Smart Maduka, co-founder and head, Design and Analytics, Project Dove Initiative, said that Nigeria’s focus on information and communication technologies with little attention given to design technology portends a gloomy future for indigenous technology development.
Maduka said in this interview with peter oluka calls for improved investment on technology inclined students by angel investors and manufacturing sector to boost capacity in the industry.
We were group of students that saw the diminishing values of crude oil and the attendant problems. We talked to one another, because we are very passionate about this country, we felt there was a need to think about the future and it is our responsibility as student compatriots to solve our problems ourselves. That was how D0ve Project Initiative came to light, to create solutions to our over dependence on fossil fuels, the ever increasing price and scarcity and the environmental pollution they cause.
When we were building the car, we had two major. challenges- technical and financial. On the technical angle, we manoeuvred our way around. Thank God for the school that provided us with a workshop to work; technologists were there to put us through in some practical aspects of the project. Financially, it was really tough on us because as students, there were enough needs like purchasing textbooks, but we had to tax ourselves to raise the funds; the car project was financially sponsored completely by us as students. Presently, some of my team members are corps member, while other team members are final year students.
Taking Dove Project to Other Schools
We felt there is a need to ‘challenge’ students to be creative solution providers, hence our decision to take the project to other schools. We know that Nigerian students are geniuses with creative minds, therefore, from the little resources, we want to establish Dove Initiative to demonstrate that we as students can move the country forward.
Seed funding would be provided to these schools to aid the development of the club in the school. We are all complaining about global warming, with the United Nations and other agencies leading the race to addressing this challenge, we have to move to eco-friendly cars. We believe that these students will keep working on new developments, keeping our country on its toes with regards technological developments. This is how to build indigenous technology, enhance our manufacturing and export abilities.
We don’t need a soothsayer to tell us our GDP will rise. What actually boosts first world countries’ economy is manufacturing. Look at United States, Switzerland, Germany and others, manufacturing drives the economy. So, at the time of studentship, someone who does not have so much to think about, that is the right time to invest on them for creative solutions.
Universities and Technology Solutions
The whole idea of Dove Initiative is to challenge students to come up with solutions to societal problems. Dove Initiative is like a design board. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, we focus on ICT and lay down on Designs ICT will thrive better when we have Design at the centre. Imagine we have Nigerian made smart car, ICT will thrive better. So, Dove Initiative, outside the fact that it is purely electric, will spur the interest in students to think about solutions to every aspect of the economy.
Manufacturing Plants Need to Engage Students
I am very happy that we have a manufacturing company like Innoson Motors in this country. My research about the Company shows the founder appreciates innovation. With people like that Nigeria will get on the better part of technological advancement. We need venture capitalists to understand that investing in students has much potential. When you invent in the youths the economy thrives, failure to do so you have ignited a ticking bomb that will explode in no distant time. So, the focus is on manufacturing companies to partner with Universities to ‘harvest’ the best brains, nurture them, then, Nigeria will be one of the greatest in the world. If we get willing investors, within a year we can develop a commercially viable model of this car. We do not need just financial support, technical support is paramount too. There are capable hands in this industry like Aliyu Jelani; they need to mentor people like us. With all the money in the bank without technical capabilities there won’t be any car.
Marketing The idea
We have been to several exhibitions- Nigeria Energy Forum, Tech+ 2016, and others, just to promote the initiative. If we fail to foster indigenous technology, a time will come in Nigeria that we will not be able to survive.
Support from Angel Investors and Interest on Fundamental Ideas
I think it is high time we panned focus from the transiting things and programmes to more serious ideas. Why is it easy for corporate organizations to throw money around when it comes to entertainment, but ideas like this, they find it difficult to be convinced. This is time for Nigerians to begin to think Nigeria.
If we had toed that line we wouldn’t be in the present mess we are in now. A lot of people are selfish- just about ‘what is in it for me’. When we were building this car, right at the design stage, we approached some people for sponsorship, but they claimed it was still on paper and therefore ‘not viable’. Some people thought it was destined to fail because we were just Nigerian students. So, we had to starve ourselves to raise resources to build this car. When you love something you wouldn’t mind the present pain. Today, we have a prototype to show the world and prove that Nigerian students are capable of taking up seemingly difficult problems and solving them effectively and efficiently.
If any car manufacturing company abroad calls for my attention, I will not decline, because I need to be more prepared to serve my country (Nigeria). I plan to travel abroad for Masters Course in Product Design and my partner, Automotive Engineering. As I said earlier, I am passionate about the country, but at this stage we can’t possibly do everything hence we need knowledge from ‘outside’ to build indigenous technology.
How Govt Can Support Technological Development
I am impressed with the government for recognizing that technology is the way to go. There are a lot of programmes now to support startups. But it shouldn’t end with startups in ICT, as there are a lot of innovators that need backing. Look at the global innovation index, in ICT, Nigeria is about 69th in the world. That is a very huge feat, but when it comes to design in technology, Nigeria is nowhere to be found. If the government can key into investing in the students, then this will be great for everyone
I believe that Technology Can and Should be a boon to the society and that new mode of thinking is the way forward to creating a sustainable future we want to live in. A time will come that for Nigeria to survive, technology will be the only solution. It is a thinking bomb. Just recently, a resolution was passed in Germany that by 2030 all internal combustion engine (ICE) cars will be phased out. In other worlds, internally fueled cars will not be available anywhere in Germany, rather purely electric vehicles.
This is Germany where ICE cars were invested. It is known that German resolution traditionally shaped European Countries resolution. So, when all car manufacturing plants go electric, we will be forced to buy them and when we do, how do we intend to power the cars? With our erratic power supply? What happens to our oil? How about the cars maintenances? That is why D0ve is here now; that by the time we get to the problem, we would have developed solutions. We want to solve the problem of the future now.