Johnstone Kpilaakaa, JOS.
Background: In August 2019, the Plateau State Information and Communication Technology Development Agency (PICTDA) launched Code Plateau to develop human capacity in IT-related skills such as digital marketing, software engineering, UI/UX design and data science.
Since its inception, the programme has trained over 1000 young people across five cohorts in Plateau state and environs for free. Some of the ex-fellows are working across top tech companies in the country. One of the fellows is currently part of the team that is building Africa’s first humanoid, Omeife.
Towards the end of former Governor Simon Lalong’s administration, several stakeholders in the Plateau state’s tech ecosystem raised a concern about the continuity of the programme due to the realities of the country’s political transition climate.
During a social media conversation hosted by local tech media CrestHub in 2022, the former director general of PICTDA, David Daser–who initiated Code Plateau said that the agency intends to partner with private players in the Plateau state ecosystem to foster continuity of the programme after Lalong’s administration.
Ponfa Miri, the Project Coordinator of Code Plateau also confirmed this to Social Voices but with a twist: “We are currently trying to facilitate a partnership with a youth-led non-profit organization that will be able to oversee the implementation of the project even if the next administration is not interested in it,” he said.
It is important to note that the pilot launch of Code Plateau was achieved through partnerships with private tech companies and hubs in the state including Tomruk iHub Multiverse and nHub. However, these partnerships were short-lived due to the paucity of funds. “Most of the partners [were] business-minded, so since the fellowship was not designed to generate revenue it was difficult to keep them on the project. That is why we are exploring a partnership with a non-profit organization that is passionate about human capital development,” Mr. Miri told Social Voices.
He started coordinating the programme’s affairs shortly after the first cohort and the end of the partnership with the private players.
Mr. Miri oversaw the growth of Code Plateau, as well as the launch of sub-initiatives such as Code Plateau on Wheels; an effort to drive tech education in rural Plateau, and Code for Plateau, an initiative that was designed to prevent brain drain by employing ex-fellows as interns across MDAs in the state. As well as the establishment of the Code Plateau Campus in Rayfield, Jos.
What now? According to a letter dated June 22, 2022, the Plateau state government appointed Prince Ponfa Miri Foundation (PPMF) as the “management partner for Code Plateau”. In the letter, Mr Daser said that the appointment is due to the foundation’s commitment to the project and the implementation of the second, third, fourth and fifth cohorts of the programme. Currently, PPMF is implementing the sixth phase of the project.
“We are thrilled to share our vision of making Code Plateau the ultimate hub for tech talent and innovation in Africa. As a non-profit, youth-based organization, our mission with Code Plateau is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, and 17 in Plateau state through our strategic partnership with PICTDA,” says Mr Ponfa, Founder and President of PPMF. “Together, we aim to prepare young people for the fourth industrial revolution, ensuring they are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive in the future of work”.
Zoom in: After his inauguration as Lalong’s successor, Caleb Mutfwang, the governor of Plateau state dissolved all the appointments made by his predecessor citing “abuse of public service rules, non-adherence to due process”. However, PPMF’s role as a managing partner at Code Plateau has not been affected, according to Mr Miri.
A few days ago, Governor. Mutfwang appointed Dominic Datong as the new director general of PICTDA.
Mr Datong is a former guber and federal legislative aspirant in the state, he is also the founder of Onix Cooperative Society, and the owner of the defunct Onix Cruise, an Abuja-based ride-hailing app. “My friend Dominic is willing, able, and ready for the job.” former PICTDA DG Daser posted on his Facebook page after a meeting with his successor.
Datong takes the baton to achieve PICTDA’s vision of becoming “one of the best three tech hubs in West Africa by 2025”. As well as the domestication of the Nigeria Startup Act, which started during the past administration.
He will also work with critical stakeholders including PPMF to drive human capacity development in the ICT sector and the implementation of e-governance, amidst other responsibilities of the agency.
As of the time of this report, the PPMF team hasn’t met with the new PICTDA DG, however, Mr Daser has assured the foundation of the support of the new administration. “We don’t know if the government will be willing to support the continuity of the project,” Mr Miri tells me.
Regardless, PPMF has resolved to push the continuity of the programme via another platform in case they don’t receive a warm reception from Datong-led PICTDA: “We can’t let the impact we have started making go in vain. We will re-strategise and double down on it.”
Some fellows at Code Plateau are currently building products such as a digital waste management system; an area that the Mutfwang-led administration has shown a desire to fix.
Zoom out: While the next steps by the new administration are still unknown, PPMF says it intends to leverage partnerships and crowdfunding to drive the continuity of the project which aims to train over 20,000 youths in the state. “With your help [referring to the general public], we can create a transformative impact on the lives of young people in Plateau State, providing them with the tools they need to succeed and contribute to the growth of our society,” he added.
Reporting and editing by Johnstone Kpilaakaa