Olarewaju Oludare, the founder of two Information and Communications Technology companies in Nigeria; Raotech and Techxkia, is a young entrepreneur with a record of delivering excellent results in organization’s profitability, business development, and operational performance. In this interview with YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE, he speaks about how technology can help solve many challenges in business, organizations, and government, among other issues.
You are one of the young Nigerian entrepreneurs in the Nigerian ICT industry, what spurred you into digital world?
While studying assiduously in order to gain admission into the Faculty of Engineering in the prestigious University of Lagos, I realized that I needed to acquire computer skills. So, I told my late mum; Prophetess R.A. Olanrewaju-Adeniyi, to allow me to enroll for a 9-month programme (Diploma in Desktop Publishing and Graphics Design) offered by the Human Resources Development Board of the university in the year 2000. To the glory of Almighty God, in less than three months after I completed the Diploma in Desktop Publishing and Graphics Design programme with Distinction, I got admission to study Systems Engineering at the University of Lagos.
My passion for Information and Communications Technology was greatly boosted by a piece of advice given to my class while we were in 200 level by one of the 15 Nigerian Engineers that were trained to manage the NigeriaSat-1(Nigeria’s first satellite) during a special seminar organized by the Department of Systems Engineering at the end of a course named Engineers in Society. The invited guest speaker whose name I can’t remember told us to acquire ICT skills in order to strategically position ourselves for opportunities that would come with the lunch of Nigeria’s communication satellite.
As a result of the advice, I decided to enroll for a two-month training on Telecommunication Engineering course which focused on wireless communication technology, VSAT installation, and implementation, networking, technical operations of GSM networks. Due to the fact that we were taught in some of our 300 level courses; Industrial Engineering, Engineering Materials & Environment that we should always identify problems in our society and proffer solutions, I recall I voluntarily did a research in 2005 on ATM-associated risks and subsequently advised the management of Wema Bank Plc as a customer on how the bank could prevent or reduce its customers vulnerabilities.
And in 2012, Techxkia, my first start-up developed and deployed a desktop-based software named QUICKTAX for Ilupeju branch of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). The application enables the FIRS staff (tax administrators) to process taxpayer’s government assessment forms rapidly, accurately and easily.
Raoatech IT-Electromech Limited was registered in 2014. RAOATECH specializes in the development and delivery of enterprise software solutions; mobile and web-based. Its business solutions cover different industries such as the Educational sector, lottery, aviation sector, tax/revenue generating government’s agency, military and so on.
Venturing into the world of entrepreneurship is a different terrain. What challenges did you face in becoming an IT entrepreneur?
Actually, those challenges could be regarded as blessings in disguise. The capital was a major challenge to me at the beginning of the business but I took the bold step by starting with the little funds available then and we thank God for how far he has helped us.
What new innovation do you have and what does it do?
It is an application called Talk2togovernment which is an innovative solution that was developed by Raoatech to bridge the communication gap between the people and the leaders in government including political aspirants that want to become political office holders.
What it does is that from your mobile devices or computer systems, the voters and other people can easily know all the elected political office holders in Nigeria and all the political aspirants recognized by the electoral umpires, they can communicate with the elected leaders or with the aspirants and the leaders or aspirants can respond to the people based on a one-on-one basis. Furthermore, people can donate to support their candidates.
And what makes the application special?
This solution stands out among other solutions like social media platforms basically by making one-on-one communication available between an electorate and the elected political office holders /the political aspirants. The Talk2togovernment application makes the profiles, manifestoes, achievements; executed/on-going projects and other information of the elected political office holders or political aspirants from all registered political parties available to the people.
For political aspirants, Talk2government app is a very important campaign tool that will strategically make the aspirants and their relevant information readily available to the electorate right on the go on mobile devices or computer systems. Consequently, the app will not only help the political parties’ candidates to reach out to millions of electorates who are smartphone users but also win their hearts convincingly.
