There is something you notice on a Monday morning in Enugu State. First is the crazy traffic, second is the number of people standing in front of cash machines. For one of the oldest metropolitan city in the South-East, the big question is why do we have crazy traffic? Given the fact that months back, the state government started another “uniform wearing” agency to handle the traffic. Why do people have to spend over thirty minutes in front of cash machines, which in most cases are in front of the banks? Two to five cash machines but only one dispenses cash?
Enugu Tech Community
The month of November 2018 was a very active month for the tech community here in the south-east especially for us here in Enugu; we had Start South 4, Genesys ignite and DevFest. During DevFest, I noticed two major things. The first one was the number of secondary school students and the second one was the number of people with disabilities that attended.
“We have never had this two set of people at any of our tech meetups. Why? Is it because we have never really been inclusive in our tech ecosystem here. Is it because we have a singular view of a tech ecosystem, a perspective that is flawed because we don’t or have never really understood why and what a tech community should be or do.”
For most people, the guy with laptop writing codes and going for tech meetups is the most advanced and coolest guy of our time. The hoodies, glasses on with a big headphone, a good Twitter presence, laptop with stickers everywhere, fast/good typing skills, are the things many will say make the ultimate form of modern, progressive youth. When we look at such a person what we all say is this: he/she is into tech.
It is so funny that over 50% of the “techies” around think tech is app and website. They always think it revolves around codes. Now try a quick test. Ask 10 techies of any startup ideas or solution for agriculture. The major answers would be about a “website/mobile app that connects or a management system” or even “crowdfunding.” It is hard to see someone come up with solutions like a new drilling device that is portable and cheap so farmers can use it for drilling boreholes so they can irrigate their plants or a new security system to protect the farm against intruders like the herdsmen taking over most of the places our people use for farming.
“The ideas may sound crazy but why do we have to wait for a company in Europe to make the drilling machines we need?”
Someone told me of a tree that you don’t pick the fruits from the tree but you have to wait till the fruits drop by themselves. I said to myself it because this fruit is in Nigeria, if you had that tree in New York, Monsanto would have engineered the living daylight out of the tree until you can pick its fruits anytime you want to. So, the question is: What have the techies we have around done?
Reinventing the Wheel
In a society full of necessities, it is very sad to hear a young person saying things like “Why reinvent the wheel?”. We have different problems, and one of the biggest problems we have is power. With a fraction of the computing power we have today, NASA in the 60s sent man to space. The Sinclair ZX 81 was built in 1981 had 64KB of memory in it. So with more computing power why ain’t we solving our problems. Why don’t our techies understand that “the abroad” people have light because they were solving a problem, you can’t be in a country with extreme weather and not think up a way to protect yourself and your family. So even if we are to do our regular thing of blaming the government for our woes, why can’t we provide the power that only us and our friends can consume. Why ain’t we driven by this mad heat we experience here in Enugu to think up a way to have power to cool – if not anything our homes.
We can’t keep saying “our school did not teach us well”, “our government is to blame”, “our problem is by design”, we shouldn’t. Many schools here in the South-East tell students to own laptops, some provide the laptops for the students but except watching movies and passing an exam the students don’t do much.
I happen to spend some time with Mr Frank Nweke Jr, a former Minister of Youth and Information. He taught me something very important: “when a people are ungovernable, the government can’t govern, the government is a two-way process, bad people make bad government.” So our inability to create is not because we have a bad government but because we don’t have the ability to create.
The million dollar question is why are there few creative and innovative people?
Building a Creative Community
A man once said “Nigeria can never be a tech superpower with PHP and PYTHON.” We need a reassessment of who we truly are and want we can do. We need to understand that we as individuals have no limit to our imagination. When you watch a DIY (do it yourself) hacks online you’ll notice that you don’t see us do the hack. The awesome things we do are what an average Joe and the other side of the world are doing for fun.
“The white man’s light didn’t fall from heaven he gave himself light, his “good government” didn’t fall from heaven, he made it.”
Our youth have the power to do anything they chose to only if they understand the power of imagination. The coding guy should have a total reassessment of his capacity to build under any circumstances. We need more secondary school students at all tech conference. We need to have tech meetups focus on building for the disabled, we need more tech meetups to focus on making our local herbs better, tech to enhance the growth and production of yam. We need to have makers who are willing to put in work, real work!.
We need to look at our root, our strength. It is not by chance that our biggest export from here has been music and Nollywood. So the coding guys need to look at them and follow them. We need young imaginative minds that have the girt to really work.
“Young techies should understand something. This hype everywhere about hubs and funding and startup is not new, it just has a ‘cooler’ name now but it has always been there. If you are a young person below 30 please do yourself a favour and spend time with older men above you, you would be every surprise the amount of knowledge you will gain and you would appreciate history and how it can be a tool to build with.”
We need fewer coders and more people with problem-solving ability. People that can deal with any problem regardless of any circumstances.