Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tekedia Interview

Interview on Tekedia.. Good read and great work on innovation in Africa by Dr. Nd. Ekekwe
Take link here

She is a graduate of the prestigious Singularity University (SU), California, USA; a former Shell engineer; a Technology Evangelist and an emerging thinker – connecting technology patterns to human development.

Ms. Emem Asikpo Andrew knows many things about exponential technologies and how they would redesign the world we live. She has written about them in Tell Magazine and discussed them in conferences and workshops. With a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria, and recently a Teaching Fellow in Singularity University, she has got many perspectives to share.
Tekedia is proud to present Ms. Emem Asikpo Andrew – Class Speaker in 2010 SU graduation ceremony – in our Women of Technology Series.


Tell us your name and what you do or your passion

My name is Ms. Emem Asikpo Andrew. I am passionate about people. I believe that in every human being we have a reflection of God and that every life should be nurtured to achieve its greatest potential. I am passionate about human rights, ending poverty and disease and achieving true gender equality in all spheres of human endeavor.

Nigeria plans to become the 20th economy (in GDP) in the year 2020 under the Vision 2020 program. The federal government has started very bold initiatives. We want your comments on how our government can realize this objective

A plan to become the 20th largest economy by 2020 is a good plan and it is achievable. My concern however is our history of achievements. Historically we have been very poor in delivering on promises. We have had lofty plans for different decades but we have lacked the will and/or capacity to see them through. For me a key initiative that could fast track our economy would be power generation. Let’s move away from centralized power generation to a system where we could have smaller companies providing power to different people. Turn today’s NEPA or PHCN to today’s NITEL. Allow investors to handle power supply from end to end. Produce, distribute and sell power. The government has been lousy at it for 50 years. They won’t get any better in the next 10. We are 150 million strong and we produce barely 10% of the electricity we need. Energy drives the economy, human energy is one thing but the 20 top economies do not depend on human energy alone. They depend on electricity also. Just fixing this or creating an environment where this can be fixed would create more opportunities, innovation and wealth for the country.

Our tertiary educational system has been criticized by many that it has lost its past glory. Yet, the number of Nigerian graduates starting companies and leading big global organizations continues to increase. How do we reconcile this?

As much as I applaud the achievements of Nigerians, I must caution that we should not be carried away by the success of a few. The average Nigerian is resilient and hard working. In every society there exists at least 1% of the population that is very entrepreneurial compared to the rest of the population. If we should use this statistics, then we have 1.5 million Nigerians who have the risk taking ability to be entrepreneurial and these folks are excelling. If we are to look at the numbers again do we have 1.5 million Nigerians starting businesses and leading global organizations? No. How many businessmen are millionaires in world recognized currencies? Maybe just in the region of one or two hundred. We have just two billionaires on the Forbes list I believe. So statistically, we are not doing as well as we should be doing. This is sheer waste of enormous human capacity. With 150 Million people our economy should be booming with services for these people. We are mired down by declining education standards, therefore we cannot compete favorably in the global economy which is driven today by technology and science which all require high standards of education and conducive environments for innovation. Educating the nation for the challenges of the future is a priority. It is indicative that major oil companies for example, formally train Nigerian graduates in basic sciences for at least a year before granting them entry level employment and we all know that most of these companies recruit some of our most highly intelligent and most competitive graduates. This is very instructive and should be a wakeup call for us all to improve the education system.

While researching this interview, we noted that you attended Singularity University. Please share with us the experience and what life has become after it

Life is a journey and it took me through Singularity University (SU). My experience at SU is one that left me with mixed feeling. Feelings of hope and fear for our people. I got to learn about technology and the exponential trends in the field of computing and the drive by scientists to turn everything into data, even biology. And then the quest to make everything smaller – nanotechnology. These two areas in addition to 7 other fields I was trained in made the most impact on me....

Monday, April 4, 2011

The popular nursery rhyme reverberates…

“Some like it hot

Some like it cold

Some like it in the pot nine days old”.

