Encountering Ọpọlọ Innovation Hub in Osogbo
Sometimes, as a remote worker, the walls of my house close in on me and I struggle to work. Or some days, those controlling the electricity of my state decide to take a day off and leave me to battle with the thoughts of how I’d get my gadgets charged and deliver my tasks. On those days, I go to my brother’s place or look for a restaurant conducive enough to work. Still, I find both places uncomfortable. My brother has no home office, and I haven’t found a restaurant good enough to work in. Even with my headset on, the voices of those ordering meals or snacks would thrust their way in to split my attention. Sometimes, the restaurant people request that I leave when there are no seats left for their customers. And I can’t eat more than what my stomach can contain.
It is on these days that I envy my friends outside my city where there are workstations one can pay to work. At one Monday meeting, one of my colleagues mentioned that she was working from a workstation and I became jealous.
Though the electricity in my area is fair compared to some other places, I sometimes get tired of being alone. I want to look to my left and right ans see a human working, not white walls, curtains or mattress sheets.
I live in Osogbo, Osun State, and since the emergence of the new government, there’s more hope that the tech and digital ecosystem will improve. Last month, the Right of Way fees were waived by the government which will improve the penetration of broadband. The government also tends to domesticate the Startup Act which will see about attracting tech startups in the state. I can already see fibre optic cables being laid underground across Osogbo whenever I go out. These improvements have stamped my state to be the next tech hub in Nigeria, after Lagos. Still, public workstations are one of the things I wish the governor would work on. I am certain there are remote workers or tech enthusiasts like myself who are also longing for this kind of improvement.
Recently, I discovered that there is actually a workstation. I met Dr Rasheed Adebiyi, a lecturer at Fountain University who now heads strategic operations of an innovation hub inside Osun State University, and mentioned my concerns to him. He then took me to this innovation hub. Inside, I saw something I had been longing for: a workstation. Inside the hub, there’s a workstation, a lab, a community event space, a boardroom and others. I was so impressed. When I had further discussions with Dr Rasheed, I realised there was a lack of visibility for the hub because it is located inside a school and there’s a low number of remote workers in the city.
At the entrance of the hub, it was written, in bold and caps, Ọpọlọ Innovation Hub. Ọpọlọ means brain, and I think there’s no other perfect name for a hub than that.
I spoke with two students who found the hub very conducive but not so affordable for them. Though they are allowed to come in and work at any time, they said the price for network connection per hour is high for them. It’s understandable; those students are tech enthusiasts with one interested in becoming a front-end developer and the other, a project designer. One of them told me that although the hub has been hosting tech-related events, he would love the hub to host more for newbies like them.
This is basically the idea behind the hub: to create an environment where innovative ideas, in the fields of climate change, agriculture, health, technology, and creative arts can flourish.
The hub was founded sometime in February 2022 by Ọpọlọ [a group] but funded by the Bank of Industry (BOI) for the Osun State University, Osogbo.
There are also other kinds in Osun State. One inside Obafemi Awolowo Univerisity and two community-based ones in Ifetedo and Otan Ayegbaju. There is also a well-equipped one in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Although more is needed, it is pleasing to witness this kind of development in the state. Already, Obafemi Awolowo University has been ranked first, according to Stears, as the university with the highest producer of tech talents in Nigeria. I am excited to witness this kind of development in my state while I look forward to what’s to come.
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