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How I became drunk with IT, by whizzkid

Posted by By TOYIN OSAWE on 2007/10/26 | Views: 878 |

How I became drunk with IT, by whizzkid


He looks like your typical guy next door, and his name might not readily ring a bell because he is not in the showbiz industry. But among his ilk in the Information Technology (IT) community, not only does the name Gbenga Sesan ring a bell, it stands as an authority in that field.

He looks like your typical guy next door, and his name might not readily ring a bell because he is not in the showbiz industry. But among his ilk in the Information Technology (IT) community, not only does the name Gbenga Sesan ring a bell, it stands as an authority in that field.

Gbenga who turned 30, on July 27 this year could well pass as the youngest Nigerian IT guru and ambassador, given his work within and outside Nigerian shores.

He prefers to call himself a social entrepreneur, but he is many things to many people. While to some, he is an IT Consultant (that pays the bills, he says), to some others he is a motivational speaker, given his love for knowledge and skills sharing, with a heart for young people like himself. If Gbenga has a gospel, then it is information technology for development, itís a passion that drives him and gives him a livelihood. He has spoken at various fora, to over 400 audiences in 19 countries. His consulting experience includes assignments completed for numerous institutions including the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Ethiopia), Res Publica (USA), International (UK).

He was the vice chair, United Nations Economic Commission for Africaís African Technical Advisory Committee, pioneer manager, Lagos Digital Village (a Lagos State/Microsoft/Junior Achievement of Nigeria Project). He was also on the Presidential Advisory Committee on Information Technology, among many others.

In this chat with Daily Sun, he shares the story of his own discovery, the potentials of IT for development and how the country can curb the Internet scam menace popularly known as yahoo-yahoo.

My discovery

Incidentally, my education had nothing to do with my discovery, which had to with three things.

I schooled in Akure, secondary school was at Federal Government College, Ido Ani, and university education at Obafemi Awolowo University, where I studied Electronics and Electrical Engineering, with a major in Communications. I finished in 2001/2002, with a second-class lower. People hardly ask me the class of my degree, they just assume that I had a first class. I remember an interview I had with a consulting firm, and they said, we knew you had a first class, stop being humble and I laughed.

As far as my mother is concerned, I failed because she would always say, I was more brilliant than that. But who cares, no one remembered anymore, after two years. But I tell my younger sister that she should aim for first class, the worst she could get should be 2.1. And I encourage anyone to strive for it, because I believe I failed in that area. In any case you donít fail backwards, you only move forward, to look at how you can solve the problems ahead and not cry over the past ones. Of course Iíve had other trainings, like Iíve done a couple at the Lagos Business School, like Project Management, Team building, Team Leadership, Venture Management, Creating and leading your own business among others.

My first trigger

My first trigger was in my third year in secondary school when a teacher told me that computers were not meant for people like me. I was jealous then because they always allowed a certain family (there was this professor from University of Benin that had three kids) access to the computer lab and not me. The reason was clear, they knew how to use the computer and I didnít. Incidentally, Iíve been back to the school to teach on computer and some of those teachers who said computer wasnít meant for people like me now say, "we always knew you would make us proudí. That experience in secondary school was the first trigger for me. It had nothing to do with my education, rather the criticism I suffered in the hands of those teachers.

The second trigger for me came in my fourth year at the university, when I had to do a compulsory six months industrial attachment. I came to Lagos and wanted to serve in Chevron, I was about to drop off my letter to resume the next week when I met someone, Dr. Sotomi of blessed memory.

I became drunk with IT

I was into drama then in school (Iím sure I can still act, you donít lose it, and this has helped in my presentations), we were launching a project in 1999. There I met this man who wanted me to come to his office to get some money for the project, I learnt he was into IT. And I thought to myself, Iím looking for someplace to do my Industrial Attachment, so I asked him if I could come. Then I was curious about computers having been denied access in secondary school. And he asked me how much interns are being paid. I told him N4, 500 because that was the amount the people I wanted to work with were ready to pay.

And he agreed to pay me that same amount. So I was there for six months, and since then I havenít stopped working for Neural Technologies, though the owner is of blessed memory and the company is no more. Even when I went back to school, I was still a member of staff and was doing projects for the company because I got automatic employment there. Whenever they had projects in Ife, I would represent the company.

I was that drunk with IT then and working for the company also gave me the idea of starting something for myself. Part of that trigger was that while I was at Neural, the MD sent me for a presentation at Sheraton at a programme organized by IBM, on E-Business. I wrote everything (I still have that notebook). It was there that I decided that I was going to go into E-Commerce, because I fell in love with it then. And that is part of what I do now. In fact, one of the projects Iím working on, CaneVillage.com is in that area, it is purely a commercial project.

I became an IT entrepreneur

After the six months of IT, when I got back to school, I called a friend of mine who had a computer, and since I knew how to design websites, we combined resources and trained people. We called it Web Page Design (WPD) 2000, and we made money. That was in my final year, during our vacation, we didnít go home. Then I was the regular poor student from Ďmy-parents-are-tryingí kind of home. And at times it made more economic sense to stay back in school because if you didnít, the money you have initially will be minus transportation times two. So instead of going home, we decided to do that training. We continued by converting year books to CDs, and also made money from that.

