Imagine having in the middle of Uyo a brilliant location dedicated towards innovation, technology and startups. It exists, but it's being used as a library. It should become an incubator.
That’s all I could think about as I walked through the Ibom e-Library. I honestly have not seen a place that would be better suited for startups. It is made up of multiple floors, wide and airy, with different configurations everywhere.
There are the single desks, where I imagine the solo developer would work. There are small offices, where teams of 3 could work from in private.
There are multiple conference rooms. There is even an auditorium for events.
Godswill Akpabio built the e-library as a way to replace books with electronic reading. Right now, the project works, but it’s not patronized by a lot of people. I believe that converting it into a home for pure technology and software startups would be the best thing to do right now.
Akwa Ibom State has always lived off oil money. The status of the state as the biggest recipient of the derivation fund means that the state, for very long, has been able to finance all it needs to do using oil. But this won’t last for long. Soon, there will be a need for diversification.
A great way to diversify and bring in foreign currency is through the export of software and other intellectual property. Software developers can be based in Akwa Ibom, and offer their skills globally. They get paid in dollars and bring that money into the state.
Technology startups offer their services over the internet. That means they can be anywhere in the world. Imagine having 20 of them sitting in the ibom e-library, and generating $10million every year. Very possible to do.
If the library is converted into a space for software developers and startups, within 5 years, Uyo would probably become the leading technology hub in the south of the country. The space could be used for training, all the way through to launching startups.
Right now, Hanson Johnson is probably the closest thing we have towards achieving some of that dream. His incubator, Start Innovation Hub, is located in a corner of the e-library, and they have been training developers and mentoring startups for several years now.
Imagine multiplying that by 1000. That is the kind of thing that state governments should be doing - things like that is what can really make a different for science and technology.
The e-library was a brilliant concept, but sometimes the people don’t want good things. If so, we can’t just let the place go to waste - one should try something new.
It’s my belief that converting Ibom e-library into the Ibom Innovation Center would be the right thing to do - and setting a target that in the next 5 years, 100 big technology startups come out of it, and 1000 brilliant software developers come out of it.
It would be a simple and cheap thing to do - and it can be 100% run by the private sector. There would be no need for the government to finance it at all - and it would still likely be one of the most impactful things that any government could do for the state.