The Art of Technology (AOT) Lagos 1.0 is one conference that innovators and tech enthusiast in Lagos will not forget in a hurry. From the revelations of the N250 million seed capital for technology and innovation in the state by the state governor, Babajide Sanwaolu to the quality of panelists and guest speakers, it is a conference bridging the gap between governance and innovation and positioning Lagos as the silicon valley of Africa.
With about 1,500 young innovators and tech solutions developers in attendance, the two day conference organised by the Office of the Governor’s Special Adviser on Innovation and Technology, Olatunbosun Alake, had its theme as “Bridging the gap”. The essence of the conference is for the public and private sectors to begin to co-create to key into the future.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Thursday 5 December, during the first day of AoT Lagos also launched the Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council (LASRIC) to be chaired by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe. A $687,000 start-up fund for investment in research and development of tech-focused solutions across the six pillars of his administration’s development agenda was also set aside.
The Governor said the establishment of the Council and innovation funds officially began the process of implementing strategies that would help in the realization of the Smart City initiative of the State. He said: “To further expand the opportunities, we are immediately earmarking seed capital of N250 million into Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council to be accessed by tech entrepreneurs and software developers in innovation ecosystem for them to create various solutions from artificial intelligence to robotics, to health informatics and green energy.”
He also launched Open Government Initiative, Innovation Master Plan focusing on implementation of policies in four critical areas and Lagos State Solution Hub to further drive synergy between policymakers in the public sector and innovators in the private sector.
There were also various panel discussions and breakout sessions during the event. The women in tech panel was engaging featuring female tech founders like Temie Giwa of Life Bank and Oduniyi Eweniyi, Co-founder, Piggyvest. According to Odun, we need to start enabling girls to see technology as an option and that those interested in tech are not weird. We also need more women role models in technology.
Perhaps the most challenging speaker to the thought process of the government at AoT Lagos was Kola Aina, Founding Partner of Ventures Platform. He delivered a plenary speech, ‘the enabling role of stakeholders in innovation.’ He pinpointed that Lagos needs to focus on market creating innovation to deal with all its challenges. According to Aina, if Lagos gets it right, Nigeria gets its right. Comparing Lagos to other big tech cities like Bangalore, San Fransisco and Cape Town, he concluded that Lagos is doing very poorly in areas like regulation, ICT infrastructure and funding, while performing averagely in areas like multiplicity of launch platform i.e hubs and incubators and Lagos huge market potential. The solution for him lies in reforming the educational sector, showcasing more success stories, improving government regulations, incentivise tech talent and companies, stopping police harassment of techies, supporting tech winners, creating venture estates like free trade zones and moving from regulation to acceleration.
Participants at the conference were very elated and happy at the quality of speakers and organisation of the event. Emeka Ihinze, head of products and operations of Retailar, an e-commerce platform that helps merchants and shop owners source their product directly from manufacturers, stated, ‘My key take home from this event is keep building, keep iterating, keep scaling.’ For him, Lagos is currently doing good but needs to be more inclusive to start-ups or techies in smaller more remote areas of Lagos such as Festac and Badagry and not just concentrate on the big start-up companies or techies.