A few weeks ago, I met a group of young men in their early twenties still pursuing their tertiary education. More than just being students, they are also young entrepreneurs who have taken it upon themselves to be problem solvers in their society. Their concern for the socio-economic challenges of Nigeria has prompted them to come up with a fresh and innovative idea to contribute their quota to national development efforts.
They have created a free mobile app, called E-Alert, that will mitigate the risk of insecurity.
By taking advantage of the now well-developed satellite and mobile networks available, these African innovators have designed a platform that aims at complementing the developing effort of communication and connecting average Africans, first with each other and then to the systems and infrastructure they have been previously unable to reach—most importantly, connecting them in a timely fashion. In simple terms, E-Alert lets you send at just the push of a button from your smart phone, pre-written messages to a list of emergency contacts, with updates on your location.
This creation might be technology’s solution to the frightening rate of criminal activity, such as robbery and sexual harassment. It can also turn out to be a significant tool in our country’s war against kidnappers. In the first half of 2013 alone, Nigeria accounted for 26 percent of the world’s kidnap and ransom incidents. This innovation can be just what we need to combat such an ugly phenomenon, particularly because we still haven’t been able to develop a national emergency communication number.
I was thrilled when the creators of this app told me that 10 percent of Personal Internet Security Interface’s (PISI) profits will be reinvested in a scholarship fund of which beneficiaries will be selected from their user base. In addition, the firm intends to retain a predominantly Nigerian workforce.
At the end of my conversation with the young men, they left me in awe and indeed inspired by not just their desire to come up with such a brilliant and creative solution to our nation’s challenges, but also their decision to give back to society through their scholarship scheme. As a leader, how could I then say no to an opportunity to promote a public cause by being an Ambassador of their project?
I have always been a strong advocate of providing the type of education that will motivate and induce our graduates to not only become accomplished employees, but also brilliant entrepreneurs. Given the alarming rate of youth unemployment in our nation today, it is of great importance that we direct efforts to ensure that our educational institutions are able to train and produce individuals who will not only become job seekers, but also job creators. This is why at the American University of Nigeria in Yola, we have made entrepreneurship training compulsory for every student.
These eloquent and confident young entrepreneurs have identified an African problem: insecurity. Next has been identifying what is common across the region: a proliferation and understanding of smart-phone technology. Their creativity has been in using what is commonly available to solve a widespread problem, by simply facilitating communication. Like many upcoming efforts in African problem solving, E-Alert has opted for the early integration of a sustainable solution: The African Solution.