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OPINION: OSINBAJO, OGUN AND DIGITAL ECONOMY INFRASTRUCTURE

Ogun State Digital Economy Empowerment Project
launch of The Ogun State Digital Economy Empowerment Project by Governor Dapo Abiodun

Despite emerging the Best State in ICT Penetration and Adoption by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy at the the E-NIGERIA Awards in his first year and expanding the Internet band government width up from 85Mbps to 300Mbps with Internet expansion to ministries, departments and agencies, the launch of Ogun Digital Economy Infrastructure Project on Thursday was mind-blowing event, as it shows a forward-looking administration at work.

Already, Abeokuta, the state capital, is being designed as a smart city with fibre optic cables traversing the data headquarters at the Tech Hub on Kabape Road through the Lagos – Ibadan express road to the Abeokuta city centre. With a week the first kilometer had been done.

Seeing this ambitious project, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, noted with pride that Ogun State was leading the charge in digital technology.  During the flag-off ceremony of the Ogun State Digital Economy Infrastructure Project, the VP “Today is one of my proudest days as a citizen of Ogun State. Today, Ogun State has taken the leader in digital technology in Nigeria with this first-of-its-kind massive investment in the digital infrastructure. We are not just talking about the future, its challenges and opportunities, we are, by the launching of the Ogun State Digital Economy Empowerment Project, taking hold of the future and we are set to define it in our own terms.”

As Prof Osinbajo rightly pointed out, digital technology has become the present and future of all aspects of human interaction. Be it in business, healthcare, education, security and governance, human existence is increasingly dependent on digital technology. Cars are going driverless, technology is being used to deliver better healthcare, learning is moving from the physical classroom to virtual settings, natural disasters are anticipated using technology, thereby keeping their impacts minimal and drones are used to gather intelligence and fish out security threats. Indeed, all aspects of development are now tied to digital technology. The challenge, therefore, is how to make digital technology available to every citizen, business and demographic group.

Making digital technology available to all citizens and businesses is the most farsighted action any government can take today. Access to digital technology has never been more essential to individuals, communities and societies whose government is serious about wealth creation, security, development and innovation. It is for this reason that Prof Osinbajo commended the “futuristic, dynamic, innovative and digitally compliant” Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, for digitally opening up the state’s residents and businesses.

While it is heartwarming to receive high commendation from the Vice President for a job well done, those who have been following events in Ogun will testify to the fact that Prince Abiodun’s determination to make the state a leading digital economy has been ingrained in the core objectives of his administration since inception in 2019.

The truth is that from the outset, Ogun, under Prince Abiodun, has been using technology to drive solutions to the state’s challenges. To raise global citizens capable of competing in the job market and in start-ups, the governor constructed and equipped the largest information and communication centre in any Nigerian university at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye. The 3,000-seater multi-purpose complex is complete with state-of-the-art facilities capable of giving students of the institution a learning edge over their counterparts in other universities. The centre also serves as a research facility.

Governor Abiodun has also deployed technology to tackle unemployment in the state. Through the creation of the Ogun Job Portal, the state is linking fresh graduates and unemployed youths with corresponding job opportunities across the country. The job portal has been severally described as a worthy initiative that is gradually addressing unemployment and underemployment in the state.

Apart from paid employment, Abiodun is also using technology to incubate tech start-ups for creative, tech-minded Ogun youths. The completion of the Ogun Tech Hub and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Centre is an initiative which serves as a knowledge platform where citizens connect, share, build new skills and competencies to solve local challenges that improve the quality of life of Nigerians. It is an imposing shared space for tech experts and those who aspire to go into information and communication technology. Abiodun said during its commissioning that the Tech Hub was created to place Ogun State on the map as “the one-stop-shop for technological innovations across Africa where start-up companies will conveniently be set up. This step is, firstly, a result of the collaboration of tech enthusiasts and private sector players largely independent of our government”.

The governor has already announced plans that moribund model colleges would be converted into information and communication technology centres to actualise the digital transformation process of the state. In addition, he has commissioned the 2,000-capacity twin lecture theatre at the Ogun State Institute of Technology, Igbesa and remodeled its 1,500-capacity multi-purpose hall and refurbished and equipped the institution’s ICT centre.

He seems to constantly have the advancement of digital technology in mind with every policy, programme and initiative he embarks on, no wonder information and communication technology is one of the “enablers” set early in his administration. Others are: good governance, security, infrastructure and welfare.

With the flag-off of the Ogun State Digital Economy Empowerment Project, it is safe to say that the governor’s heavy investment in digital technology is beginning to yield positive results. The state is set to benefit from N36.15 billion ICT project, which is expected to fast-track its digital economy plan. In a public private partnership with 21st century technologies, the fund is expected to help the state government execute the OGDEP. 21st Century is said to inject around $75 million into the project with the expectation that the initiative would see the economy of Ogun State grow by an additional $100 billion.

This kind of investment attraction is unprecedented in the history of the state, especially in a sector mindful of what is invested where. Without a doubt, it is an acknowledgement that the Dapo Abiodun administration has been right all the way by displaying foresight in prioritising digital technology. And it has set Ogun State on the path of digital prosperity and all-round development.

At the public launch of OGDEP, Abiodun said that developing and leveraging digital resources would provide his administration with an opportunity to harness a globally competitive citizenry and economy. He also said he decided to invest in digital technology because digital economy infrastructure was the backbone for ICT revolution in Ogun. The Governor wants to enhance the ease of doing business in the state and actualise the plans of his administration to integrate technology into its practices and businesses.

Truly, Ogun has become the champion of digital economy in the country and it is understandable why Prof Osinbajo, the Number Two Citizen of the country, was so proud of his state.

• Somorin is Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dapo Abiodun