To promote innovation and continuous development of the Communications Industry, the Nigerian Communications Commission recently hosted the second edition of the NCC Emerging Technologies Annual Innovation Competition/ Exhibition themed ‘Promoting Sustainable Digital Service Development in Nigeria’ to showcase new solutions and create linkages between innovators and established stakeholders in the Nigerian ICT ecosystem.
The three-day event which took place at the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) Lagos Campus saw the selection of 20 startups from a pool of 44 applications on the NCC portal based on the following criteria ICT/ Telecom, Innovation/ Creativity/ Novelty, Proof of Concept/ Feasibility, Commercial sustainabiltiy & viability as well as Team Expertise.
These 20 startups exhibited in purpose-built booths where the judges were able to engage better with the entrepreneurs and their solutions.
Day 1 of the event enabled the judges to collectively arrive at 10 finalists. They were announced on Day 2 where they had the opportunity to make a 5-minute live pitch in front of the judges as well as the other participant.
The third day saw the winners announced: The first-place winner, Capsule Technologies – a free bookkeeping app that increases access to credit for SMEs with an API to connect them to MFBs and credit bureaus won N2,500,000; Brainiacs STEM and Robotics – an indigenous STEAM solution which is helping primary and secondary schools incorporate tech learning into their curricula won N1,500,000, and Innovia Technologies – creators of a drone-based solution which enables collection of information in conflict areas came third with a N1,000,000 prize. All other 17 finalists also received N200,000 participation prize.
The Commission reiterates its commitment in showcasing talents and innovations in the ICT ecosystem, to motivate and encourage Nigerian youths to engage in innovative developments in the telecoms industry, with an ultimate target to ensure the nation’s economic gains global competitiveness.
This gesture appears to be a commendable move for the NCC following the effect of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020. A significant number of startups and tech hubs in the country suffered setbacks even after the lockdown was eased.
Coming into 2021, private and public sectors have come up with programs to support SMEs and startups to cushion the effect of the pandemic.
The NCC as a public organization with its annual competition is helping startups to scale, thus it will be very commendable if all other Ministries, Departments & Agencies (MDA’s) can join the commission in this laudable project.
Beyond the MDA’s, there is also a need for public-private collaboration in not just finding ways for innovation but to effect policy that would make innovation thrive.
With more collaboration and MDA support, there can be more ways to create procurement-based demand for startup solutions which will make Nigeria’s innovative space more sustainable.
During the event, the NCC invited telcos who met with the participating startups and tech bubs, thus allowing seamless linkages that would create bigger opportunities for the startups.
Going by this, if more MDA’s follow this path by supporting startups directly, then it would be easier to galvanize the innovation ecosystem in the country.
In 2021, Nigeria ranks among the top African country that has recorded the highest deals and fundraising. 2022 is just fresh, and it only means that more Nigerian startups can raise funding to scale. With all MDA’s support, there is no gainsaying of what Nigerian startups can achieve in the global innovation space.
Nneka Ukay, Executive Secretary of Innovation Support Network commented on the challenge, Nigeria’s national network of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology hubs, who served as a judge during the competition said:
“More MDA’s need to directly support innovation, startups and hubs like NCC is doing. They have not just given a platform to these startups, they have also created linkages between them and some of the telcos present. We have also just started discussions to create a collaboration between one of the startups and Digital Bridge, our hosts. If more MDA’s supported the startups within their purview, there would be accelerated and collaborative growth of the ecosystem”
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