New Telegraph

Expanding Lagos tech space with infrastructure

…state in talks with Facebook, Google to deliver K.I.T.E project

The move to actualise the ‘Lagos Smart City’ project, last week, received a boost when Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu led some members of his Executive Council on a tour of the two major innovation and technology hubs within the state. Muritala Ayinla reports

The smart city concept is frequently used by many state governments and their officials to demonstrate their developmental agenda to make their states economically viable with the needed infrastructure that will make living in the state really ‘smart’ but in reality very few really understand what truly makes a smart city.

The ‘smart city’ concept, according to experts, is a description of a city which integrates information and communication technology (ICT), and various physical devices connected to the IOT (Internet of things) network to optimise the efficiency of city operations and services and connect to citizens.

It is an urban city that uses different types of electronic methods and sensors to collect data where insights gained from that data are used to manage assets, resources and services efficiently for the benefit of the city. In this system, data is used to improve information gathered from citizens, devices, buildings, assets and other operations across the city.

In the smart city, information gathered is then processed and analysed to monitor and manage traffic and transportation systems, power plants, utilities, water supply networks, waste, crime detection, information systems, schools, libraries, hospitals, and other community services. But to actualize the dream of making Lagos a city where technology allows officials to interact directly with both community and city infrastructure and to monitor what is happening in the city and how the city is evolving, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is building, encouraging and creating opportunities for the evolvement of a state where ICT is used to enhance quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and to increase contact between the government and the governed.

Speaking when he toured two major innovation and technology hubs within the state, Sanwo-Olu said that technology was undoubtedly the next phase of the world’s development, saying that oil would certainly not last forever. He described technology as “the new oil” for Lagos – Africa’s largest megacity – to exponentially generate wealth and jobs for its young population.

To ramp up his administration’s intervention in the provision of technology infrastructure and expand the tech space to accommodate more start-ups, he said the state government is set to embark on the construction of the biggest technology cluster in West Africa. The move, he said, is capable of leveraging it and raising the status of the state to attain the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. The governor added that the tech ecosystem, which will be sited in Yaba, is being developed by the state government in collaboration with universally acclaimed tech giants, Facebook and Google.

The governor, who was accompanied by members of his Executive Council, including Commissioner for Science and Technology, Mr. Hakeem Fahm, and Special Adviser on Innovation and Technology, Olatunbosun Alake, visited Venia Hub in Lekki and Impact Hub in Ikoyi, where he met scores of start-ups in the ecosystems and held a roundtable discussion on expanding funding opportunities and infrastructure development.

The governor, who also confirmed that the ICT sector could positively engaged millions of the youths if the necessary support is given to them to harness their potentials and hone their skills, said that the planned Yaba Technology Cluster, called K.I.T.E., would be a free zone that would allow the growth of funding and financing for innovative ideas generated by entrepreneurs in tech industry and FinTech space. K.I.T.E, which is an acronym for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship, is the blueprint through which Lagos plans to implement policies supporting the ICT sector.

Governor Sanwo-Olu said that the ecosystem would also offer free labs for the use of startups to take their innovations from ideation to the next level. Through development of technology, he said that Lagos would not only become Africa’s largest megacity but would also exponentially generate wealth and jobs for its young population, while also leveraging it in raising the status of state to attain the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“Technology is the new oil and the basic element for the Fourth Industrial Revolution globally. As a state with a massive population of young people, we need to play a major role in the development of technology, which is an enabler to leapfrog into rapid socio-economic growth. We take technology as an important deliverable in our government’s development agenda. “For us to make a lasting impact in the tech industry, we said to ourselves we needed to build the infrastructure to support the sector. We are building a tech campus on 22,000 square meters of land in Yaba, which we christen K.I.T.E. We are working with global brands in the tech space, such as Facebook and Google, to deliver this important technology hub.