Imagine a community is seriously in need of potable water in order to prevent water-related diseases. How can the people in this community or their representative easily talk to their elected leaders (Local Government Area Chairperson, Federal Representative, Senator, and State Governor) or political aspirants about their plight? Talk2government app bridges this communication gap by providing this easy-to-use communication platform.
In addition, Talk2government app is also very suitable for corporate organizations that want people living in communities where the organizations plan to execute their corporate social responsibilities projects, determine by voting for the projects that will meet the needs of the majority of the people if not all.
It is part of Raoatech’s plan to make this Talk2government app to have both the USSD based and the voice-based feature that will also make the yearnings of the less-privileged people, living in the rural areas, to be known and attended to. Furthermore, the Talk2me functionality on the Talk2government app can be used by people in a community to monitor and report progress of government-owned or private organization-owned projects in their community by sending pictures, videos and messages about the projects.
Many ICT apps are riddled with poor conceptualization without clear sustainability plan, is this same with your app?
Currently, Raoatech maintains and supports at least five cloud-based enterprise solutions that have been in existence for quite some years. Some of these aforementioned applications are used by multinational, government agencies, private schools, and public school. As a result of this Raoatech’s many years of experience in sustaining enterprise solutions, we strongly believe that the Raoatech’s sustainability plan for the Talk2government app will sustain it.
What is your assessment of the Information Communications Technology industry in Nigeria and where do you see this industry in the future?
Nigerian ICT sector had been growing tremendously since the inception of GSM technology over ten years ago. The future of the industry looks great. However, the stakeholders in the industry need to ensure that up-to-the-minute ICT infrastructure is made available in the country. Our nation needs to have planned for implementation of 5G mobile technology.
AI-driven health services streamlined, smart cities, driverless cars and other future technologies that could make the way we live and work better, will definitely ride on 5G mobile technology. Therefore, it very important for our policies makers and other stakeholders in the Nigerian ICT industry to come up with the suitable blueprint for implantation of 5G mobile technology in Nigeria
It is also very important for our nation to have National Blueprint on Incorporation of Artificial Intelligence into Nigerian Educational Curricula. Nigerian kids should start acquiring skills on Robotics and Coding right from age four in their schools. This is how we can make those kids compete with their counterparts in developed countries.
As part to Raoatech’s contribution to the advancement of our fatherland in the area of ICT, most especially in Robotics and Coding, the company had been training lots of Nigerian students in primary, secondary schools and tertiary institutions on Robotics and Coding since 2014. During the 2018 summer holidays, the company trained over 120 students from different primary and secondary schools in Lagos State.
AI technology has its applications cut across different sectors (military, banking, telecom, oil, and gas etc. In October 2017, the UAE government appointed a less than 40 years old man to head its Ministry of Artificial Intelligence.
It will be worthwhile if our nation can have National Blueprint on Incorporation of Artificial Intelligence into Nigerian Educational Curricula
How can businesses in Nigeria benefit from the ever-growing ICT industry?
Businesses in Nigeria should embrace software solutions developed locally here by engaging competent local software solutions providers. They should also invest in our local ICT firms. Some businesses and individuals invested in Apple, Amazon, and Google. That is why those tech companies are contributing greatly to the GDP of their country. Adequate funding will empower our local tech firms to scale up their capability and offer high-quality products and services to businesses in Nigeria.
Aside from the Talk2government app, what other digital innovations do you have and what values do they add to the society?
Raoatech, as a software solutions provider, has developed and deployed different cut-edge solutions for clients in industries such as education, aviation, tax/revenue generation, lottery, real estate and so on. Some of these products are School Management Solutions which include Schoofina which has helped a Federal Unity School Parent-Teacher Association in automation of students’ information management, students’ bills generation, payment collections management across different payment channels, financial management, and the Schcoosystem, a cloud-based software solution that automates school management. It is a full-fledged education Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system designed and developed not only to solve school’s problems that are associated with administration, results management, accounting and human resources, but also teaching.