Monthly Archives

September 2017

PRESS RELEASE: CSOs Head to Court Over NGO Bill

By | Advocacy, Internet Freedom, Press Release

A coalition of Civil Society Organisations is now in court to challenge the NGO Bill currently before the National Assembly. The coalition consists of Paradigm Initiative, Enough is Enough, Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria, Media Rights Agenda and Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative.

The coalition, in a motion filed on Wednesday before the Federal High Court holden in Abuja, is challenging the controversial NGO bill on the ground that the bill violates the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freely associate and assemble. The respondents are National Assembly and the House of Representatives.

According to ‘Boye Adegoke, a Program Manager at Paradigm Initiative, “We consider this court process as an important civil means of seeking redress and getting a lasting solution to the current challenge referred to as the NGO Bill. Mindful of the atrocious capabilities of governments with respect to regulation and proscription, we feel the civil society community in Nigeria is under imminent threat from far-reaching provisions of this bill”.

He continued, “We consider the bill as a cynical attempt by the Nigerian government to muzzle dissent and perpetuate disregard for laid down rules and laws. We won’t stand by to allow this. This court process is our way of lending our voices to the ongoing advocacy against the bill across the country.”

The coalition also said, “the argument that the bill is about accountability is inherently flawed as there are already laws that deal with this.”

The motion is brought pursuant to the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009, sections 39 and 40 of the Nigerian Constitution as amended. The relief being sought by the applicants are that the NGO Bill violates the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freely associate and assemble and the principles of freedom of expression and press. The applicants are seeking a perpetual injunction on further legislative activities or processes on the bill.

No date has been assigned yet by the Court for the hearing of the motion.

My Journey to Tech Via T.E.N.T- Oladotun Aluko

By | DigitalJobs, ICT Policy, ICTs, TENT, Web Design

“Is there chops?”. That is the official attention grabber for most Obafemi Awolowo University students whenever an event is announced. It was a quiet evening in 2012 in a lecture room where we sat and listened to a team we were meeting for the first time. The question that played in our head was, “What is this going to be about?”. Well, it was what would eventually become one of the best things that ever happened during my stay in the University.

It turned out that an organisation called Paradigm Initiative was kicking off a new programme and we were just given the opportunity to be the pioneers of Techie Entrepreneurial Nigerian Talented or T.E.N.T (now known as Techtiary). So here came ‘Gbenga Sesan doing one of the things he does best, inspiring younger ones to pick up the challenge of making themselves self-employed through entrepreneurial activities. Believe me, he sure knows how to activate the entrepreneurial nature in people.

T.E.N.T’s structure was very simple; come up with a viable, scalable idea that tackles a problem and find a technological solution to it and develop it into something marketable without necessarily waiting to be out of school before thinking ‘big’. His primary emphasis was that one should not be at the mercy of anyone when there is the option of entrepreneurship and created jobs for others.

It sounds easy or so I thought until the time came to actually generate the ideas (possibly the next big thing). We had several group brainstorming sessions and personal brainstorming sessions. But of course, we had a rather naive approach to generating these ideas. In fact, a friend had spoken around developing a Time Machine. In one part of my mind, my response was, “Bro, just forget it”.

The very first set of ideas were simply just too fancy so I am not going to mention them. However, the real journey started a few months down the line in 2013. It was during this period that I found something more substantial to work on. And then, here came an extended semester break in form of a general university  Strike. This period was really the time I got to work on very substantial things. So I decided to go change the idea. This time, I went for something along the lines of matching skilled and talented people with those that may be looking for skilled personnel.

In essence, it was like an online Marketplace for soft skills. I named this one “Expose” for lack of a better name (you can laugh at me – it was the best I could find). I proceeded with it up until sometime in 2015. At which time, I collaborated with another TENT participant to develop another product which was centred around identifying different places based on the principle of Augmented Reality. This one was named “FINDA”(still not the best name – I know).

Working on these ideas served as the impetus for study and research, to find out what works and what doesn’t and afterwards find out why what works, works and vice versa. During these periods, I picked up a number of skills and learnt a couple of things that have enriched my experience. And sure enough, it has paid off in huge terms. It’s then you find out why the statement, “99% of startups fail” is not an exaggeration. And in fact, the major takeaway is more about developing an attitude towards finding the simplest approach to solving a particular problem.

