It has been a year since Chijioke Ezegbo emerged as Winner of the ‘Most Innovative Idea’ category at the 2015 edition of Etisalat Prize for Innovation. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI,he speaks on the impact of his victory and lessons learnt.
Since you won the Etisalat Prize for Innovation, how far has the prize taken you towards realising the idea’s objectives?
I see the whole experience of winning the Prize for Innovation as an opportunity, a platform to do what I want to do, to create value in the eco system. I also see it as an opportunity to go out and try to do things that I want to do and partnering with Etisalat is a once in a life time opportunity.
Since you won the prize, what work of innovation are you currently engaged in?
I won the prize for innovation with my idea Dedicated Traffic Mapping Device (DTMD). The device helps to mark traffic to help users navigate the road and to avoid traffic in Lagos state. I won the prize for the device, but now I am working on an app to see if I can get other investment to go into the app production.
What do you see as the place of innovation in the current development of Nigeria?
I see innovation as creating value in a different way using available resources. I think innovation can spur the people to understand how to use available resources to solve problems that are within their immediate environment. I believe that innovation can create changes in our society.
What can government do to drive innovation seeing that it can serve as a change catalyst?
The underlying element to innovation is creativity and without exposure that can’t happen. We need to make our education system more interactive, broader and to expand our digital horizon to create exposure. With more exposure we can be more creative.
Where do you see venture capitalists helping people like you to spur innovation in the country, since we have a lot of it happening outside the country?
Our eco system in Nigeria is still young and the venture capitalist feels that it is risky to get into such an economy. And so as innovative people, we need to create products that can go to the market fast to get revenue fast because without trust from customers, investors can’t trust your product or service. It’s on the entrepreneur to create that perception for the investors.
Considering the fact that there were more significant technological innovations in the past 10 years, what do you think will be the innovation of the next decade?
I think it is in the area of education, because you see how online resources are coming up every day, which is the work of content creation.
What do you think about Etisalat as an innovative company, considering the fact that they came up with the Prize for Innovation?
I had read a bit about Etisalat, in the UAE and how they run innovative programs in countries where they are situated. Innovation is at the core of the company as they believe without innovation they cannot win. Because in delivering their services they have been able to provide innovative options for users. So innovation is in their DNA and I think they have a long term plan to keep supporting innovation.
With the Prize for Innovation, what do you think will be the impact on Nigerians and young innovators?
I have followed with keen interest the Etisalat Prize for Innovation since 2012 up on till the time I won it now. I think it will create interest, and spur people to try to do something by creating products. Like we have seen in the last five years, people are moving into the tech sphere trying to create products , innovative solutions. So I think it will spur interest in people to solving problems and lead to the provision of innovative solution services.
As someone who has won this prize, is it something you will want to encourage younger innovators to come on board and try their hands on?
It’s a platform and you can’t discourage people from coming for the prize. But looking at the people behind the prize and the elements or side attractions that makes it up, you will see that it is a top prize and a credible prize as well. I will encourage people, young innovators especially those who are involved in the creation of tech products and services to apply for it.
Since winning the Etisalat Prize for Innovation and receiving the prize money, how has it helped to achieve your dreams?
I have been able to explore some few ideas, to create things I wanted to do and to learn some skills I needed. Currently I am working on something which I need to get out in the market. I have been doing some market surveys. I have my data on what needs to be done but I want to create an app first, then keep on adding items and things that will make its functionality really good after which I will go into device production. It’s still being worked on and through Etisalat promotion services promoted to a few users to test it.
Has any company or organisation approached you or made you an offer since you won this Prize for Innovation?
Most times people don’t invest in ideas, they want you to create something first that has value, and if they see it is good then they invest in it. So it’s just for me to create something that has value and see if it will attract investors.