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2023 Hackathon: NCC rewards startups for innovative tech solutions, pledges support for commercialisable prototypes

Photo Collage of Awards Ceremony for Winners of 2023 Talent Hunt Research via Hackathon at NCC Head Office, in Abuja, FCT

*The Nigerian Communications Commission explains the Talent Hunt Research through Hackathon series are instrumental tools in sustaining innovation and mobilising the collective intelligence of technology innovators to tackle real-world issues, in business, and within the social fabric in the country

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says the telecoms sector regulatory Commission has continued to deploy hackathons as instrumental tools in sustaining innovation and mobilising the collective intelligence of indigenous innovators to tackle pressing real-world issues.

ConsumerConnect reports the NCC rewarded three indigenous technology startups with N10 million each for their innovative, remarkable solutions at the 2023 Talent Hunt Research via hackathon grand finale in Abuja, FCT.

Engr. Ubale Maska, Executive Commissioner Technical Services at NCC, noted this in his Keynote Speech at the event held at the Commission’s Corporate Head Office, in Abuja, said the hackathon presents a veritable platform where innovative ideas flourish, and aspirations transform into reality for our burgeoning startups.

Highlighting the strategic importance of the project to the Commission, Engr. Maska, stated that the occasion “aligns perfectly with one of the core objectives embedded within our new Strategic Vision Plan (SVP) for the years 2023-2025.

“Our primary aim is to foster the development of cutting-edge technologies through rigorous research, thereby catalysing sustainable economic growth and overall development within Nigeria.”

The Commission equally, emphasised that humans often witness the remarkable potential of Hackathons to showcase, fresh perspectives on existing challenges, especially in a world where innovation is now paramount.

The NCC said over the years, it had actively promoted hackathon competitions, each with a thematic focus aimed at addressing significant challenges within our industries and society as a whole.

The Executive Commissioner, Technical Services as well cited some relevant and noteworthy examples to include such hackathons that yielded innovative solutions for issues.

These, he stated, include tech solutions on kidnapping and banditry, e-waste management, and strategies to mitigate the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Nigeria.

Thematic areas in 2023 Hackathon competition

Maska stated in his Keynote Address: “This year’s event focuses on three pivotal thematic areas, those that not only pertain to our great nation but also resonate with global concerns.”

According to the telecoms sector regulator, the themes are: 1. Blockchain-enabled Data Protection Solutions for Enhancing Regulatory Compliance; 2. Assistive Technology Solutions for the Elderly and People with Disabilities; and 3. Technology Solutions for Renewable Energy in Rural Areas.

Maska equally announced that the Talent Hunt Research through Hackathon is only the beginning of the Commission’s “unwavering commitment to nurturing innovation and nascent ideas.

“The culmination of this competition is not confined to the grand prize  of N10 million awarded to each winner from these three thematic areas for the development of their solutions, but goes beyond this, as the Commission takes a holistic approach to support these promising innovations.”

How tech startups with innovative solutions emerge winners

The NCC disclosed there were 81 entries from which 12 were shortlisted to participate in the tech innovation contest.

According to the Commission, from the 12 shortlisted, three emerged as winners from three thematic focus bellows:

In the Blockchain Solution category, Know-Now Limited emerged winner with N10m prize

Whereas in the Renewable Energy Solutions category, Solaris GreenTech Hub, emerged the winner with N10m prize.

The telecoms sector regulator also said in the Assistive Technology Solutions category, Spex Care Limited emerged winner with N10 million prize.

However, the Commission noted that the remaining nine innovators from the 12 were given N500,000 consolation prize each with Certificate of Commendation for their participation in the annual contest hosted  by the Commission.

Chairman commends all stakeholders

In his remarks while announcing the winners in the 2023 Hackathon, Prof. Prof. Mohammed Hajiya, Chairman of Panel of Judges for the competition, applauded the Commission for promoting technology innovations.

The Chairman also commended the winners and other tech innovators, who participated, as encouraged them to contribute to leveraging their solutions to develop Nigerian economy.

Further support for startups on winning solutions cum prototypes

The Commission further  assured industry  stakeholders of continued support for startups to develop their winning solutions to full-fledged prototypes.

“We closely monitor the progress of these solutions as they evolve into full-fledged prototypes.

“The Hackathon will be preceded by an Incubation and Mentorship Programme, which will be designed to equip startups, innovators and tech entrepreneurs with the necessary skills to refine their ideas,” said Engr. Maska.

The Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, further explained this phase of the process encompasses critical aspects, such as determining product-market fit, navigating intellectual property challenges, and constructing robust business plans. Additionally, it offers us the opportunity to gauge the impact that these grants and prizes have had on the beneficiaries and the industry.

According to him, the journey does not end here. The next stage involves the Adoption of Digital Innovative Services and Products stemming from the Hackathons.

He stated: “The Commission takes the lead in sponsoring the deployment of the finalised products within select government agencies and institutions. “It is with great pride that I inform you that, thus far, we have successfully adopted all three winning solutions from the 2020 Hackathon.

“These solutions were meticulously crafted to combat pandemics and epidemics that threatened our nation.”

Engr. Maska stated the first winning solution, Klasconnect, is an e-learning marvel that fortifies the interaction between instructors and students in a learning environment.

He disclosed the Commission has spearheaded its implementation in six government schools, strategically located across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

The second solution, he noted, is an Automated Temperature Scanner with Contact Tracing Capability, now graces the Commission’s library, serving as a beacon of advanced technology in our institution.

“Lastly, we have the SmartClinic, a versatile mobile and Web solution that seamlessly connects patients through a mobile health app with a Hospital Information Management System (HIMS),” said he.

The NCC Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, restated the Commission’s commitment to fostering innovations and driving positive change through hackathons and related initiatives in the Nigerian digital space.

“The transformative power of innovations knows no bounds, and together, we will continue to explore uncharted territories, seek groundbreaking solutions, and ultimately, contribute to the progress and prosperity of our great nation” towards reshaping the future for the better, stated Engr. Maska.

We eagerly anticipate commercialisable prototypes from solutions, says Adedigba

Earlier in his presentation at the event, Alhaji Ismail Adedigba, Director of Research and Development Deportment at NCC, appreciated the diversity of the participants hailing from various geopolitical zones.

Adedigba said the observed diversity exemplified the participants’ unwavering commitment to fostering innovations and expansion within the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry in the country.

The Director of Research and Development noted: “I would also like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to the young innovators, who have been selected to participate in this highly competitive project, the Hackathon.

“We have every confidence that you have brought forth a plethora of creative solutions, and we eagerly anticipate the outstanding commercialisable prototypes that will emerge from your endeavours.

He also expressed optimism and stated his conviction that events like the innovative Hackathon, offers the stakeholders invaluable opportunities to unearth and adapt to new technologies in the global digital ecosystem.

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