by ‘Seun Onigbinde
Either at the tech space of Co-Creation Hub or in the elevator of Queen Elizabeth II Center in Central London, my encounters with Omobola Johnson fix her in my memory as a consummate technocrat bereft with a healthy disdain for the complexities woven around the image and carriage of public officers.
Johnson, a former Country Head of Accenture, earned her stripes with a leading private sector consulting firm reputed for creative thinking and bespoke enterprise solutions, so the expectation of success was taken for granted.
However, as anyone who knows a little about Nigerian governments would agree, proving excellence in public sector is of a different hue, considering the political economy of decision-making and the bureaucracy of government. The wisdom of Johnson therefore lies in staying away from the wrangling and focusing on the substance.
In doing that, she has become both enabler and symbol of the renaissance that has changed what it means to be a Nigerian Communications Ministry.
Typically, it’s a tale of the management of the large corporates – telcos, ISPs and others, but Johnson has been markedly different, defined as she is by the renaissance of tech startups in the Nigerian polity. Being swift to launch of technology incubation spaces in Lagos and Calabar through an agency under her portfolio, her efforts have also stretched the ecosystem with the TechLaunchPad initiative and scale-up funds for start-ups within the space.
Her conscious effort hinged on opening up the information streams around governance directly linked to “Open Data Initiative” is of huge interest to the civic sector.
She has also taken on the gender component of access to ICT with the launch of the “1000 Girls Programme” under the Federal Government GWIN programme. For working on the Universal Service Provision to expand the reach of telephony and Internet service to rural areas, redefining the broadband policy of the country and also the current discussion of redefining the role of the NIPOST in the blooming ecommerce sector, she proves an understanding of the big picture.
And as reward, this was the year that Nigeria won the ITU GEM-TECH Awards 2014 empowering women and girls via ICTs and she was nominated to serve as Chairperson of the United Nations’ Commission on Science and Technology for Development.
Her efforts have shown that beyond the majors of the telecoms space, the emerging narratives matter. The backpackers in Yaba technology cluster in better working environment, young girls in Suleja are striking the typepads with excitement and the people of the Igbo Olodumare having their first access to telephone despite the economic disincentive to install base stations, are the proper evidence of her mandate in 2014.
She deserves to be the Person of the Year for the sparkle of hope in the eyes of young and underserved Nigerians.
– ‘Seun Onigbinde is the co-founder of Budgit, a CcHUB-incubated startup focused on making the Nigerian budget simpler and more easily accessible to all Nigerians.