In Nigeria we just like to own it. We have to own our borehole and pumping machine to be able to have running water. We have to own our own security outfit to provide security. We own our own neighborhood development to take care of the trash and road. And to generate power, we own our own diesel, petrol or kerosene generators. If we can’t afford either, we go to the bush and harvest wood to burn our own fires. That is the psyche of our people. The telecommunications revolution tapped into this and we grew from 250,000 lines to over 45 million active cell phones within a decade. A cell phone is something we can own. Something we call our own. No one can contest this ownership with us. It is part of us. It is part of our identity.

To solve the electricity problem, we have to carter to this need to own. Historically, heavily centralized services have not worked for Nigeria. From the government to telecommunications to water supply. What has proved effective and efficient is local service; a strategically placed water borehole serving a few streets in the city, a telecommunications mast serving all cell phones in a small area, a personal power generator providing power for a home or a small block of apartment buildings. These are the infrastructure we are used to. These are what we know works. These small, efficient machines or installations that we can see, touch and understand are the things we trust will work for us. We do not trust central infrastructure – you only need to drive down Benin –Ore road to realize the wisdom of staying local. And the average Nigerian learns to live with it and not trust that it would change.

This lack of trust is not necessarily a bad thing. Luckily, technology is making ownership of personal generators a lot cheaper and smarter. The burden of not having good infrastructure in Nigeria can be turned to an advantage in today’s world. We would totally leapfrog the infrastructure deficit of the past and move to a future where everything we could ever need would fit into our pockets just like the cell phone. For power generation, we cannot exactly carry a fire in our pocket – if you discount the flashlights on cell phones that is – but we can put that generator on the roofs of our homes.

Increasingly, cost of solar photovoltaic cells (PV) has been reducing exponentially. It is calculated that the cost of PV reduces by 7 percent every year. From $13/watt in 1980, it is $1.67/watt today and will be about $0.5/watt in 2030. (see graph). What this means for us in Nigeria is instead of using I pass my neighbor petrol generator, a solar generator could serve the same purpose, generate 500 watt of power at a cost of N5, 000 per year, by 2030 this cost will reduce to N1,500/yr in today’s naira. This however does not include the cost of inverter (if we could use only direct current devices, there will be no need for an inverter) and batteries for power storage to be used at night.

This is the great opportunity we could exploit today to assure every Nigerian access to clean affordable electricity supply. The adoption of wide scale roof top or floor mounted PV cells could open up entrepreneurship opportunities, jobs in solar PV manufacturing, scientific breakthroughs in research, new industries and products that are direct current (DC) based instead of alternating current (AC) based. It will grant us an opportunity to do something radically new and different and in this way enable us solve the electricity problem and create wealth while doing so.

* This article was originally published in Nigerian TELL Magazine Online

Friday, April 1, 2011

Vote: Imman Nyin Eke Vote

I see you the weeping mother
of children abducted, brutalised and murdered
anguished and hopeless for life wasted
mumbling and lamenting in your helplessness

I see you the young man
struggling for years to find a job
to make ends meet, to start your family
to prove your mettle, to be a man

I see you the youth
opening your eyes to reality
of the cruelty of the world
and wondering if there is any point in trying so hard

Ntoeka mukit ke enyin esit me
for I am you and you are me
your pain is mine and your injury hurts me
Idara aya di ke usiere

We have a voice and let no one tell us any different
Our vote is our voice and we will use it
walk past the army tanks, circumvent the police road blocks
cover your heads against the rain and go to the polls

They seek to divide us with age old hatred
how can they turn me against the breasts of my annang wife
how can anyone seperate me from the strong bosom of my Ibibio man?
It is not about my tribe, it is about those who use their power to silence me.

But I have a voice and I will speak
I will go to the polls and speak the voice of God.
I will vote my conscience and make sure my vote counts
I have found my voice and I will never again be silenced

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

IBM - The New Next Five in Five - United States

IBM - The New Next Five in Five - United States

IBM predicts that in the next 5 years - 2015 we will be able to chat in 3D, batteries will be 10 times more effective and in some cases totally eliminated. Devices would power themselves. Computers would help to energize cities.

So far their past predictions have panned out; in 2006 they predicted that by 2011 our mobile phones will start reading our minds. Thats happening now with the smartphones. We do live in interesting times.