Developing the Entrepreneurial mindset was the key takeaway. Since then, I have served on a number of startup teams trying to develop simple solutions to seemingly complicated problems and believe me, it’s so much fun. The experience with T.E.N.T, on the whole, was interesting. I do not feel that not succeeding with the ideas is a sign of failure (at least by my own standards), it is actually the foundation for something much bigger. This experience and lessons learnt are quite invaluable.

 

Oladotun Aluko participated in T.E.N.T (now Techtiary) between 2012 and 2017. He is available on Twitter, @nutod_20.

CSOs Write AU, UNHRC Over Internet Shutdown in Togo

By | DigitalJobs, ICT Policy, ICTs

A coalition of some 35 civil society organisations has written to several international bodies including the African Union and the United Nations Human Rights Commission over the recent internet shutdown in Togo. Signatories to the letter include Paradigm Initiative, Reporters Without BorderWorld Wide Web Foundation, Access Now, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Ghanaian Centre of PEN International

The Coalition calls on the international bodies “to bring a halt to the spate of Internet shutdowns in Africa and to publicly declare your commitment to this effort. Also, we urge that as the political situation in Togo unfolds in the coming days and weeks, Your Excellencies use your offices to ensure that the Internet and Telecommunication services are kept on.”

It would be recalled that the Togolese government shut down mobile internet services in the country for six days earlier this month. This shutdown was in response to a wave of protests in Togo against the ruling government. The shutdown was a blow not only to citizens exercising their right to protest but to others who use various internet services in their businesses. This shutdown, however, was met with wide condemnation from internet freedom groups across the globe and the government grudgingly restored services after 6 days of blackout. 

This explains why the coalition has written to international bodies to wade in and ensure internet shutdowns in Africa become a thing of the past. Read the full letter below:

 

Coalition Letter on Togo Internet Shutdown_English

Coalition Letter on Togo Internet Shutdown_French

“I once thought Java was a type of tea”- Ita, StepWiseFlow Founder

By | DigitalJobs, ICT Policy, ICTs, TENT, Web Design

In its five years of existence, Paradigm Initiative’s digital inclusion program, Techtiary has helped discover and groom new ICT talents in Nigeria. Formerly known as T.E.N.T (Techie Entrepreneurial Nigerian Talented), Techtiary has been quite effective in providing the necessary structure for talent development in the universities where it is currently available. One of such talents is Ukemeabasi Favour Ita, the founder of StepWiseFlow, who told us that prior to joining the program in 2012, he had no idea what Java was and even thought the programming language was a kind of tea.

We bring you excerpt from his recent conversation with us.
“My T.E.N.T journey started on the 30th of April 2012 when the program facilitators arrived at Obafemi Awolowo University to create awareness through an orientation event tagged T.E.N.T.50.’’

As the program is designed to run the length of participants’ degree program, Ita was required to come up with a project he would focus on during his 5-year engineering degree program. The idea was to work on this idea and make it sufficient for the student’s final year project. We believe that dedicating this much time and resources to the idea would ensure the production of a solid product.

Ita recalls this stage of his training process: “After joining the program, I was required to come up with proposed project topics to work on for the program. With that, I went brainstorming and finally choose just 5 of the numerous ideas bugging my mind. These are Project A: Pressure Sensor Traffic Lights; Project B: Universal Electronic Schooling (e-schooling); Project C: User Programmable Calculator (UPC); Project D: Single Signal Hybrid Computer (SSHC) and Project E: Human External Hard Disk (HE-HD).”

As the maiden edition of the TENT Forum was approaching, Ita finally settles for Universal Electronic Schooling as his main project for the 5-year program.

“At this point, I had never written a line of code neither did I have knowledge of what computer programs were made of. Sincerely, this memory brings back smiles. I was, just as my mentor Elon Musk, a young boy with big dreams of changing the world. I even named my first startup “changing the world”

He continues: “I registered for the TENT Forum which held on the 10th of December at Awovarsity Hall, and after 2 weeks of constant speech “cramming” and personal drilling, I felt I was adequately prepared to present my idea to the Forum. With my well-ironed shirt, crisp tie and radiant smile, I stepped forward to explain how my “e-University” system would revolutionize the whole Nigerian academic system. I was shocked by the feedback. I was told that my idea was not workable as it was and had somewhat already been implemented. Let’s just say my first TENT event did not go anywhere as planned.”
Ita did not allow this disappointment to weigh him down and like many successful entrepreneurs, he simply returned to work to fine-tune his idea. This paid off.

