OAU Courts Private Sector Engagement on World Bank $8m ICT Park Fund

L-R: Chairman NITDA Board, Mr. Adeola Akande,Pro-Chancellor, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, Vice Chancellor, Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede

The Obafemi Awolowo University, (OAU)Ile-Ife, South West Nigeria has flagged-off intensive private-public sector engagement on the utilisation of the World Bank $8 million, which it recently secured for the development of the Africa Centre of Excellence (ACE), an OAU ICT driven knowledge park.
OAU at a one day academia-industry engagement/interface in Lagos, South West Nigeria, engaged ICT companies, top ICT professionals, ICT industry group in Nigeria, CEOs of ICT companies in Nigeria as well as ICT professionals in the public service seeking for a symbiotic relationship that would make the Centre the hub of ICT in Africa.
At the engagement/interactive session, top officials of the University led by the Pro-Chancellor, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, Vice Chancellor, Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic, Prof. Adebayo Simeon Bamire, Deputy Vice Chancellor Admin, Prof. Chris Olugbenga Ajila and the Co-Centre Leader, Prof. G. Aderounmu said they were in Lagos to increase the number of technical partners of the OAU Park from the present two partners, which are Chams Plc and Sidmach Technology to as many as would accept the work with team of the OAU Park.
At a press conference shortly after the opening ceremony, the thrio of Ogunbiyi, Ogunbodede and Aderounmu explained to technology writers in details the essence of the engagement and how it secured the fund, describing the $8 million support for the ICT Park development fund as well deserved by OAU.
According to the Pro-Chancellor, Prof. Ogunbiyi, the funding support came through rigorous competitive bidding involving 59 universities across Africa out which 30 emerged and from the 30, 10 came from Nigeria with OAU picked for ICT slot.
He noted the ICT OAU Park will put an end to the present cry in the Nigeria that graduates are inadequately prepared for the labour market noting that although some students are already enjoying the benefits of the project, he is promised that the OAU management would get more students into the projects,
Ogunbiyi disclosed that the landmass of the OAU ICT Park, which is well over 11,000 acres of land, is large enough to accommodate buildings of every company that wants to open an office at the Park saying that OAU is willing to host any company at the Park.

Earlier in his welcome address, described the funding from the World Bank as a veritable social capital that would transform Nigeria and a launchpad for start-ups in the country.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ogunbodede stated that the academia-industry engagement/interface was the first of its kind in the academia noting that the ICT OAU Park would indeed make the school more relevant in the development of the ICT industry in Nigeria.
He said that also OAU has all the facilities to bring all stakeholders together assuring that the Centre the support of the World Bank and the role it is playing has the full support of the National Universities Commission, (NUC) and that it impressed about the stride of the OAU concerning ICT development in the country.
He said that with the degree of work at the OAU ICT Park, he is optimistic that it would soon begin to serve the need of other West African universities adding that the University is excited part of the Federal Government Campus electricity project.
He explained that without a stable electricity nothing can be done noting that with the 8.0 megawatts of electricity supply on the campus, the problem electricity power is solved.
The Vice Chancellor earlier in his welcome address assured the World Bank that the Park will produce graduate of high quality that will be able to stand on their own and that OAU craves joint research partnership from the private sector.
He revealed that there are already 150 post graduate students in the Park that needs research assistance and that through the academia-industry partnership the result of the research can commercialise noting that funding is needed in the area of software and hardware.
He said that the Park management is also courting the help of the private sector for inputs on curriculum that meets industry demands and standard and that their input will also be needed in areas of short-term courses and programmes that are specific to industry needs.
While calling for investors for products developed by the students of the Park, he said that OAU has every facility in place at the Park to produce products that meets industry standard.
The Co-Centre Leader of the OAU ICT Park, Prof. G. Aderounmu in his review of the project said that Sidmach Technologies and Chams Plc are the only companies currently involved in the partnership with the OAU saying that there is the need to bring in more companies.

According to him, some students of OAU from the Park are currently under-going their industry training at partner companies of the OAU ICT Park adding that the Park is as a research centre has generated several works from the students.
He said that the Park will provide the launch pad for the start-up companies born out university research activities, and collaboration with partnering ICT companies, who will have the competitive advantage of proximity and direct access to the intellectual infrastructure and output of the university.
Aderounmu, who is also the President of the Nigerian Computer Society, disclosed that the Park was designed to ensure systematic incubation of research ideas and products from OAU and other partner such that the creative/innovative energy of the youths in Nigeria and the sub-region is harnessed into ICT entrepreneurial endeavours using skill-enhancing training and mentoring.
Isaiah Erhiawarien, Nigeria

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