How do you unleash innovation, develop solutions for citizens, companies and governments; introduce creative disruption into industries and add value to society? Promote talent, innovation and creativity.
When properly galvanized, these intangible assets get transformed into local and global opportunities, fame and fortune. Even more importantly, companies that invest in talent and technology research tend to breed a culture of ideas and positive evolution.
Talent has never been in short supply in the Nigerian environment. The abundance (and quality) of talent in the country’s local technology space was showcased last weekend thanks to the friendly geeks at IBM. Showcasing its ongoing investment in the local technology space, IBM chose Africa’s most populous city to convene “CogniHack Lagos 2016”, a software coding competition, specifically designed to brush up the cloud and cognitive computing skills of the software development community.
“CogniHack Lagos 2016”, the coding challenge assembled scores of pre-selected local talent - from idea generators, to app designers, freelance programmers, budding software designers and creative hacks. They came from academia; independent software vendors from places as far as Ibadan, Abeokuta, Abuja, Gusau in Zamfara state, and Zaria in Kaduna state, including a coding teams from local startups Software Alliance, Relational Technologies, Andela (which recently got a multi-million dollar boost from Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg), and United Kingdom-based team of Nigerian-born developers.
Their collective tasks was to collaborate on developing solutions for the financial services sector, using IBM’s BlueMix development platform, Watson Developer Cloud and other IBM and third party cloud-based tools. Their resultant applications will be web and mobile ready. And they had less than 72 hours to come up with their mobile and web-based blueprints.
The young innovators were challenged to unleash their software design and coding skills on building software solutions around customer engagement and customer insights. But before even getting them to work in teams at its Client and Innovation Center in Lagos (venue of the coding competition), it had curated a series of banking industry challenges and issues from local banks for the constructive teams (white hackers) to work on, pooling them into easily addressable hackathon prompts.
In layman’s terms these hackathon prompts reflect the current headaches of the Nigerian and regional banking industry. Contemporary mobile and electronic banking issues like customer service, money management, bill payments, storage, connecting farmers to sellers etc.
Two banking technology experts, Henry Ideozu and Victor Okigbo representing Heritage Bank and Access Bank respectively, also enriched the coding contest with their savvy technical expertise, retail banking use cases and insights.
Eventually, at the end of the competition, IBM found app designs from three teams worthy of commercial progression, based on the fact that “their ideas and solutions were viable, innovative, scalable and had a path to potential profitability for banking institutions.,” according to Tomi Akingbade, Associate Partner at IBM’s Watson Transformations team for the financial services sector.
“Team CogniBank” emerged tops, with the best software design, according to the CogniHack jury comprising of techies from IBM and banking industry. Aimed primarily at improving customer satisfaction levels, their application deploys information retrieval concepts to support and optimize usage of the internet banking and mobile banking delivery channels. The CogniBank application is built around IBM’s Watson Artificial Intelligence platform, enabling prompt and relevant response to customer queries.
After “Team CogniBank”, the second and third place teams were “Team Genie” and “Team Growphile” respectively. Interestingly both teams come from the stables of Andela.
“IBM promotes talent wherever it can be found. These days, we are focused on leveraging cognitive technologies to transform businesses…clearly with the right support and technology platform, the potentials of Nigeria’s digitally savvy youth can be unleashed to achieve positive impact,” Akingbade says.
IBM expects the software ideas from these innovative teams to blossom into winning solutions and successful enterprises, able to partner withIBM to deliver technology solution and services for humanity.
The three top teams, CogniBank, Genie and Growphile, will have the opportunity to co-present their solutions to business, technology and public sector leaders at the IBM Business Connect Nigeria 2016 event in Lagos later this week.
No doubt, the Nigerian technology space continues to develop at a fast pace thanks largely to progressive investments that breed successful collaboration between global corporations and indigenous IT institutions and individuals. IBM continues to raise the bar in technology innovation promotion and management with its interesting hackathons.
“CogniHack Lagos 2016” is IBM’s latest hackathon effort on Nigerian soil. About two years ago, the technology giant flagged off its pan-African hackathon series in Lagos with “IBM Lagos Hackathon”, a four-day technology training and ideas incubation programme which developed applications for Mobile Payments and Smarter Government Solutions.
IBM, a global leader cloud and cognitive computing company, currently invests over $6 billion annually in technology research and technology.
Notwithstanding Nigeria’s current harsh economic climate, the country’s IT ecosystem is a fertile ground for solid long term returns. The results of IBM’s ongoing investments in Nigeria’s IT space can only mean one thing – positive growth for the local IT economy.