“After 5 years of hard work, late nights, missed lectures, broken laptops, lonely holidays, my project was finally ready. I strongly believe one of the high points of my story was when I eventually presented and defended the e-University system as my final year project. Truly, it was not as easy as expected as there were various challenges such as lack of electricity and poor internet, but these I overcame through making myself available for several Bootcamps, Hackathons, Developer gatherings, and Programming seminars.”

dashboard

course
“My experience involved me learning various programming languages such as Python, PHP, Java, C++, JavaScript and a lot more frameworks which helped me achieve not just my project goals, but also made me a better person.”
“5 years after that first day in TENT, I have received the technical exposure I needed to thrive. From a young student who assumed Java was a type of tea, I have evolved into a full-stack software developer and Technopreneur with well over 5 years of technical experience ranging from software (mobile and web) development to networking, to database management and also to the world of artificial intelligence and robotics.”

Now in 2017, Ita currently runs two start-ups, Tecky designs and StepwiseFlow. He has also played vital roles in several companies like Sanwo, Kudi.ai, and RIBY Finance as both a software developer and a Technology Lead.

***

This is part of a special focus series on alumni of #Techtiary.

Online courses as a means of developing digital expertise in Africa

By | #PINternetFreedom, DigitalJobs, ICT Policy, ICTs, L.I.F.E.

By Babatunde Okunoye 

 

“The World is flat” is the title of the bestselling book by Thomas Friedman, the influential American author and Journalist, where he argued that several developments in the 21st century such as outsourcing, the personal computer, the Internet, the standardization of commercial technology globally and international trade have led to a shift in economic competitiveness across the world. This shift has created a level playing ground and new opportunities for millions of people in developing countries who hitherto were economically and socially disenfranchised. Empowered by these new opportunities, many of the world’s poorest nations have over the space of a decade developed highly skilled workers who have not only put pressure on workers in developed nations but are also displacing them in some instances. Several corporations in the European Union and the United States now outsource services such as call centre operation and computer coding to markets in Asia.

One of these levellers of development, the Internet, has transformed the way educational content is delivered worldwide. The rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) allows millions of people to attain professional and university level training affordably and at their own pace. This has undoubtedly revolutionized education in the past decade. MOOCs platforms such as Edx and Coursera, backed by leading international universities, provide easy access to training in highly sought skills such as Data Science and computer programming.

Africa’s severe developmental challenges have often meant that development workers and partners working on Digital inclusion on the continent have often focused more on providing the basics such as greater Internet access and computer appreciation to the mass of underserved youth on the continent. However, in the past five years, several tech clusters have emerged across Africa, a testament to the maturing expertise of a young people in Africa in the higher end tech skills. As the success stories of these tech start-ups spread, including how they have successfully secured international investment funding, they can inspire a whole new generation of Africans to change the digital landscape in Africa.

Thousands of youths across Africa, using these success stories, can thus envision a viable future in technology. And given the challenges inherent in many education systems in Africa, MOOCs provide an avenue where Africa’s budding technologists can learn with the best students and teachers in the world, demolishing the developmental barriers common to the continent. Raising awareness of the many opportunities that abound in MOOCs is key to this objective. In this regard, Paradigm Initiative has been in the forefront of spreading awareness of the big opportunities available in MOOCs and other digital tools. Through our digital inclusion program called ‘LIFE’, an acronym for ‘Life Skills. ICTs. Financial Readiness. Entrepreneurship’, we are working across underserved communities and schools in Nigeria to improve the livelihoods of youths through ICTs.

For youth in Africa to derive the best benefits from the opportunities inherent in MOOCs however, African governments must resist the temptation to shut down the Internet as they have repeatedly done in the past 2 years. Our Digital Rights in Africa Report 2016 documented 11 cases of Internet shutdowns in Africa in 2016. In 2017, there have been 7 cases of Internet shutdowns in Africa – In Cameroon, Ethiopia, Senegal, Morocco, Mali, South Sudan and Togo. The Internet shutdown in Togohappened on Tuesday, September 5, 2017, in response to political protests in the country. As demonstrated by the story of Nji Collins Gbah, the 17-year-old Google coding champion from Cameroon who might have missed the opportunity to enter the competition had the Internet shutdown of January 17, 2017, in Cameroon arrived a day earlier (January 16, the deadline for the competition), numerous opportunities for self-development for youth are lost through Internet disruptions. For Africa to reach its full potential, developmental tools like the Internet must be kept on and its use encouraged, particularly by young people.

en_USEnglish
fr_FRFrench en_USEnglish