Creating Founders in Bauchi, Nigeria

Kids creating robots during summer holiday training

It all started in May 2015 with the approval to establish a Google Developer Group (GDG) in Bauchi, by DevRel team of Google SSA. I was the Lead organizer and I invited Fidelis Okafor, Racheal Onoja, Olayemi Olaniran and Mallam Umar Saleh Gwani as organizers to strengthen the group.

We organized events, which included Google IO Extended, Android Study Jams, Cloud Next Extended, and so many others. During all of the events, we always have impressive turn outs. In fact, we had up to 200 participants on the first day of Android Study Jams.

We should be happy, after all we are making impact and sharing knowledge. No! We were not getting the desired result because after 2 years of hosting all these events, the experience level of members in the community has not improved and we were stuck with hosting beginner events every time.

I took a step back, and allowed Fidelis to take charge of GDG Bauchi, while I fleshed out plans to create a stronger foundation for members of the community with the help of Fidelis, Mustapha Ango and Calistus Amefo. Our planning took weeks and led to the creation and registration of non-profit organization, Uplift Technology Innovation & Empowerment Initiative (Uplift Nigeria) as an Incorporated trustee with Corporate Affairs Commission.

Why Uplift Nigeria

Our research revealed that the major obstacles to the growth of technology adoption and entrepreneurship in Bauchi and environs are:

  • Poor & Expensive access to the Internet, reliable access is expensive and cheap is very unreliable.
  • Inadequate knowledgeable mentors. Pride, ego and greed has filled the so-called professionals around, to the point they’ve gone out of date.
  • Conducive environment to learn, collaborate and create is virtually no where to be found.

January 2017 marked the inception of the Uplift Nigeria, with the main aim of creating founders and empowering the community by:

  • Promoting the learning of Computer Science among Youths, especially Girls and pupils in Primary & Secondary Schools
  • Providing access to resources that will enable learning of programming, design, DevOps, entrepreneurship and other valuable skills, especially in areas with poor or no Internet service
  • Creating founders through training, mentoring and support; who will, in turn, create solutions and jobs
  • Providing Hubs, where members of the community can access resources, collaborate and build solutions together.
  • Create solutions to problems facing our communities
The key objective is to provide an affordable, conducive and available access to knowledge, mentorship, resources and access. Our main deliverable is to create founders who will create the startups, that will in turn create jobs.

And how far we’ve gone

The organization created 2 related entities to achieve its objectives: UpliftHub and UpliftCommunity, which are both run by volunteers.

UpliftHub

Located inside The Federal Polytechnic Bauchi, the hub provides a conducive environment for learning and work with a capacity of more than 50 seated and up to 100 for events. A membership at 3000 Naira per month is required to fully take advantage of the hub.

Features of the hub includes:

  • Learning Track for members
  • Steady Power supply
  • Internet Service
  • WorkSpace
  • Demo Days
  • Viewing Parties with live streams for major tech events
  • Training, Seminars and Workshops
  • Mentor Sessions
  • Maker Space for IoT
  • Games, Movies Night and other funs events

UpliftCommunity

Everyone is invited to meetups and events organized to teach and empower the community. We currently host the following meetup groups:

  • Google Developer Group Bauchi
  • Women Tech Makers, Bauchi
  • Digital Ocean Bauchi
  • Facebook Developer Circles Bauchi
  • Python/Django Girls meetup Bauchi
  • Mandela Washington Fellowship (YALI Bauchi)

We also offer the hub FREE to any organization who wants to hold a FREE event with the sole objective of empowerment. See Pictures of some of our events & programmes below.

Digital Ocean Bauchi meetup
Kids Learning Fashion Design skills with Ango Mustapha of Mustee’s Clothing (musteesclothing.com)
Facebook Developer Circles Bauchi
Facebook Developer Circles Bauchi
Mandela Washington Fellowship Seminar
Mandela Washington Fellowship Seminar
Training Seminar by Ango Mustapha of Mustee’s Clothing
Digital Ocean Meetup (Linux Training Session)

Successes & Challenges

Nothing good comes easy, We’ve had our fair share of challenges, which mostly revolves around the following:

  • Providing reliable and fast Internet access: The only affordable and available Internet Service for business is MTN Hynet, which can be unreliable as MTN is yet to deploy LTE in Bauchi.
  • Power supply is never stable, we run almost every activity on generators.
  • Support and exposure within the immediate community. Sometimes, we don’t get participants to events or training except it is boldly stated that refreshments and swags or gifts will be shared. This also affects membership as most still don’t still value in paying N 3000 to learn skills to empower themselves.
  • Volunteering is the main source of manpower for the organization, its difficult to keep talents as they have to make ends meet.
  • Financing our activities has been largely through personal funds and other good wills. This stunts our growth and organizations/companies around don’t respond to request if their is any thing monetary involved.

We have a number successes:

  • Other organizations within the community/state are starting to recognize the impact the hub is making and its potentials. We are now getting request for partnerships and collaborations on trainings and events.
  • Students, Interns & NYSC Corps Members are now seeing the hub as a place of interest and a destination to acquire skills. We are welcoming them with open arms.
  • Sponsorship of events by Google, Digital Ocean and other meetups provide some support.

Our Plan for the nearest future

For the next 6 months, we have put together a plan to achieve the following:

  • Collaboration with companies/organizations for funding/grants and employment of talents
  • Collaboration with Accelerators and incubators for mentoring and selection of talents
  • Empower at least 10,000 members of our immediate community with digital skills
  • Train at least 100 members in different learning tracks and sponsor atleast 25 of them through Udacity’s nanodegree programmes.
  • Nurture at least 5 startups past MVP stages
  • Establish a IoT Garden to serve as a lab for students and developers to do carry out research and build solutions

Conclusion

Empowering a community is not for the faint hearted, it requires perseverance. Making lots of mistakes, learning from them and at the end of the day, achieving peace and prosperity in the community.

We are very grateful to the management of The Federal Polytechnic Bauchi (FPTB), our host. Mallam Idrissa Djibo (Director MIS/ICT, FPTB), Mrs Sosanya (HOD, Nutrition & Dietetics FPTB & Women in STEM), Mrs Ifeyinwa Madu (Chief Lecturer, Computer Science Department, FPTB) and Mallam Umar Saleh Gwani (CEO, Nextone technologies) have been instrumental in the successes of the organization.

We require your support, advice and mentorship in achieving our desired success, You can reach me at abuango@uplift.ng. Thank you for reading.