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Broadband Revolution: How MainOne challenges innovative youths

By Prince Osuagwu
A certain tall building at the centre of  Herbert Macauley road, Yaba Lagos, does not have any meaningful difference from other buildings around the area, until one gets inside. It doesn’t even have the aesthetic features of modern buildings dotting the Lagos metropolis, but the topmost floor of the building holds the future for the country and to some extent the entire world.

That is where a special innovation centre called Co-Creation Hub, is located. First time visitor to this centre, would initially get confused, whether it is a club, business centre, or a Cybercafe. The confusion gets deeper with the unusual quietness and cluster of youths who arrange themselves in groups around a laptop or two.

Surprisingly the three young men who pioneer the centre, Femi Longe, Bosun Tijani and Tunji Eleso would tell you the centre is all of the above with a difference. It’s a club for bright and innovative young Nigerians who share the same vision of making Nigeria, Africa and the world a better place. Youths who thoughts and  ideologies could set the journey to achieving that, going.

Its also a business centre because different youths with hot business ideas gather at the place to brush them up with the help of one another.

Incidentally, the centre requires computers and a lot of bandwidth to get going, which is what gives it a look of a Cybercafe. It is this aspect of the business that got it hooked up with MainOne Cable company.

Hook up with MainOne

When Main One Cable, in July, 2010,  commenced broadband operations in Nigeria and Ghana following successful completion of its multimillion dollar undersea fibre cables from Portugal, it promised to stoke a broadband revolution. Perhaps with this promise at the back of its mind, it set out a certain tranche of its broadband space to challenge innovative youths and fire up the zeal to build a new Nigeria with creative ideas.

No wonder, when founders of Co-Creation Hub approached it to back up their idea of creating a new Nigeria of possibilities, it was easy for the company to dole out bandwidth space worth $80, 000 a year, for free.

According to Longe, “what we do is purely innovation. We tap into peoples knowledge. We got registered in October last year and in January this year we advertised for people who think they have great ideas on how to change the society.

People with different expertise came and together we created prototypes of what those ideas are going to be. Within that process, we had a group of people that created a system on how to send health information across to the people on their phones.

It was made in a way that at the click of the button, government can get the information on the system also along that line, government can send information on what people should do first before going to the hospital. Main However, what we do also involves a lot of bandwidth and the moment we approached MainOne , it was as if they were waiting for us.

They gave us internet access for a year, which otherwise would cost us N80,000. I think this was because they understand the value that is going to come out of this initiative both for Nigeria and the business society in general.

Challenge to youths

For Longe, “there are a lot of companies like MainOne which are ready to support bright ideas, the only challenge is for the youths to be focused and think out of the box.

“In our case, we toyed with the idea of Co-Creation Hub for some years. We have been looking at it, trying to understand what can motivate people to come together to solve a common problem. We conducted different studies from the West on what motivates people there to see every challenge in their society as an opportunity to create a new knowledge. There are a lot of other ideas youths can think of and a lot of organisations that can help are also there.

“If the Main One  is the life line of our business, in the same way, it can also be the life line of other businesses in Nigeria.

However, government should find a way to support the deployment of this cable to every part of the country.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of Main One Cable Company, Ms Funke Opeke, has reiterated the need for government to create a national broadband policy which she said will establish the strategic framework for the industry operators and stakeholders.

According to her, “with increasing demand for broadband accessibility by Nigerians, the time has come for the government and key players in the sector to articulate and develop a policy framework which regulates broadband service delivery and lays out a pragmatic roadmap on how we can get the capacity which is now available across the shoreline to the hinterlands”

She noted that his company has brought a big cable with a lot of capacity to the market which has seen a reduction in price points. “We have seen call rates drop, internet costs reduced while access to broadband and speed has increased. This is part of the impact we have created as we continue to develop the broadband market”

For her, this is the only way more youths will get busy with creative ideas in 2012.

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