Q: Please tell us about yourself, educational background and the path that led you to Start Innovation Hub Nigeria.
Johnson: My name is Hanson Johnson, an alumnus of Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. I did my first degree in Electrical Electronics Engineering and majored in Communication Engineering.
Right from my childhood, I have never been comfortable seeing things work without knowing why. That made me inquisitive and always opening technical books to learn more. Little did I know that act was called research.
Growing up, I have been part of science and engineering competitions and have won laurels for my schools. The drive to innovate led me to learn programming, after acquiring these skills, there was nobody closer to me that I can collaborate or get help when in need. I thought of a solution, hence Start Innovation Hub - A technology pre-incubator serving as a platform to aid collaboration among local technology startups in South-South Nigeria.
Q: Tell us about Start Innovation Hub Nigeria: Why Start Innovation Hub Nigeria? And who created it? What programs and services do you offer and who do you serve?
Johnson: Starthub Technology Limited owns Start Innovation Hub with Hanson Johnson as the Founder and CEO. It is a technology pre-incubation center based in Uyo, Nigeria. As an IT firm with innovation lab, we help technology start-ups with software ideas start up faster.
Our programs cut across pre-incubation, incubation, Kids Code Club, Canvas - A Business & Technology Hangout, Software Development, Training, Design, Pitch Development, and Technical Workshops.
Q: Please elaborate on your Kids Code Club. Why coding?
Johnson: Children are leaders of tomorrow; ICT they say is the future. To me, the best gift you can give to a child and liberate Nigeria is coding skills.
The club is for children 8 to 17 years old. We are targeting to host the club in schools nationwide because we believe; every Nigerian child deserves a chance to learn how to code.
This program is not just about making or discovering developers, rather it strengthens problem solving and logical thinking skills. It is also useful for other aspects of our lives, careers and hobbies.
We have a network of volunteers nationwide who have invested a lot in hosting Kids Code Club in schools. Any volunteer can nominate a school near him and join our network of volunteers nationwide.
Every year, we take advantage of summer and Christmas holidays to camp kids for at least 6 days. We use this period to expose them to various computer and programming courses ranging from creating animations, game development, web design and micro-blogging, networking and games.
At the end of the program, we do organize kids hackathon for them to use a limited time to create products using the knowledge they acquired in the camp. The results are always amazing. A 16-year-old girl from the club won KOLA Awards 2014 with an android game she named Save Nigeria. A 9 year old boy David Ekanem recently demoed his android game (AkTrivia) during Google Developers Festival tagged GDG DevFest South/East Nigeria, Uyo 2015. AkTrivia is a quiz game that showcases the major landmarks in Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria. The player earn points for correct options that best describes the landmark and looses points for wrong answers.
Q: What challenges does Start Innovation Hub Nigeria currently face? And
what opportunities do you see in the future for your organization?
This is our major problem. The people here are yet to understand and embrace ICT. They tend to complain that they don't have electricity to power their systems and follow the trend.
They make us understand we are too young to be entrepreneurs.
If I introduce myself as the founder and CEO of Start Innovation Hub, the feelings and reactions is different compared to saying “I work with Start Innovation Hub”. When I discovered that, I always tell people I work with Start Innovation Hub, once I say that, they become interested and want to know what we do.
Most people still don’t believe software can be developed in Africa talk less of in Uyo, Nigeria. Whenever we are selling our services, one in every three persons will ask: “Where is your head office? Which organization are you representing? Are you sure you are the ones doing this or you are middle men?” It will take us to woo them to the office before we convince them.
We also find it very difficult finding people to work with. Many people are not skilled. Some have interest in learning but lack tools.
They are still some machines we are unable to acquire to help us do the job seamlessly.
Q: In your opinion, what groups in Nigeria are the most underrepresented in STEM? Secondly, what key steps should we undertake to promote scientific literacy and STEM among these specific science and technology underrepresented groups?
Johnson: Women are the most underrepresented. To promote STEM among them, they should be involved in training and other leadership roles. They should be incentives for them and more help in applying the skills productively.
Apart from women, everyone in rural areas are not represented at all. May be because they lack power, internet, funding and basic environment to attract STEM. In this case, a mobile STEM service is the solution.
Q: In your estimation, what is the importance of STEM education, innovation, technology, entrepreneurship and investment as well as infrastructures and the rule of law in the socio-economic development of Nigeria?
Johnson: STEM in my estimation is securing the future of a Nigerian child. Once he is equipped, he is ready for the future because he will be growing consciously to solve problems and create jobs unlike before that we were trained to grow up and get employed.
STEM helps in bringing out creativity and makes a child innovative if properly guided.