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By NBF News
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(Right to left ) Ovia, Omobola Johnson and a guest

The atmosphere was electric. Everyone looked fired up. The stage was the first floor hall of the upmarket Civic Centre on Victoria Island, Lagos. A sea of reds was commandingly dominant. In the arena were youths - boys and girls - fresh graduates and many in tertiary institutions. They were in their hundreds; all clad in blood-red T-shirts and face caps, clutching the programme folder given to them free. Everything was right as the cooling system in the expansive hall rhythmically belched out fresh, humid air from its nostrils.

Each of the youths sat before a notebook computer, all eyes on the rostrum where the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, and other dignitaries sat. They sparkled with enthusiasm, awaiting the world of excitement they were set to surf as Bright Okpocha, aka Basket Mouth, thrilled the audience with rib-cracking jokes. From far and near, the participants came, responding to the clarion call by Jim Ovia, the co-founder and former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Plc., who wanted them to drink copiously from the inviting and money-spinning fountain, called Internet Communication Technology (ICT).

Even before Jim quit Zenith Bank Plc., he had grown into a phenomenon and consistently shown tremendous interest in the world of communication and ICT. For instance, he underlined that bare-faced fact by founding Visafone Communication Ltd. Daily Sun gathered that he is also the Chairman of the Nigerian Software Development Initiative (NSDI) as well as Chairman, National Information Technology Advisory Council (NITAC). He is in addition, a member of the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI), a multi campus ICT institute based in the country.

So, when he recently created a free platform for youths in the country to deepen their knowledge of ICT, not many were surprised. It was a five-day training programme whose theme was 'Developing Nigeria's Next Generation of ICT Entrepreneurs,' which had the kind support of Google, IBM, Visafone, Microsoft, QT and TLC Solutions.

The event covered various mobile applications, gaming, marketing, e-readers, gaming, advertising, CSS3, Java, VoD, HTMLs and sales forces, among other things. The participants were fed free through out the five days and then exposed to those programmes because Jim strongly believes that with a little more encouragement, Nigerian youths can surpass the exploits of Bill Gate and even the Mark Zuckerbergs of this world. Gate is the Chairman of Microsoft, whereas Zuckerberg and his friends, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes are co- founders of face book – the social network that is now the rave of the moment. Jim believes that if the Nigerian youths are supported, they can develop entrepreneurial skills in the ICT world and take advantage of the emerging ICT market, both in the country and elsewhere around the world.

To realise this tall order, various experts in ICT, motivation, management, marketing and entrepreneurial skill development, among other professionals, were fetched to give the trainees the best in their arsenal. Various high networth personalities from the banking, telecommunications and other sectors, one of them being the Nigeria Communication Commission's (NCC), Executive Vice Chairman, Dr. Eugene Juwah, graced the occasion.

Happy with what she saw, the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Johnson, commended Jim for the platform he gave the youths. She challenged the latter to make the best use of the opportunity. 'On behalf of Mr. President, Goodluck Jonathan, I wish to commend Mr. Jim Ovia for creating this programme for our youths. I believe that with opportunities like this, our youths can make the difference in the world of ICT. I, therefore, challenge you to make a very good use of this chance; you need to develop the hunger to ask questions and use what you will learn here to impact on you're your generation.'

With a heart full of passion, Jim, the animator of the programme, challenged the participants to take their destiny in their own hands. He reminded them that all those making waves in the industry in the USA were youths of their generation and tasked them to go ahead after their training to replicate those exploits in the country.

'Our youths need to be encouraged to achieve the best in ICT because most of the organisations, making waves in ICT world today, were founded by teenagers. That is why this programme is targeting the youths. You should spend much of your time doing programmes; in the next 10 years, who knows, you can be another Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gate. There is no reason you cannot be one of those ICT greats. Our destiny is right in your hands.' He further fired them to take a cue from the living lines of legendary Charles Darwin, the exponent of theory of evolution: 'It is not the strongest species that survive nor the most intelligent but the most adaptable to change.'

Daily Sun gathered that Jim rounded off the five-day programme that had been in existence for a while with a promise of N5 million to 10 of the participants, who developed the best ideas that would enable them build new software applications. The 10 lucky ones also went home with a two-gig memory laptop. All these were the significant features that defined this year's edition.

While expressing his gratitude for the opportunity a participant, Alfred Omenihu, 26, who came all the way from Imo State, said: 'I have learnt a lot from this programme. I have become aware of the entrepreneurial opportunities that abound in the ICT industry, especially in software development. The progamme has opened our eyes to the fact that there is no limit to the knowledge one can acquire in this industry.'

'Right now, I'm so highly inspired. We have been taught programming, how I can utilise and even transfer the knowledge I acquired here since it is all about developing the next generation of ICT entrepreneurs. The package is application building; it is about developing solution-oriented applications that will solve diverse problems; it is about borrowing a leaf from those who are versed in this area. After all, Google, facebook were ideas of people.

'From the very bottom of my heart, I say I'm very excited by this programme; it has exposed me. I want to say a very big thank to Jim Ovia Foundation for its kind gesture. I pray that the good Lord will continue to strengthen Jim Ovia to keep up the good work of inspiring the youths of this country.'

Another youth, Jescica Momoh, said: 'This is a wonderful programme carefully designed to empower us; as you can see, IT is influencing the world in very amazing ways. There is nothing you can do nowadays without it. We have been put through various applications.

'It is a whole lot of refreshing programmes, some of which I had known before now. I hope to put all of them into practice just like Jim Ovia has charged us to go forth and generate ideas that would help people in our generation. I'm so grateful to him for this opportunity because it is wonderful. I'm sure that this programme will help quite a lot of us here to become ICT entrepreneurs in the days ahead.'

Another participant, Alogi Semiu, commended the programme saying: 'I'm so excited. It is very encouraging and I thank Jim Ovia for his effort. This is what some of our philanthropist ought to be doing to empower the youths. This programme has really given me a mission and a future. It has helped me to believe in myself – that I have something to offer the ICT world.'