Nigerian innovators on the increase

A 29-year old Nigerian inventor of tablet computer-INYE, Saheed Adepoju is optimistic that it will turn out to be a big market for the world at large, particularly amongst students. BINTA SHAMA reports.

Saheed Adepoju is the CEO Encipher Limited, a Nigerian based-technology company that introduced the first android-powered tablet into Nigeria. He has a background in software development and is a Sun-certified Java programmer.
He had his first degree in mathematics and computer science in Nigeria, he completed another one in advanced computing by research at Bournemouth University, in the United Kingdom.
Upon graduation in 2009, he returned to Nigeria and worked for a short while with a consulting firm.

Intellectual Property

It is recorded that every year in April, innovators, inventors and like minds celebrate the ‘World Intellectual Property Day’ for the purpose of creating the next generation and celebrating the talented and ingenious creators and innovators who are imagining a better tomorrow for the world at large. He is one of the 16 inventors recognised as one of the inventors who have contributed to development in various field worldwide during the World Intellectual Property (IP) Day in 2012.

Passion for creativity

The innovator said the passion started while he was in high school barely before he clocked 13 years because of his love for computer games.

Furthermore, he disclosed that he met Anibe Agamah,  during his school days who later became his partner at Encipher, adding that, “we shared floppy disk drives with various games, and after our high school leaving exams we both set out to learn computer programming. We learnt how to code in C-language and Assembly.

“Anibe had a more artistic inclination and his web skills picked up and mapped out a year later. He also went on to study computer science and acquired an Msc in technology management while I ventured into engineering.

“Encipher was set up originally in the UK as a company which combined both strengths of the founders: Web application development and software development. This was back in June 2008. We actually set up shop when we got our first web application development job. As time went on, we decided to expand into new territories, hence our decision to branch out to making personal computers. 

The invention: INYE- 1&2

The Inye which means ONE in Igala language, the North Central part of Nigeria, is a tablet that comes in 2 specs: INYE-1 was unveiled April 2010 and is a 7-inch resistive screen tablet. It runs android 2.1 and allows a user to connect to the internet using its inbuilt WIFI card and allows a user to also use an external 3G modem from GSM networks. It offers about 3hrs of battery life and allows HDMI output to HDMI capable devices (e.g. TV). It also allows a user to plug USB devices such as external flash drives and keyboards.
 While on the other hand, INYE-2, which was unveiled in May 2011, an 8-inch capacitive screen tablet. It runs Android 2.2 and allows a user to connect to the internet using its inbuilt Wi-Fi card as well as using inbuilt SIM [card]. It offers about 8 hours of battery life. It also offers connection to other USB devices such as external flash drives, keyboard and mouse.

….The real inspiration for Encipher INYE is the Apple iPad. With the nature of the operating system the iPad had and its portability, we felt we had an entry point within the Nigerian market with a tablet. I had been having a look at the Android OS [operating system] since its launch in 2008 and I felt that a tablet PC running on Android OS with its open nature provided us an opportunity to get Nigerian developers building applications for it and also provided an alternative product for indigenous consumers.”

Special features found in the invention

The comparative advantage to the iPad and Playbook is the nature of [operating system] our devices run. The Android OS is seen to be the fastest growing platform currently within the mobile space. The open nature of the OS allows third party developers to build relevant applications for vertical markets which are still relatively untapped at the moment.
Cost of invention and patronage
Our tablets cost upward of $200 and we have sold close to 100 units of INYE-1, which were built in China and, after receiving feedback from its users, a second version was launched in May 2011. INYE-2 is yet to go into full production, (back then in 2012).. Once we can clinch a funding deal, we will commence sales. 

Future of Encipher

According to Adepoju, the company and the apps developed are focused on preserving local culture through technology and making products which are specific to the local market.
Another product that the firm has been working on is Encipher TV, a box where people can watch African television, plays and films.
However, he says that it has not been easy to raise capital in order to develop the business faster.
“Here venture capital (VC) is still in its infancy and most VC firms wound want to invest in tried and trusted companies that have gained some form of traction,” he said.
“We face the challenge of getting people to listen to the various propositions. We’ve been to a number of private investors and also to the government,” he explained.
Not surprisingly, his immediate plan is to “try and raise capital from whatever sources we can get – locally, internationally or privately – and to try and still to push the brand forward as much as we can”.

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