By Amarachi Okpunobi
I thought I knew how to speak Igbo till I spent some time with Igbo Wikimedians at ASATU Hall, Government House Awka from 29 -31 October, 2018, where young minds were being trained to help build Igbo Wikitionary. The training was organised by the Digipreneur Hub of Anambra State who are championing the youths into becoming digitally versatile.
I was also opportune to meet with the brain behind the course, Ifeanyi Aniagor. He, indeed is a young vibrant youth with a million dreams for his fellow youths and Anambra State in general. We chatted and below are the extracts of my interview with him. Hope you get inspired.
For the intent of this interview, kindly introduce yourself.
I am Ifeanyi Aniagor, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor of Anambra State, His Excellency Chief Willie Obiano on Youth Development and Digital Entrepreneurship. A native of Abagana, Njikoka L.G.A, Anambra State.
Ok, you kick started Digipreneur, what does it entail?
Well, with the creation of the office of the Senior Special Assistant on Youth Development and Digital Entrepreneurship, we founded what we call Digipreneur Hub. So, Digipreneur Hub is more like the office of the SSA on Digital Entrepreneurship which is where we undertake so many programmes aimed at achieving four Basic things; exposing our people to the entrepreneurial opportunities in the cyberspace so that they can key into it, because it is a fact that the world is going digital globally and we have enough opportunity in the internet and the cyberspace that can actually curb the unemployment that we have.
The second thing is helping to digitize what we already have, our investment. At DigipreneurHub, we help to digitize them and bring new innovations that will help to improve their efficiency which in the long run improve productivity.
The third thing that we do is that we try to partner with organizations that are either doing well or that supply resource persons just like what we are doing today. We’ve done partnership with Facebook, they came to Anambra to train 300 women. We’ve also done partnership with Google and we still have ongoing partnership with them. What is happening today is partnership with Igbo Wikipedians.
And the fourth thing we do here is to create a platform which we’re about to launch. A platform that will provide the virtual office and hub for all the digital skill set. When I say digital skills set, I mean anybody that has anything to do with digital skills. Just like going to Eke Awka, everything you need for food stuff is found there. So we want to create a platform that with your phone you just go there. If you need a web designer, a photographer, anything you need that has to do with digital skills, you just type it there and you will see a whole lot of young persons that are there that can help you to do that.
Even right now, the little we are doing, people are calling and asking for a lot of things to be done for them. And we do it at an affordable rate but with a very high quality output.
These are made possible because of the Governor’s vision to create a generation of young people that could take challenge globally in the digital world. If the government did not create the ministry of Youth Empowerment and Creative Economy, there won’t be space for digital entrepreneurship and people like us won’t come in to help get this done.
We have started our three days training on Wikipedia and Wiktionary. Wiktionary is like dictionary online by Wikipedia. We are expected to train hundred persons in Anambra, 30 persons the first day, 30 the second day and 40 the third day. Before now, people shy away from Igbo Language, there are a lot of programme that say su wa kwa Igbo. Now, we are making people understand that with Igbo language they can change their lives and become wealth creators. If people in the city and villages come to understand that with Igbo language they can actually do anything online, and at the same time become content developers and can be paid. They can get grants to do so many things. Why won’t they want to do it? Why won’t we set up a programmes to do it? Why are we all
learning how to speak and write English? That is because we all know that there is value added to it. So directly or indirectly, we are digitizing the idea of encouraging people to speak Igbo language.
When did you start Digipreneur and how many people would you say you
Well, I got my appointment in April and I kick-started the Digipreneur campaign in May. So we are barely four months old.
We have a lot of testimonies and more are still coming in. We have
people whom we have trained and they are doing well where they are.
They are trained to use their skills to create more jobs. So talking about
people we have reached, it is way beyond10,000. So its 2,700 directly
and about 10,000indirectly.
What is the aim of the programme
As far as I am concerned, this is the easiest way to take youths off the streets. Digital entrepreneurship is so encompassing that those who do not go to school at all can be part of it. School dropouts can be part of it and even graduates can be part of it. Even those who are working can still be part of it. Because the space is so big enough that all birds can fly. All you need is your ingenuity and ability to think like an entrepreneur and your ability to access your digital skill. Almost every young person, even the elderly person are using IED, Internet Enabled Devices, Android, iPhone or any other one. The key thing is that instead of the youths looking up to government to give them money, they can start contributing to the economy of the state. That is our mission.