“We are currently laying 3,000 kilometres of metropolitan fibre optic cables across the state to drop reliable and fast internet connectivity in homes and workplaces. These are part of the infrastructure required as backbone for the tech industry to flourish and empower our young people in the space to take their businesses and ideas to the level of stability,” Sanwo-Olu said.

The governor also hinted at the gathering that two out of the 20 start-ups ideas supported through LASRIC last year had secured patents for their innovations and were ready to transform into fully-fledged businesses that would create jobs. Sanwo-Olu said the state government’s intervention in the technology space was about creating opportunities for the future and providing platforms to help start-up businesses thrive.

The governor added: “The visit to your ecosystem today is for you to be assured that this government is not sitting back in taking steps to ease access. We fully understand the role which technology plays in our lives and how technology is important to any society that wants to be relevant in the coming decades. We are happy to be building this capability for Lagos, so that we can compete with other developed cities in the world.” Aside from the infrastructural initiatives, Sanwo-Olu said the state government had been providing support for start-ups through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) and Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council (LASRIC), which provides grant opportunities for innovators and tech researchers.

Sanwo-Olu said the state government’s intervention in the technology space was about creating opportunities for the future and providing platforms to help start-up businesses thrive. He said: “The visit to your ecosystems today is for you to be assured that this government is not sitting back in taking steps to ease access.

We fully understand the role which technology plays in our lives and how technology is important to any society that wants to be relevant in the coming decades. We are happy to be building this capability for Lagos so that we can compete with other developed cities around the world.” The governor had a roundtable discussion with some of the start-ups to communicate the state’s effort and how better his administration could properly channel its interventions in the sector. Some of the start-ups had the opportunity to present their business models and innovative solutions to the government’s team.

The engagement gave the governor and his team the possible areas of intervention. Also speaking, the Commissioner for Science and Technology, Hakeem FAHM, said that the on-going massive installation of Close Circuit TV Cameras across the state was part of the strategy to implement smart city projects and beef up security in the state. He added that the government had also implemented a 3,000 km of Fibre Metro Network connection in 2020 and an additional 3,000km in 2021 across the state as part of a comprehensive Smart City Programme that seeks to provide a 24-hour driven economy.

The commissioner, who commended Governor Sanwo-Olu for showing uncommon interest in the development of technology in the state, said that the cameras have the capacity to capture happenings around the place where they were being installed.

He said the security breaches will be monitored with technological innovations that have commenced operations in some parts of Ikeja, Alausa. He described investment in technology as a game changer for development, adding that governments at all levels must adopt e-governance in order to effectively serve their citizens. According to him, the aggressive installation of the CCTV cameras for effective monitoring and security surveillance across the state is part of the implementation of Lagos State Smart City Project which would enable e-governance, connectivity and environmental security.

The commissioner, who explained that the use of technology would make reporting of security incidents easy to reach and promote access to major stakeholders in the government, said that there are plans to also incorporate smart technologies into transport infrastructure surveillance and security, healthcare services, education and other sectors. Fahm said that government services would be technologically driven through the provision of affordable internet access in order to close the gap between the people and the government.

He explained that the Smart-City project involved laying fibre optic cables across the state and building a metro-network where parastatals are connected On his part, the Special Adviser to Governor Sanwo-Olu on Innovation and Technology, Mr Olatunbosun Alake, described the Venia Hub as an ecosystem housing Flutterwave and 100 other tech start-up companies, saying that Impact Hub also has scores of start-ups operating in its ecosystem. He said that Lagos stands to benefit immensely from the fibre optic cables and other innovations going on across the state, adding that it will bring about a turnaround development of all sectors of the state. According to him, the Idea Hub was launched as a mentorship platform designed to help innovators take their ideas from concept to actualisation.

He said the platform allows people to input their ideas and get matched with mentors to get their ideas validated for execution. He said the platform would enable them to professionalise their idea, structure it properly, so that they will get a minimum viable product and then launch into the market.

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