My dream is to drive innovation, digital literacy across Africa —David
Since 2016, Aboluwarin Olaoluwa David aka Kitan David, has led technology training for over 7,000 children in eight African locations, as chairman of a not-for-profit organisation called, Information Technology Seed Development Initiative (SeedDEV). During this interview with Babatunde Adeleke, he explains what drives this initiative amidst other things. Excerpt:
NEST is a foremost tech organisation in Akure, what brought the idea of Planet Nest?
Planet NEST is a social enterprise focused largely on building a skilled Africa. We groom talents across Africa in a residential program on our campus in Akure, a vibrant and fast-growing tech ecosystem. These talents learn from world-class engineers and grow steadily to be capable of working remotely or on-site with global technology corporations, working tirelessly on solving human problems. It is important to know that this is a paid programme.
What other initiative is Planet Nest putting in place to ensure that the knowledge of ICT becomes commonplace within the country?
We work closely with SeedDev and support the not-for-profit organisation technically and financially to reach African kids in emerging communities. From 2016 till date, we have trained and exposed over 7000 kids to technology in Abuja, Ondo, Osun, Niger, and Nairobi.
What is SeedDev’s objective?
For us at SeedDev, the plan is to reach out to the unreached children and teenagers with technology education with the hope to spark interest and curiosity in the kids from the tender age. We hope to also be a part of their skill development journey. The goal is to reach and train a million kids by 2020, visiting these children in their geographical areas.
Did your tech background affect your drive to lead this revolution?
I grew up in a community of few schools and with a scarce number of them having a computer, not to talk of a computer lab. However, having worked as a Nokia Research Center ambassador for West Africa with over 15 national and international awards, I think the idea of democratising this opportunity to people in all areas has affected my drive. Also, studying computer science, based on my interest as a child sparked the thought that I could go back and give these kids an opportunity.
In the same vein, it is in line with my deep-seated passion about building a better Africa by driving innovation and digital literacy across-board, and the monthly capacity building/mind enlargement programme for young people in career building and entrepreneurship called Growth Academy With Kitan David (GAWK).
How do you plan to achieve training a million kids by 2020?
We work in partnership with other relevant stakeholders to reach out to the kids in different areas, mostly rural: sensitise, train and plant a SeedBox (a SeedBox is a solar powered, internet enabled, air-conditioned computer facility) in areas visited. With more support from relevant partners and organisations, we would be able to reach more people and execute more impact-focused digital programmes.
How can we get more kids to participate in the digital revolution?
First, you cannot become what you do not know. I have had a number of things that I wanted to do growing up, but all of them were things that I had related with, that I knew about from reading and observation. In the same vein, what we do at SeedDev is igniting a fire in the minds of the kids to show them the possibilities and endless opportunities from gaining digital skills.
Hence, our well-trained curators across the continent expose the kids to the basics of computer literacy and plant the necessary seeds for a future technology career to blossom.
What has the experience been like reaching the underserved kids in rural areas? The experience has been interesting. In one of the visits to some riverine rural areas in Ondo State, I met with kids who had never gotten to touch the computer before not to talk of operating it. They came in from different areas of the village to see the people who wanted to teach them how to use the computer, there was an added advantage of drinks and food, so apart from the excitement of learning the basics of computer, there was a bonus of getting something to eat.
So, I would say the experience has been inspiring. The rare privilege of leading the apostles taking the digital gospels to the unreached kids, who could one day lead the technological revolution on the continent starting from Nigeria. However, for every unreached child we meet, there is a feeling that we can do more.
With increased advocacy to have more women in Technology, what role is SeedDev playing in achieving this?
In 2 years, SeedDEV has trained over 400 girls in a 2-week residential boot camp during the summer in partnership with the BeMORE Girls—an initiative of the First Lady of Ondo State, Chief (Mrs) Betty Akeredolu. We understand that to get more ladies into the tech space, the best hack to the process is exposing more young girls to technology at an early stage. When this is done well, the curiosity is sparked and then they know the endless opportunities that they can explore in the digital revolution. We want to do more and we will be exploring various partnerships to ensure that African girls get the needed inspiration to take their seat on the tables driving innovation on the continent.
We have done so much in the past year across the geopolitical zones in Nigeria. We have scheduled outreach programs in Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana and Mauritius in 2019. In the end, when the conversation starts about building a skilled Africa, we want to have played our part in reaching out to the underserved kids.
ICT is a major driver of other aspects of the economy, how is Nigeria faring with this reality? Is there anything that could be done to ensure better compliance?
I think the government should come in, with making policies to favour the growth of start-ups, what I mean is policies that make it easy for a young company to grow. Nigeria has enough entrepreneurial zeal but lacks funding opportunities, the government should act as a facilitator for the upcoming startups by giving easy access to seed funding and also develop incubation centres. I believe another major setback is lack of infrastructure or setting up their office in any state, the government should look into setting up world-class accommodation space for startups and SMEs.Finally, Fundraising is an important aspect which is one drawback for most startups to go global; Government should create an easy relationship to enable startups to enter into the tech ecosystem. The government should spend on improving the quality of skilled personnel in the country by investing in hubs to train citizens.
What is your advice for other young entrepreneurs who are thinking of investing in the ICT sector?
There is no better time to dive into any aspect of tech other than now, the industry is moving faster and faster by the day.