By then, I lost interest in any other thing but IT and the future of Nigeria.

I remember back in Sunday school when I was much younger, a woman came and talked about how David served God and his generation. That day I felt that message was for me, and decided that I was going to leave my footprints on the sands of time (laughs with a shrug), I wonder why people donít say that these days, maybe due to lack of values. So all these factors came to play and in my final year I got into politics.

Politics at the departmental level. I wanted to lead a group that I could use to bring about a change. Then, we used to have an electronic club where they gathered every week to learn about old gadgets and all that, and I thought we could start learning about IT. So we got a group together and I won. Though they laughed at me when I was campaigning, that I was an Akure boy. Then they mocked me that all my schooling had been in Akure, even my secondary school which was a Unity school, at Ido Ani.

But then I told them my initials, which is GS, in the next few years, will come to mean global synergism, and that is what I do now combining different energies to create a global impact. The advantage of all these forces coming together was being able to identify what my passion was, which is helping people to understand what I understood then which is IT and computing. One of the skills I had then was that I could talk, which I started developing when I was small.

I started by looking into the mirror to talk because then my mother said I was too shy and couldnít look into her face to talk to her. Then, I had a lot of complex, I felt I was too short, too tiny, too ugly, everything together and people said different things. Then I thought all they said was true, not knowing they just wanted me to feel bad but now I know better. I moved on to talking as MC at birthday parties, and became a bit more confident. So I concentrated on converting this skill and passion to create economic value and it has been working for me.

Workplace 2.0

Itís an article that I wrote one of those crazy evenings (I write a lot), when my fingers begin to itch. Why that happens, is that I get worried about things that are happening.

An average company in Nigeria is not going to be around in the next five years, and the reason is simple, and two sided.

One, the company itself, cannot compete in the new economy because they donít use technology tools. They have a website that is static and people are going to go there and find wrong information. The second side is the workers themselves. An average Nigerian company hires people and feel because we are paying you, you are our slave.

It doesnít work that way in the new economy. Each person has to work and buy into the business, otherwise you canít compete with the competitors. Because the truth is whether you are paying your employees well or not, and they are complaining, the employees of other companies are seeing it as their own business. And thereís nothing like an employee who understands that, I donít care where the employee is located.

For instance, I had never met the Korean Volunteers who have partnered with me in the Ajegunle.org project until the week before we started the project. Why in the world would they come to Nigeria without having met anybody because technology is there to use. There are many abuses of technology but you canít say that because the first boy that was given birth to in the village became a bad boy, so you wouldnít allow other boys in the village.

Yahoo-Yahoo

Yahoo-Yahoo is something that came with IT. Itís like the atomic bomb that was designed to provide energy, which became a weapon of mass destruction. It wasnít originally designed to kill people. You can also liken it to the side effects of a drug, you use to cure a certain disease. The drug is IT, the disease is illiteracy, and the side effect is yahoo-yahoo, and it canít be eliminated. The reason is this, it has three sides to it.

Number one is the technical aspect. There can be technical guidelines in place that can help check the menace.

Two is the legal aspect, that is, if the country is really serious about stamping this thing out, we will stamp it, combining legal and technical means.

The third aspect is that when you tell a man not to steal, you have to tell him what else to do. If you get these kids off yahoo-yahoo, what are they going to be doing, dying in their houses? Iím not supporting them for engaging in on-line scam, but there is nothing else for them to do. And until we find them alternatives, the government should shut up.

I was at Yabatech recently, and I was telling them that I always say it publicly that I make money on-line. I asked that those who make money through yahoo-yahoo should come out and nobody did. I was also at cyber cafe, where I saw a group of young guys punching in WAEC data, and I asked if it was better than doing yahoo-yahoo and they said yes. Schools contact someone to help register their students, and these boys because they are good on computer are hired to do it. So what Iím saying is, if you give them alternative, they will leave yahoo-yahoo.

Again Iíve noticed another trend, the local lottery (Baba Ijebu), when it came, some of them moved from yahoo-yahoo to it. As far as they were concerned, it is legal and they are making money from it. That means if you give them something better, theyíll come off it.

We must also not lose sight of the fact there is a fundamental problem with the value system. These days, young people are in a hurry to make money. A 17-year-old wants to drive a hummer jeep, wants to have what a 57 year old has, and that doesnít work. The value system has to be corrected. And like I said, they need to be given alternatives.

A couple of IT schools have launched campaigns on how young people can make the best of Internet, not for scam. Thereís a project called Internet-for-Job-Initiative, where young people who have good business ideas can get some money to fund their entrepreneurial ideas, thatís giving them an alternative. And I believe that when we combine the technical, legal and socio-economic measures, to check Internet scam, it will become a thing of the past. And at the end of the day, it will cost less to rebrand the country. Look at China and India, they are not better than we are, but they have done their homework. Thatís what Nigeria needs to do.

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Comments (3)

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Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

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Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

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Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown