Federal Government College, Idoani, Akure had just received two sets of computers and Gbenga Sesan, who was in his third year, was too excited to try his hands on the devices. “Sorry, you can’t understand how to use them because they not for people like you”, a teacher rebuked him.
There and then, the seed of interest was sown in Gbenga who therefore decided to not only learn to use computers, but also teach the skill to others. That dream came to reality ten years later when, in 2001, he was appointed Nigeria’s first ever Information Technology Youth Ambassador.
Today, Gbenga’s work is built around the use of ICTs in socio-economic transformation such as job creation- focusing on underserved groups, through his organisation known as Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN). He is our Inspirational Icon for today!
What he considered most embarrassing about his rebuke was that two other students whose father was a professor in one of the federal universities were allowed to use the school’s newly acquired computer sets because they already knew how to use them. No one seemed in anyway ready to show young Gbenga Sesan how to explore the computers.
With the curiosity already established, immediately after secondary school in 1994, he got enrolled in a computer training school before going to study electronic & electrical engineering at the Obafemi Awolowo University .
To perfect his computer skills, in his third year when he was to undergo his industrial attachment, he chose to work with Neural Technology Limited, a Lagos-based firm where he was also able to acquire skills in website designing, amongst other advanced skills.
“When I returned to campus, I was really excited about teaching others, and I started teaching website designing to students for two thousand naira. For the first 12 students I taught, I was able to pay for my accommodation and a few other needs. After that, I got involved in departmental politics, and became the Chairman of our Electronic Club because of my agenda which they knew was to teach computer skills”, he says.
By the time he was graduating from the Obafemi Awolowo University with his degree in electronic & electrical engineering, Gbenga had become a computer veteran!
Just after graduation in 2001, he participated in a competition, emerged the winner, and was, therefore, appointed the first Information Technology Youth Ambassador for Nigeria. The idea behind the competition was to discover young Nigerians who grew up in Nigeria, understood technology, and could compete with anyone from anywhere in the world.
What a feat for Gbenga who was once told that computers were not for people like him!
As fate would also have it, one of the tasks given him was to travel around Nigeria, teaching people how to use the computer.
“In fact, when I was invited to the Federal Government College, Idoani, after my presentation, the same teacher who had told me I didn’t know how to use computers was actually the one who gave the vote of thanks!”, he satisfactorily says.
With such glory, many would have become complacent, but not Gbenga! He saw it all as the beginning of greater things, and has, since then, continued to strive towards excellence. Over the years, he has been trained at the Lagos Business School, New York Group for Technology Transfer, Oxford, Harvard, Stanford and Santa Clara Universities. He also holds a diploma in software application, certificate in venture management and certificate in project management from the Lagos Business School.
Paradigm Initiative Nigeria
After his National Youth Service, which he did at the Junior Achievements of Nigeria, he continued working with the body which was spearheading a project called Lagos Digital Village(a project which corresponded with his dream) with young people until 2007 when he resigned to focus on something he had started online- Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, PIN.
“PIN works in the space between youth, technology and improved livelihood. We basically train young people for an improved livelihood. For example, we currently have a project in Ajegunle, Lagos, in which we train people in technology and entrepreneurship, connect them with internship opportunities, and, as much as possible, get them to begin work with their skills”, Gbenga explains.
“The point is that we can’t keep waiting on government to create jobs because government itself is very busy trying to sort itself out! In ideal societies however, governments don’t create jobs; the private sectors, especially the small and medium enterprises, do! Governments help with enabling environment for business growth.
ICT and national development
“If you look at the ICT readiness index of countries around the world, and you compare it to their GDPs and growth, you will find a 100% correlation. It makes things faster, and increases attention on intellectual capital more than on below-the-ground mineral resources. Nations, particularly in the gulf region, have used their mineral resources to improve their human capital development, such that they are now benefitting from human capital. Nigeria can take a cue from that!”.
This interview of Gbenga was originally published as My teacher said computers not for people like me – Gbenga Sesan