of the seven pillars of NITDA’s Strategic Road Map and Action Plan (SRAP) 2021-2024, the DG said: “The general understanding with regulation is that it does not allow or stifles innovation. This is the more reason why we in NITDA came up with Developmental Regulation.” “With this approach,” he said, “we work with stakeholders like you, develop the product, innovate then develop relevant regulatory instrument to regulate it”.
“The regulation is aimed at protecting you and your consumers because technology is about the future and there is no data about the future, the data we have is on the past and present and that is why it is hard to regulate the innovation industry,” he added.
Abdullahi outlined the seven pillars of SRAP as: Developmental Regulation, Digital Literacy and Skills, Digital Transformation, Digital Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Cybersecurity, Emerging Technologies and Promotion of Indigenous Content.
“We have identified six key stakeholders we need to bring onboard to achieve our initiatives; Universities as they produce the human capital, talent is needed to drive the digital economy and we work with universities and corporate organizations that will absorb these talents. We also have the entrepreneurs as they need access to the talent and corporate organizations because they are selling the products to them” he said.
The DG further indicated that, “Venture capitals and funding is a challenge, having the idea without the funds and government cannot provide funds for everyone and there are people with money doing nothing, bringing them onboard to invest in these startups will help boost the nation’s economy”.
He averred that Government’s role, as an enabler, is to create the enabling environment and the Agency would want to co-create with stakeholders because NITDA does not operate alone, that is why the ecosystem is engaged.
He added that NITDA also intervenes in the area of infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities.
While responding to the DG’s demand, the Group Head, VGG, Idowu Oladiamonds, said they invest in and develop technology solutions that address inefficiencies in automation, data collection, payment and revenue assurance across multiple sectors.
Oladiamonds stated that VGG has invested in over 30 companies in various sectors including financial sector infrastructure, education, financial technology, SME-focused technology and many other initiatives.
The VGG Group Head added that foreign countries scout talents from Nigeria, offering them residential Visas and higher pay and absorb them into their countries, taking more and more talents away from Nigeria. He stated that joining the Bridge to MassChallenge initiative would be an opportunity that would benefit the Agency, companies and Nigeria’s digital economy.
“VGG is always on the hunt for talent so we hire corp members who are passionate about technology, give them time within their ability to work on real life projects and understand what it takes to deliver proper robust software solutions within six months. It is interesting that foreign companies like Microsoft do hire some of them.” the Group Head stated.
Oladiamonds said “VGG has a creative space for work and encouraged work from home idea even before the lockdown and have achieved the highest result in the organisation across all our businesses.”
The Group Head further stated that the company is filled with 22–23-year-olds, mostly those that are comfortable with the structure of work which is redefining the everyday idea of work especially in Lagos with the hectic traffic.
“The company’s message behind using containers which would be usually scrapped as office spaces is they can use the ruins of Nigeria to build the beauty of Nigeria,” he concluded.