Unearthing the next digital generation in North East Region | the story of Northern Innovation Lab

Story: Rahamatu-Lahi Zakaria || Sanatu Zambang

Barely three years in the North East Region, Northern Innovation Lab (NIL) have successfully crafted a niche for themselves in terms of bridging the digital divide between the urban and rural communities in the region through their innovative approach in introducing digital technology. They are strategically partnering with other stakeholders in and out of the country in fulfilment of the sustainable development goal 10, reducing inequality.

North East region which was carved out of the greater Northern Region less than five years ago is behind in terms of access to learning or acquiring knowledge in relation to digital technology. NIL took it upon themselves to set up an office there to bridge the digital gap that exists and also bring the people up to speed with the digital transformation that the country is going through which is being championed by the vice president of the Republic of Ghana, Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, a native of that region.

NIL which is a people focus started by getting both parents and their wards involve in the new innovation they intend to bring to the people of the North East region. They move from one community to another, sensitizing and recruiting people to learn digital technology. Some of their first training included basic IT, web development, mobile app development and digital media. The first phase had persons from the senior high school level to graduates. They started with people who had little or no knowledge of ICT. Currently, these beneficiaries have been able to design and start their own business in the tech industry in the region with support from NIL while others have gained employment for themselves with the training they have acquired.

To expand more on their training, NIL is hoping to train people on the new emerging technology, robotics, AI and TVET. Though in the past they have partnered and supported other institutions to train people in TVET, this time around, they want to get involved in the training of people in TVET by inculcating the technology and business development bit to help the beneficiaries start their own business while also employing others in the region to reduce employment.

As part of their agenda to reduce unemployment and also help the youth to create a sustainable business in the region. The focus for NIL this year is to have more business development training in the region to boost the SMES landscape in the area. According to Mr Alfred, last year, they duel more on the tech training than the business development.

As part of their eco mapping and engagement, they realised that there were a lot of SMES in the region which were struggling. They are going to consciously help these SMES both technically and financially to help them succeed in their chosen field to reduce unemployment in the region.

NIL is all about reducing inequalities in terms of digital technology in the North East Region. To achieve that, NIL is hoping to have two or more operational offices across the region as well as satellite offices. Currently, they have one operational office in Walewale and one satellite office in Gambanga. These additional spaces would help them have the same ample time for all the districts in the region to enjoy the projects and programmes they hope to roll out.

Four of their major highlight in 2021 include a partnership with NASPA which was a seminar to engage national service persons in the region to prepare them after the completion of their service. The second is Job fair. Since their inception, they have successfully organised job fair to link employers and employees.  The third is digital media training. And the final is the four awards they won at the 2021 Ghana Tech Lab. These awards include best business development hub, overall best hub and best media visibility hub.

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