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Empowering Nigeria’s Digital Future: A Programmer’s Journey of Innovation

Ekeolere Olaide Nojeem is a computer programmer who is already delving into the evolving Artificial Intelligence. In this interview with DAYO EMMANUEL, he shares his journey into programming, fueled by a passion for video games, evolving into app development due to market demand. He explores Nigeria’s internet penetration growth, emphasising its importance for economic advancement. He also encourages the teeming Nigerian youths, especially girls, who have more natural advantage in coding. He also talked about his experience leading a Flutter development team for Wakanow’s app that showcases efficiency and cost savings. He proposes addressing cybercrime through education and mentorship to channel youths into productive cyber activities.

Experts:

You seem to have a knowledge of several programming languages. How did you come about them and how did you get the interest?

I think I will start with how I got interested in programing. While growing up from the 80s, I couldn’t get enough of video games, I even had the nickname Gameboy. After some time, I started thinking that it would be nice to make my own video. I found out on tv one day that to achieve this, I had to become a computer programmer of some sort. That was how my journey started.I have knowledge of several programming languages because I tried building games on almost any platform I could get my hands on; nokia, java, blackberry, and android phones. Later I found out that there was more demand for applications over video games in Nigeria so I just shifted my focus to making applications.In January 2023, there were 122.5 million Internet users in Nigeria representing over 50% of our population.

Do you think we are doing well going by the need to digitalize a lot of our operations?

Nigeria’s internet penetration surpassing 50% by January 2023 signals significant progress in digitalization, offering fertile ground for startups. Success hinges on broadening access, improving digital literacy, fortifying cybersecurity, implementing supportive policies, and monitoring economic impact. This environment presents opportunities for startups to innovate across sectors like fintech, e-commerce, healthtech, and edtech, driving economic growth and societal advancement. Continued investment in these areas can nurture Nigeria’s burgeoning startup ecosystem, catalyzing innovation, job creation, and global competitiveness.Then internet penetration rate in Nigeria stood at 55.4 percent of the total population at the start of 2023 an increase of 2.9 million (+2.4 percent) between 2022 and 2023.

Do you think our Internet penetration is reasonable enough if we are to drive a better and digital economy?

A 55.4% internet penetration rate in Nigeria by the beginning of 2023 indicates significant progress, with an increase of 2.9 million users (+2.4%) from 2022 to 2023. While this growth is positive, further improvements are crucial for driving a robust economy. Higher internet penetration facilitates digital innovation, e-commerce, access to information, and global competitiveness. However, equitable access, infrastructure development, digital literacy programs, and cybersecurity measures are essential for maximizing the economic benefits of internet usage. Continuous efforts to address these factors will be vital for leveraging Nigeria’s digital potential to fuel economic growth effectively.We have seen a tremendous interest in organisations mentoring young people especially girls in coding activities.

How do you advise more young people to engage in this and what advantage do you think it can give to Nigeria as a nation?

To encourage more young people, especially girls, to code, Nigeria should focus on awareness, role models, accessible resources, inclusive environments, and collaborative projects. Advantages include skills development, empowerment, innovation, entrepreneurship, global competitiveness, and digital transformation, contributing to socioeconomic growth and gender equality. Software developers are well paid and can work remotely from home, this can also help them earn in dollars and other foreign currencies.You once led a team of Flutter developers to develop and manage B2B and B2C Android and iOS apps in Agile Scrum environment.Can you share your experience, success and usefulness of the project?This was when I worked at Wakanow to build their mobile app. The first version of the app was built for only android and we decided to also have it available for iOS. This will require us to get extra programmers that could built for iOS and we were working on a budget. So we decided to build the app with flutter which would allow us to build for both android and iOS at the same time and save 40% on development time.The developers and I were able to finish way before the deadline and iOS users could now access the app and receive updates at the same time as android users with improved turnaround time and cost savings.Cyber crimes are increasing and the insecurity being experienced in the country seem to have been replicated in the cyber space.How do you think your expertise can solve this problem and channel our youths into more productive cyber activities?Through accessible online education, mentorship programs, and industry collaborations, we can raise awareness, impart essential skills, and foster innovation. This comprehensive approach empowers youths to combat cyber threats effectively while contributing to Nigeria’s digital economy and security.

Lastly, can you share briefly about yourself…how you evolved?

I currently have more than 13 year’s experience as a software developer working on video games and applications. This has allowed me to work in different domains which has helped me evolve into a very good problem solver and a team player. It has also made me more customer focused and improve my knowledge on none technical intelligence and understanding of the IT space. The world seems to be moving towards Artificial intelligence and my programming experience made it relatively easy for me to get started in the space. Maybe the next time you will be interviewing me, it will be as an AI expert with years of experience.

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