Nigerians, innovation and the will to make a difference

Growing up, I can’t count the number of times my mom got mad at the gas cylinder. Cooking gas always seemed to fizzle out just when the food had to be ready in a few minutes or there was a cake in the oven. And every time it happened, she would ask why there wasn’t a device to monitor the level of gas left in the cylinder and send a signal to warn that it was almost exhausted.

I recently found one on Amazon but ‘the seller does not deliver to Nigeria’.

You cannot imagine my excitement when this device was not only created at the just concluded #LagosLabs2016 but also won the One Million Naira First Prize for Innovation (in your face Amazon merchant). The iGas as it is christened, was created by a team of three young tech-innovators after three days of intensive training on the Internet of Things. More than being a meter on the cylinder, it also gets ticked off when there are situations of leakage in the cylinder. Explosive accidents from gas leakages are some of the most dangerous with most of it ending in fatalities or second and third degree burn injuries. This is definitely a device for every household that uses cooking gas.

Also created were devices to solve problems in the agricultural sector, to enhance security and a host of other everyday challenges.

Lagos Labs 2016 was organized by The Design Institute Lagos as a training opportunity for Nigerians to develop innovative solutions to the various challenges in the country. The Lagos Labs training editions target societal, infrastructural and environmental challenges, and provide guidance so projects can be adequately prototyped and possibly implemented.

I was there for the three day workshop and had some fun making the Arduino board blink and make music in reaction to the codes we inputted. I am not a ‘coder’ now but those few days were pretty exciting. Those three days of tinkering and tampering and watching other brilliant young folks hungry for knowledge and innovation further opened my mind to the possibilities that exist in our growing economy.

Technology presents a bedrock of solutions to a myriad of everyday problems which in turn have the potential to impact the macroeconomic variables of growth. Even more exciting is the growing desire to learn, produce, replicate, innovate and create in young Nigerians. There is a consciousness of problems beyond mere complaints to a deep yearning to change the condition of things.

Entrepreneurship is beginning to take a real shape – it is not just about the business of making profit but of making a difference. From personal friends to names making the news, there’s a lot to be excited about for Nigeria even though it doesn’t look like it now.

It is admirable to see bodies like ‘The Design Institute’ spring up to pursue a cause that is worthy of commendation and support. You should check out their website for a bouquet of other courses and training that they offer. I look forward to a time when we grow from building on the technology that already exist to creating one from our own local materials.

In other news, what do you think of Facebook’s partnership with Airtel Africa to launch Free Basics in Nigeria?

I’ll close with Mark Zuckerberg’s words because of how true they are and how well it captures my thoughts –

‘There’s a lot of innovation across Africa right now, and Nigeria in particular is home to a lot of talented developers (of not just tech stuff I must add).’

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