INTERVIEW (Azuka Chibogu, Executive Director, I-Tech)
How to Increase your School’s Value Belt with Low Cost, Foundational ICT EducationThe Fidelity SME Forum is a weekly radio programme organized by Fidelity Bank Plc to educate, inform, advise and inspire budding entrepreneurs in Nigeria with knowledge and expertise that will enable them build sustainable and successful businesses. The interactive radio programme features subject matter experts and model entrepreneurs as guests on a weekly basis to share their insight and unique success stories. In this interview, Azuka Chibogu, Executive Director, I-Tech gives valuable insights on “How to Increase your School’s Value Belt with Low Cost, Foundational ICT Education”.
Q: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF?
Azuka: My name is Azuka Chibogu. I am an entrepreneur with particular focus on the EDU-tech industry. During the course of my career, I realized that Nigerian graduates suffer from an inability to get employed regardless of their grades because they are not ICT savvy, even failing the simplest ICT proficiency test. This got me thinking of how to proffer solutions to this problem. I have worked in different sectors, which gives me a robust background on the economy as a whole.
Q: WHY IS ICT OF HIGH IMPORTANCE IN THE EDUCATION LANDSCAPE?
Azuka: Our children are born into the digital world while we were born into the analogue world. I wrote my jamb with HB Pencil, which is no longer applicable today. I stayed in the bank for about 40mins just to withdraw money from my account, but today with my Fidelity online App, I can make instant payment in less than 5mins from my comfort zone. With all these examples, you will agree with me that it is a digital world and so the importance of ICT cannot be over-emphasized.
Q: HOW FAR HAS NIGERIA GONE IN INFUSING ICT INTO OUR EDUCATION SPACE?
Azuka: I will say it a disaster. The education sector takes only 7% of Nigeria’s total budget when other countries are allocating 14%-15% in their budget. The only way to improve people’s life is through education. Technology makes life easier for everyone. Unfortunately, our country is not paying attention to it. Children in our schools only get to know the theories about computer but are not proficient on how to use the computer and this is a big problem which I have provided the solution to, provided that schools can key into it.
Q: TELL US BRIEFLY ABOUT I-TECH?
Azuka: I-Tech is an ICT company and we provide all sorts of ICT solution. We are currently focusing on EDU-tech, which entails bringing ICT to the children and we are partnering with Fidelity Bank on this product offering.
Q: MICROSOFT LICENSING; WHAT DOES IT ENTAIL?
Azuka: I-Tech is licensed by Microsoft to sell their products and we have gone beyond selling only the software to investing in the hardware furniture, paying facilitators and power just to make sure that our children are empowered in the ICT space.
Q: ARE YOU CREATING A MINI TECH HUB?
Azuka: Yes, the Microsoft Imagine Academy is a global community that gives every child around the world the same opportunities and a level playing ground for competition because they are learning the same thing and we make this easier by providing the complete equipment to make the kids excel.
Q: WHO PAYS FOR THE HUB?
Azuka: I-Tech pays for the hub and we leverage on Fidelity Bank’s network, specifically through the SME Division. Initially, when we started, we pitched this idea to a couple of people who couldn’t tap into our vision, because they felt it was too optimistic and ambiguous, considering our coverage and the cost of achieving this goal. But right from our first meeting with Fidelity Bank, they keyed in fully into the vision. What we require of the school is a space, primary source of power, security and have the genuine interest to transform the life of the children and leave the rest to us to handle. Each child pays a monthly subscription and we sign a six-year MOU with the school, which will help us recoup our investment and at the same time the equipment ownership is transferred to the school.
Q: HOW MANY SCHOOLS DO YOU HAVE ON THIS PRODUCT PLATFORM?
Azuka: We have a total of 9,000 students in 33 schools subscribed to this platform scattered around Nigeria on the 1st stage. And on the 2nd stage we have about 20 schools and we are trying to hit our target of 20,000 children. When we do that, then we will know that we are making a difference.
Q: HOW MUCH IS THE SUBSCRIPTION PER CHILD?
Azuka: It is 5,000 naira per term. The financial model is built around the number of children in the school.
Q: HOW DO SCHOOLS BECOME ELIGIBLE?
Azuka: We work with a minimum of 100 students annually on this program, what we require of the school is a space, primary source of power, provide security and have the genuine interest to transform the life of the children.
Q: HOW MANY INSTRUCTOR(S) DO YOU DEPLOY PER SCHOOL?
Azuka: For schools that have less than 200 children we deploy one instructor but schools with over 500 children we deploy two instructors and we make sure our timetable is very flexible.
Q: WILL THE SCHOOL BE MICROSOFT-APPROVED?
Azuka: Yes, it will be and the school also has the privilege of adding Microsoft logo to their billboards.
Q: WHAT ARE THE BEST WHY OF ENGAGING WITH I-TECH?
Azuka: Via Twitter it is iTechNG_ and view email it is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact Fidelity Managed SMEs @fidelitysmes across all social media platforms.
Q: WHAT IS THE STRUCTURE OF THE CURRICULUM?
Azuka: The certification is in three levels 1. Beginners, 2. Intermediate, 3. Expert and this will determine the level of exposure that is within their reach.
Q: HOW ARE YOU ENGAGING EDUCATION STAKEHOLDERS?
Azuka: We engage with state governments but we are currently engaging SMEs that have relationship with Fidelity Bank and they are our partners and we work through them to achieve our risk assessment process. That is our current strategy.
Q: DO YOU ONLY WORK WITH SCHOOLS?
Azuka: Our license is for institutions, not only schools but currently we are focused on schools.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR FINAL WORDS TO SMEs IN THE EDUCATION SPACE?
Azuka: Where there is a problem, there is an opportunity. The EDU-tech space is limitless for exploration. I will advise them to invest more in the EDU-tech space and we will all make Nigeria a better place.