Lagos state Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), yesterday had a meeting with Executive Chairman of Google Inc., Eric Schmidt to discuss the deepening of the state’s role as the hub of the multinational internet corporation’s initiatives in Nigeria.
The meeting which held at the State House, Marina had several government officials and members of the Google team in attendance.
The Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Dr Obafemi Hamzat was in attendance alongside his Science and Technology counterpart, Mr Adebiyi Mabadeje. The Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mrs Olushola Oworu, Director, Google Idea, Mr Jared Cohen, Country Manager Google Nigeria, Juliet Ehimuan, Deputy Chief of Staff, Governor’s Office, Ms Moji Rhodes and member, Lagos Innovation Advisory Council, Mr Tomi Davies were all present at the meeting where it was revealed that Lagos is the hub of Google Inc.’s initiatives in the country
Governor Fashola, while playing host to the team of Google Inc. led by its Executive Chairman, Mr. Eric Schmidt, stated that in spite of the huge investment his administration has made in infrastructure development to meet the needs of the increasing population, it was clear to his team that the future of the State’s economy lay in the development of Information Technology.
According to the Governor, who had earlier asked some members of the State Government’s team to speak on the activities of their Ministries as it relates to information technology, “while we were bringing in economic relief, opening up opportunities, attracting investment, what would be the future on which the economy of our State would be built was clear to us and that is Information Technology.”
Noting that the establishment of an Innovative Council in the State was to explore ways the State could benefit from Information Technology, Governor Fashola said his administration has been working ahead to establish infrastructure for Information Technology in the State.
Governor Fashola, who said that his administration has also taken the IT campaign to the State’s schools, declared, “This is the language our children find easier to communicate with themselves. So, it is no longer about us, it is about them. I do believe we will drive them through.”
He added, however, that the building of infrastructure as well as enlightenment on IT which his administration was engaged in meanwhile were “for the medium and long term” adding, Infrastructure is only the starting point to enable people get in”.
On areas of partnership with the company, Governor Fashola, who listed the State’s University, Ojo and the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), among others, said he would like the focus of the partnership to be on access and the opportunities that the University could get from Google.
He said his administration would also like the company to focus on what to do with the small businesses that already exist “in terms of making them accessible to the current capacity that exists so that people can interlink themselves and thus building a wider pool of businesses”.
According to the Governor, “The reason this is important, especially at the artisanal level, is that we have 17 Skills Development centres training young people in all sorts of basic skills – shoemaking, hat-making, pottery, dress making, plumbing, photography and all that – and the basic course all of them must take, in addition to whatever course they choose to do, is Computer Appreciation Course that teaches them how to keep their accounts and how to use software to propel and develop their market”.
“So there is already a market. We have trained about 29, 000 people who would readily grab the market with both hands to leverage faster internet access much more”, the Governor said adding, “So, all that is sitting and waiting to explode in a manner of speaking”.
Katangowa- A major IT Hub
Governor Fashola also drew the attention of the company to the plans of his administration to make Katangowa, a blighted suburb of the State, “a major IT hub”, saying it would enable the State Government locate the IT appliances, tools and others as well as the market in a residential area.
“For us, it can become a major IT hub. It is a few kilometres away from the State University. We are thinking of an IT warehouse and just taking everybody to the place”, the Governor said adding, “I think what we have decided a few weeks ago is that Government will take the lead and that we are going to put buildings, shops and warehouses there and hope that people will follow us”.
The Governor, however, said power was the only limiting factor at the moment adding that if there were adequate and uninterrupted Power, “everybody will find his point of entry”.
Governor Fashola said the company could not have come at a more opportune time adding, “That is why we are out here on a Sunday because for us wherever opportunities come, we seize it with whatever we have not just with both hands”.
Country Manager, Google Nigeria, Juliet Ehimuan, in her brief opening remarks, said Google has been in Nigeria for about three years and that the work the company has been doing has been helping to build online ecosystem, noting that Nigeria is a vibrant market with lots of opportunities.
In his remarks, earlier, Chairman of Google Inc, Mr. Eric Schmidt, said the company believes there is a huge growth in Nigeria giving Brazil as an example where, according to him, “We started with a smaller size group and we grew incredibly quickly to the point that we have 1,000 people”.