The surge in technological revolution across the globe has its base on human capital development. It results from uncommon commitment to quality education and skills development among few nations, which has elevated modern society to a higher stage of creative ability. This is the case with Anambra State where five students of the Regina Pacis Model Secondary School, Onitsha, received gold medal at the recent World Technovation Challenge held in Silicon Valley, in the United States.
The Nigerian contingent comprising Promise Nnalue, Jessica Osita, Nwabuaku Ossai, Adaeze Onuigbo and Vivian Okoye was led by their instructur, Mrs. Uchenna Onwuamaegbu-Ugwu. The team knocked off contestants from the USA, China, Spain, Uzbekistan and Turkey – considered miles ahead in technological development. Our girls emerged tops for developing a mobile application called FD Detector to tackle the lingering problems of circulation of fake pharmaceutical products in Nigeria, suggesting they understand their environment and its challenges.
It is noteworthy that the victory was secured amid global condemnation of many Nigerian girls engaging in human trafficking and prostitution in some parts of North Africa and Europe. The team has changed the narrative and has proved that Nigeria is not all about negative news. Also remarkable is that the feat was achieved in a contest that involved participants from technologically advanced environments. Called Team Save-A-Soul, the group explained the reason for the problem they chose to solve: “Leveraging technology to save lives is our utmost priority; that is why we have decided to maximize this opportunity to solve the incessant rate of death caused by fake drug.” Coming from the part of the world notorious for the circulation of fake, expired and sub-standard drugs, with attendant damage to lives and health of innocent citizens, the team could not have made a better choice.
“These young ladies in Junior Secondary School developed a mobile application called FD Detector to tackle the problems of fake pharmaceutical products in Nigeria. Congratulations! We are very proud of you,” then Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo said in a Twitter post. Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, who personally sent the girls off to the US at a brief ceremony during the weekly executive council meeting where he charged them to put Nigeria and Africa on the global technological map with their rare talent, said: “the girls deserve some accolade.” In a competition that featured over 2,000 entry-apps, the win at the Technovation contest could not have come easy.
Technovation is an ICT development initiative aimed to offer girls around the world the opportunity to learn the programming skills required to make them tech-entrepreneurs and leaders. The 2018 World Pitch Summit held at San Francisco, was the final ‘pitch’ of the programme. It followed more than seven months of hard work, innovation, and problem-solving tasks by more than 19,000 girls in 115 countries supported by over 5,000 mentors. The programme is designed to be empirical-based and problem-solving specific. Every year, Technovation invites girls from across the globe to identify problems in their communities which they are challenged to find solutions to by developing Android applications that would practically address those problems.
In the course of the programme, participants are exposed to problem-solving challenges involving field trips meant to give them the benefit of participating in life-changing workshops and engaging in a networking session. With such extensive exposure culminating in a problem-solving outcome, the government should spearhead the deployment of the Team Save-A-Soul towards technological advancement in Nigeria, beginning with Anambra State.
The world is watching and we cannot afford to have the story of the girls’ exploits shared in the past tense without evidence of concrete application of the result. The project should be integrated with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, to perfect the process for statutory patency. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, should also be involved.
That way, Nigeria’s major trading partners especially China and other Asian countries, will be put on notice concerning exporting fake, expired and substandard products which government has combatted over the years with little success. It is estimated that Nigeria loses over N50 billion annually through importations of fake, expired and substandard products.
It also contributes to high entrepreneurial mortality across various sectors, especially among the small and medium enterprises, SMEs. Anambra State Government should be involved in this project to ensure proper handling of the process. A project plan should be developed by the appropriate MDA(ministry, department or agency) towards deployment of the FD Detector towards its objective of combating the spread of fake, expired and substandard pharmaceutical products. Associations of pharmacists and related traders as well as environmental experts should be involved.