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Youths disillusioned as Delta State innovation hub shuts down

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Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta State Governor (right) receiving a Certificate of e-Government Leadership Solution developed by Mobile Software Solutions Limited as one of the key evidences of Private Public Partnership capability in the management of Delta State Innovation Hub, Asaba.<br />

The decision by Delta State to shut down its innovation hub has left teeming youths of the state disenchanted, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek investigations have revealed.

The common aim of innovation hubs is to promote local innovation, encourage relevant actors to share knowledge early in the development process, build Startups, create employment and foster entrepreneurial cooperation.

The hubs support networking among local stakeholders and create links to investors and international organisations.

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Primarily, governments facilitate and fund Innovation hubs to serve as centres of excellence for creativity and development of information technology amongst youths.

The provision of innovation hubs could be a means of youth empowerment which would allow the youth to channel their creative energy into a potentially productive source for their communities.

Against this backdrop that Nigeria CommunicationsWeek recently visited Delta state innovation hub to ascertain the impact of the closure of the hub since last year on youth empowerment and the state government’s plan to reopen the hub.

Among the youths that expressed their frustrations, they are faced with the closure of the hub include Sylvester Nkeze, a web developer in Asaba.

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“The truth is beyond individuals having their personal skills; it was a kind of assembling point for people with like minds, the hub served as a place not only for people to learn but also to be able to gather people after they have done learning to share their ideas and use what they have learnt to create products or business for Delta State and Nigeria.

“Generally, the essence of the Hub is to make people converge their technological ideas into a scalable business that could help bring development and employment in the state. Nobody in this century can individually start a business, I’m talking of a large scale business and not small and medium scale business, and bigger businesses today are built on partnerships.

“Right now, you have people walking around looking for menial jobs to do whereas their ideas could have been used to build businesses that could create jobs and even the government could tax for revenue. It is a big problem,” he said.

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Henry Chuks, co-founder of Benx Technologies, Asaba based ICT firm, said that the implications of continuous closure of the Hub are enormous which include brain drain, youth unemployment among others.

According to him, “I know many people residing in Delta state who have left the state to better-equipped hubs in Port Harcourt and Lagos after acquiring ICT skills and mentorship decided to establish in those states thereby leaving Delta with nothing.

“More so, as they run their businesses in those states, they will pay taxes and levies to those states’ government as such Delta state will lose that revenue.

“ICT is today the largest market globally if 70 per cent of youths in Delta state is ICT inclined from programming to hardware engineering they can get jobs in or outside of the country, as well be self -employed with their talents which will help in addressing youth unemployment”.

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According to Favour Asuainok, a student, “I just finished my OND from Ogwashi Polytechnic. My plan was to come and do my internship in Delta State Innovation Hub when I contacted the director, he said the Hub is closed I was sad because I had plans of meeting great and like minds as well as sharing of ideas. I would love the government to look into this issue of closure of the Hub because it is very important.

“I travel as far as from here (Asaba) to Awka in Anambra just because I want to attend Meet-ups and Hackathons to meet with like minds to bring innovative solutions to our problems in the country through technology. If Delta state government can look into this issue it will help to spring up starts-up that will create jobs in the state.

“Hub is a place of meeting. Information technology has paved the way all over the world, you see people that studied humanities, social science and languages among others coming to learn IT because IT is thriving globally. If Delta state government truncates one of the key springboards for start-ups it is a very bad situation.

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“Being a new subject in town, it was a bit difficult to be able to drive our intent and purpose to the teaming youths of Asaba as such we did a lot of marketing. Went to high institutions around Asaba such as Delta university, Awna Campus; Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwasi-uku; Delta state Polytechnic, Ozoro; Delta State University, Abaraka; and Delta State Polytechnic, Oghara.

Responding, Engr. Mathew Tsekiri, commissioner for Science and Technology, Delta State, reassured that the state government has decided to reopen the hub as renovation work is on-going to reopen the facility for use by Delta youths.

“We are renovating hub, once we finish the renovation then we will start activities, it is going to be one of the best Hubs in the country.

“The MoU we signed with Mobile Software solution for the running of the hub has expired and we have decided to run the hub by ourselves.

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“We are going to make it a proper education hub offering certified ICT training for graduates seeking for jobs, when we train them they will be employable or self-employed. We are going to offer high earned ICT courses.

“We have put the structure in place to manage the hub. We are not going to give it out to anybody to manage for us.

We intend to collaborate with ICT companies such as Google, Facebook among others, but we just want to get the hub up and running first.

We have the resources to get the hub running we are not going to seek resources from any multinational ICT giants.

Meanwhile, available records reveal that Delta State indigenes are recognised in the Nigeria IT profession and Innovation Ecosystem as some of the high-flyers in policy, strategy and digital innovation leadership.

It is, therefore, a tragedy that while Delta State IT Professional has contributed significantly in the development of National and other States IT Policy agenda, they remain oblivious in their State.

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