Sometimes in 1997, I arrived Uyo with my popular nylon shirt decked on a pair of black jean to match with a white canvass that gave me that springy movements of an exploring teenager. Recall I have told you the story of my community technical school that gave me an eye opener into the tech world. The Technical Drawing, Applied Electricity, Motor Vehicle Technology (MVT), etc. were still very fresh on my mind having registered and taking them in my WAEC exams.
Young and unassuming, my elder sister registered me into a computer school on the third floor of the then Union Bank at the popular Ibom connection. I was to run a diploma program on Computer Programming and we were soon introduced into Paschal, QBasic, Cobol and other programing languages that were either obsolete or was only struggling to find it’s stand in an emerging dynamic world of computing.
More than 80 percent of the number that registered for the same training then were on computer appreciation. This program introduced trainees to the wonderful world of data processing and document handling. There were programs like Microsoft Word 95 which ran on a windows 3x and windows 95 computers. Networking was rare – both in users and within the systems and most of the systems operated on a DOS prompt. In the computer lab, the system lined up the walls, the long cathode ray tubed powered monochromes were a testimony that Africa was indeed an emerging economy in the tech business.
Local Area Network (LAN) came three years after this era. Two computer training centres were the major names in Uyo – the one I was attending and one at Oron road. Few others were emerging, definitely a brain child of trainees from these schools. However, the schools and trainees had nothing to share just as their computers could not communicate with each other. Learning was an uphill task. Textbooks supported your QBasic codes to develop simple games and friends seemed hostile since what was paramount were the certificates and eventually getting employed in some well-paid firms. Entrepreneurship was a rare commodity in the training syllabuses.
In Akwa Ibom, one attitude trademark’s every business establishment. Following the seemingly successful persons to establish same business without properly understanding of the workings of such business. Over 200 hundred computer training centres emerged in Uyo between 2003 and 2005, most of them unregistered but offering different certifications for their trainings. The politicians were not left out. Government established ICT training programs grew like mushrooms all over the town under the tag of Poverty Alleviation Programs. Windows 95 certifications were offered under the government sponsored programs in the era of Windows XP. But who cares? Most of the programs were designed to serve as babies to today’s brain shattering corruption level in the system.
Cyber Café’s dotted every corner after the forgoing period as that was the hit business with only a handful of persons checking on their yahoo mails to communicate with their relatives whose anchors seem lost in foreign lands. Most Café’s serving also as training centres. On Ikpa Road, hundreds of business centres emerged and while thousands obtained various trainings from graphics to word processing. The spirit of entrepreneurship was birthed.
But then Uyo grew. The arrival of NIIT powered by Knowledge Partners at 33 Udosen Uko while APTECH Computer Education ruled Aka Road brought a whole new world of computer computing and programing. I must mention these two training institutes that actually brought a new phase to the industry.
As the societal knowledge in computing evolved, curriculums in the universities also changed to accommodate the evolving world. With most Universities having a well-equipped internet connected cafés, students began to make useful connections to tech communities outside their region. This relationship did not only change the reasoning of such students but presented opportunities for them to move with the trend in the IT industry.
One of such contacts saw the birth of Google Technology Users Group (GTUG) founded in Uyo sometime 2011 by Hanson Johnson which was later renamed Google Developers Group. By now, networking was a common term and the group began the training of members free of all charges though the possession of laptop was a major criteria.
The Akwa Ibom ecosystem has grown with about six hubs giving effective training to over 5000 Akwa Ibom youths in a year. Hubs are supposed to serve as incubation centres. In Akwa Ibom State, there are a thousand and one problems lying unresolved and these problems keep accumulating daily, weekly, monthly and yearly even when we have deployed several apps on the playstore and the internet.
Having discovered the power of unity, these hubs in partnership with TechForest.NG came together and established a uniform code to see effective collaboration within the ecosystem. 085BTC is the current code that merges the entire energy in the Akwa Ibom ecosystem to produce the needed result in finding solutions to the nagging problems in the system.
With this, we are seeing provision for technology that will aid the self-driving cars when they arrive Akwa Ibom having technologies that will detect potholes. We will have technology aiding flying cars detect forests, rivers, valleys – as in Ibiono and other dangerous terrains. We will develop technologies that will open and make safe our water ways so that our roads will be decongested and will last longer to reduce maintenance charges on the government side. The accruing income by solving such nagging problems can be channeled into our education, agriculture and tourism.
Frankly speaking, the list of what we can achieve is long. By virtue of roaming the ecosystem I have come in contact with exceptional brains that will churn out stunning solutions to most problems facing us today in the Akwa Ibom. I can see a great future. I want to thank Iboro Otu of ALERT Nigeria and Mark Essien of Hotels.NG on their support and programs so far. While we are expecting not less than 30 well baked developers from the Hotels.NG internship program, we are expecting some solutions oriented essays from the IOLED Program powered by Iboro Otu’s led ALERT Nigeria.
Data is for tomorrow and I encourage every Akwa Ibomite irrespective of profession, career and undertaking to take advantage of ICT today and let us build a large ecosystem to accommodate everyone in the system. #085BTC is the code. 085 is our state telecom code, B is for Business, T is for Technology and the C there is for Culture. If you don’t see yourself as a business man then definitely you need technology to survive in the emerging world. And as long as you have a language, definitely you have a culture to identify with which you can showcase to world and be known for. The Future is Bright! Welcome to a new world of entrepreneurship.