IT WORLD Minda phones as good as Nokia, Samsung - Minister
Ishaku Arc. Darius Dickson
ecently, presented smartphone and a tablet assembled by the youths who graduated from the Calabar Skill Acquisition Centre being funded by the Niger Delta ministry to President Jonathan. Tell us more about the programme.
We started this idea under the department of youth empowerment and employment and department of community development and education by trying to see ways and means to empower the youths in the Niger Delta in such a way that they would be independent and they can further create jobs for themselves and for others. And we then came across a Nigerian team in Ireland who are into ICT and we asked them to come to Nigeria to make a presentation and they did it sometimes last year. And we were able to determine what we want and we told them exactly what we want--we want our youths to know how to put tablet PC and smartphone together. We want them to set up mobile devices factory where youths can be trained. We want mobile devices that can be assembled here and that can be repaired here so that we can use that as a stepping stone in training our youths. And they saw our concept and they understood what we wanted to do. They went back into Ireland and immediately swung into action. When they finished, they invited us over and we saw what they could do and also what we asked them to do. Subsequently, we went into agreement and brought them to Nigeria.
Are they the same company the ministry signed an MOU with on ICT sometimes ago?
Yes, this is the same company in Ireland. They came into Nigeria with an agreement to train 500 youths in ICT; they have been here since last year. And we had intended to use our skills acquisition centre in Otuoke in Bayelsa to be the starting point where they can train these 500 youths. But unfortunately for us, the construction of the centre did not finish on time and up till December it was still not finished. So we sought for a disused factory in Calabar and bought up that factory and converted it into a factory where they could be assembling phones and tablet PCs.
So we did that and started with hundred students. Those hundred students that graduated two weeks ago assembled Minda phones and Minda tablet PCs. Minda means Made in Niger Delta Area. Any phone you see with the name Minda or any tablet is being manufactured here in Calabar Nigeria.
The idea is that we have graduated hundred students and we are working in two months time to commission another skill acquisition centre in Otuoke. That time we would now train the remaining 400 youths and we would be in a position to showcase more of what they can do of ICT--they would be able to manufacture other things apart from the phone and tablet PC; they should be able to manufacture computer and other devices at the Otuoke Centre.
Many Nigerians don’t buy made in Nigeria products; are you confident that the devices will be patronised by Nigerians?
By making people to be aware that we have such good products in Nigeria and that they are as equally good as some of the foreign made devices. We are hoping to be more agressive in making the public aware that these Minda phones and tablet PCs are exactly like any other products you see in the markets. We hope to place some adverts in the newspapers and in the electronic media so that more people will get to know about it.
The devices can even help in terms of agriculture. You know now that agric is now being seen by some of our youths as a big business; fertilizer is being distributed through phones now. So if the rural farmer and other people who are now trying to get feriliser for agriculture can also patronize the Minda phone and it would go a long way in making this phone more popular. So we are hoping that we should be able to market the products more aggressively.
The supervising Minister of Niger Delta Affairs
spoke with on the mobile devices being assembled at Calabar Skills Acquisition Centre in Cross River State by the 100 graduates of the centre with the assistance of an Ireland-based firm.
Can Minda do as much as what Nokia, Samsung and their likes can do? Will the Minda phone not be calledChinese phone?
With what we have done so far I can conveniently say the phone and tablet are of good quality. Mr President has even threw the challenge at us first. He has taken these devices and given them to the Minister of Communications Techology and directed her to go and check if these phones and devices meet with standard-- with what is obtained in international market. The minister is to check whether the devices are as good as the phones we buy in the country.
But I must tell you that I use the devices myself and since I have been using them I have seen that they are as good as the other phones manufactured by big companies.
You use the devices?
Yes, I use them myself and it is of the same quality with my Samsung; I can browse with it I can do a whole lot of activities with the Minda phones. And the beauty of it is that it is handy than most smartphones. It is even more user friendly.
And we have been getting positive feedbacks from some of the people whom we have distributed the devices to so far; all the people that have gotten them have been demanding for more to give to their loved ones. So, we are faced to having to tell the consultant to, in collaboration with our students, to produce more of the devices, using our students. Incidentally, because of the demands the consultant said he would employ all the hundred who have graduated. So, he is ready to employ all the hundred though we have already empowered some of them to set up small industries so that will be in position to repair or even go into marketing of Minda.
How much will each of the devices cost?
I don’t think the manufacturer has come up with how much each of the devices will cost. But I am sure they will be much more cheaper and affordable than other devices in the market; the phone I am sure would not
be up to N20,000.
When are we going to start seeing these devices in the markets around us?
Efforts are on already to push them into the market and very soon Nigerians will start seeing them. I understand that Vodafone has approached them to manufacture for them for use in Nigeria. So if such an international phone company has already approached them it means that the devices are of good quality.
Has the opening of the Calabar Skills Centre helped in reducing unemployment rate?
Already hundred students have been empowered and the manufacturer he has employed them. Another 400 would soon be trained. And some of these would also train many people. So I believe thousands of jobs will be generated in about a year’s time. So, it would have an increased effect in the overall programme of reducing unemployment.
I am also seeing that in the next six months, a city like Calabar will have all its youths trained in ICT because of these phones and pocket PC thing.
What was the response of Mr President when you first told him about this Made in Niger Delta Area phone and tablet?
Mr President was very happy and highly impressed. He was full of commendation for the ministry. He was happy that Nigeria is able to have a factory where phones and tablet PCs are being assembled by our youths. He is very happy that this is going to lower the unemployment rate in the country. And I wish you were there when we graduated our students two weeks ago; you would be amazed with accolades that we received from the students and the some visitors.