Who are your sponsors?
The government is the first because the government created the office. The training going on now is sponsored by Igbo Wikimedians.What my office is doing is to create the venue, do the necessary assessment to get people who are interested and provide the equipment they are using. But in times of cost curriculum and the content, Wikipedia is doing that. So it’s a partnership between the Igbo Wikimedians and the Digiprenuer hub. So the sponsorship is a dual way, myself through my office with the government and the Igbo Wikimedians.
What are your Challenges?
When you are bringing a new thing, challenges are always there. Like ndi Igbo would say ‘mbido akwa na afia ahu’. Sometimes if you are bringing in this programmes, it looks as if you are wasting your time. You are putting a lot of money into it and people tend not to appreciate it but when the testimonies start coming people will start being happy about it. The key challenge is that it’s not easy for people to understand what you are talking about because it’s quite different from what people are used to. Aside that, it’s being interesting, it’s being nice.
But of course, projects like this, funding is a major challenge. But I think with time everything will betaken care of.
What would you say is your dream for Anambra State?
With respect to what we are doing, I am looking at having an Anambra State that will be a hub for entrepreneur activities which is what we have always been. But the only thing is that everybody is running away from the State. Go to any State in Nigeria and you will see NdiAnambra as part of the people that develop the State. The only thing we have not gotten in Anambra is the idea of doing it at home.
Instead of having our young people that will travel to London, travel to US and other places to go there to do these things, we try to do it here. Instead of having people here going to Abuja. Lagos or any other place to do IT (Information Technology) related things, they will do it here. And that is why we created the Hub. People who have come here for us to do something for them, either web development or correlated, find out that what we can do is even better than what they get in Lagos.
Any few words to those young ones out there
I have always told people to embrace PAVE and forget FAD, Frustration, Aggression and Depression. PAVE simply means Patriotism, Advocacy, Volunteer and Empowerment. For goodness sake, if you don’t like your state, if you are among the young persons that can proudly go on the internet to abuse your State, your leader or your elders, you are one of the lost persons. You should know that nobody anywhere no matter how fine their place is, has the right to insult your own leader. You need to defend your leader no matter how bad it is. Monkey no fine, but e mama like am.
The second thing you will embrace is Advocacy. If the government is not doing well, you should be ready to criticize her very constructively. You notice that a lot of young people in our country are good at saying the bad things the government is doing. They should think about saying the good things the government is doing too.
Thirdly, if you see where things are not going on well, don’t just argue or criticize and make noise about it. Are you ready to volunteer to fix it? And that’s what we are doing.
All my team members here are all volunteers. They are not being paid. They are doing this and learning the skills. Some of them are now doing better businesses than myself.
The last one is empowerment, you must be empowered. We’re a living evidence because my team members that have volunteered today are not jobless.
So young people should this shun the idea of blaming their parents, their society or their leaders and start getting busy.
When will the next Digipreneur training hold?
This one is ending on Wednesday. So by next month we are expected that we are going to have our monthly mentoring programme of which we get a successful entrepreneur that will mentor about 1000 persons. We are still working towards who is going to be our mentor of the month.
Who do you wish to appreciate for all this so far?
First are my team members, they are all volunteers. Without them, we won’t be getting these things done. Then the prime appreciation goes to the Governor of the State, Chief Willie Obiano, who created the office. For the first time we had that office, Digital entrepreneurship in the whole country. Then the Commissioner for youth Empowerment and Creative Economy, Hon. Bonaventure Enemali, who is the youngest commissioner we have in Nigeria today. If not for the way he is carrying the ministry, these things won’t be happening. And then our key sponsors, Stanel sponsors all our programmes. We also receive help Anambra Broadcasting Service, ABS, that is Igboamaka TV and a host of others that are helping us to do this. And another one that is coming up is Digitours. Digitours is also a product of Digipreneur Hub but they are also now becoming so big that they have become part of the sponsors.
Ok we wrap it up here, thanks so much for your time. It was nice listening to you speak
Thanks so much too.