By Angela Atabo
Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative (BBYDI),a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) says it is empowering Nigerian youths to enable them to develop applications to proffer solutions to challenges affecting the country’s electoral system.
Mr Abideen Olasupo, the Executive Director, BBYDI, made this known at the grand finale of the Yvote Naija CivicTech Hackathon 2022 an initiative of BBYDI with support from Christian Aid on Monday in Abuja.
Olasupo said that the hackathon in addition to addressing Nigeria’s major election concerns of vote buying, voter apathy and electoral violence, aimed at exploring civic-tech solutions to improve public participation in the political process.
He said that the hackathon also was aimed at bringing together young social innovators and developers between the ages of 18 and 35 to develop ideas, build skills and connect with others .
This ,he said was to work towards a shared goal of strengthening the electoral process and civic participation in governance in Nigeria.
“My diagnosis is that the biggest obstacle to Nigeria’s glory is the lack of courage to change things we can, instead of acting as captains of their fate, Nigerians, under successive governments, have played victims of imposed leadership.
“ As we speak, our democracy is verging on a state of emergency due to sustained disinterest in active politics and political participation.
“The average Nigerian, youth especially, is politically numb. Years of electoral violence, vote buying, and rigging have stoked deep feelings of betrayal and mistrust in governance and election.
“Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, the country has recorded massive voter apathy because of unhealed wounds of electoral malpractices.
“The trend has fluctuated over two decades, falling to an all-time low in the last general elections which saw only 35.66 per cent turn out (28,614,190 cast votes out of 84,004,084 registered voters) in spite of the excitement that distinguished the 2019 general elections,” he said.
According to Olasupo, within a short time of announcing the CivicTech competition, the group received 30,252 applications from the 36 states of the federation.
He said that the 30,252 entries were reviewed on a rolling basis and 81 ideas were shortlisted and enroled in a virtual fellowship where they had mentorship opportunities from experts for the next round of the selection.
He said that it was from that number of fellows that the top seven solutions who would participate in finals were shortlisted.
He said that the team with the most promising solution will be awarded 2 million naira to execute their proposed solution,the cash prize would be disbursed at every project milestone so that the funds are utilized effectively.
Olasupo added that the first and second runners-up would receive support from NITDA to mentor, incubate and fund their respective solutions.
“To make the game a win-win for all, we are looking at merging the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th positions with the first three if that will bring a stellar result. ‘’
Olasupo said that this was done in the interest of the country and so that everyone would be winner so as to achieve a common goal.
Mr Kashifu Inuwa, the Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), was represented by Mr Yau Garba , National Director, National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics commended BBYDI for the initiative.
Inuwa said that the their effort was in the right direction because the initiative would help to discover lasting solutions to the prevailing challenges in the electoral system and ensure the active participation of Nigerians in the process.
“As the 2023 general elections approach, the importance of this civictech hackathon cannot be over emphasised because citizens’ participation in the electoral process democracy and is an indispensable pillar of good governance.
“ Participation mechanisms provide the government with regular feedback for developing policies and designing decisions that promote democratic ethos and processes.
“With our general elections around the corner, Nigeria needs programmes like this civictech hackathon to help bolster inclusive and accountable decision-making, equitable civic participation and voice, effective public service delivery and government responsibility.’’
Inuwa said that the outcome of the grand finale would be further proof of the value that technology could bring to the electoral process.
“I encourage all the finalists at this stage of 2022 Yvote Naija Civictech Hackathon to channel their ingenuity into developing their innovative solutions to strengthen citizens’ participation in the electoralprocess and help to deepen Nigeria’s democratic experience,” he said.
He expressed hope that with their contributions would provide the emergence of innovative civictech solutions to eliminate the irregularities and fraudulent practices that have been the bane of of Nigeria’s electoral process and it would witness a remarkable transformation and a positive narrative going forward.
Ms Kehinde Afolabi ,Senior Communications Coordinator ,Christian Aid ,said that the organisation supported the initiative because of its interest in an inclusive society and its believe in democracy and good and good governance.
“Christian Aid Nigeria works to eradicate poverty ,we have to work with people of different generations including young persons because they are the biggest stakeholders right now.
“There is this perspective right now that people believe that youths are only active on social media but the young people here have proven us wrong that they are doing now will ensure that people are involved in elections this time around and not just online .’’
She urged that youths be carried along in everything because there were lots of untapped energy in them adding that there was need to adopt an inclusive orientation at all levels and spheres of the country, ahead of 2023 elections.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Youth Let’s Talk Politics emerged as the hackathon winner with 34.67 points for developing a mobile application solution called “We Included “that would enable persons with disabilities find polling units that are accessible and inclusive .
NAN also reports that team votar came second with 31.47 points, while team elect tracker came third with 29.83 points.(NAN)(nannews.ng)
Edited by Ali Baba-Inuwa