Chapter One

My Digital Journey.

The fact that you are not seen does not mean that what you write is not being read and in fact heard. People read such stuff but in truth they hear your personality loud and clear

– JJ. Omojuwa, blog post on Omojuwa.com (2010)

There are words that are better perceived for what they connote than what they denote. Digital in the connotative sense essentially refers to computerisation. If you hear a company’s CEO say, “The process has gone digital”, then you start to understand that something has gone from a manual or analogue process to a computerized one. Though this connotation of digital is right, it does not capture the essence of the word, and it certainly does not help the purpose of this book. Data is the essence of digital. You cannot separate data from digital because the latter is composed of the former. This is what led us to the Internet of Things (IoT). According to David Stephenson PhD, in his book Big Data Demystified, he describes why the IoT is here to stay:

We may hit a limit in the number of mobile phones and personal computers we use, but we’ll continue adding networked processors to devices around us. This huge network of connected sensors and processors is known as the Internet of Things (IoT). It includes the smart energy meters appearing in our homes, the sensors in our cars that help us drive and sometimes communicate with our insurance companies, the sensors deployed to monitor soil, water, fauna or atmospheric conditions, the digital control systems used to monitor and optimize factory equipment, etc. The number of such devices stood at approximately 5 billion in 2015 and has been estimated to reach between 20 and 50 billion by 2020.

In the Beginning

My early encounters with the internet were through friends at King’s College, Lagos (KC). In the year 2000 my KC friend, Kelvin Hanson, created my first set of emails. When I was done with secondary school, I needed the internet for my research and applications to US universities, not to mention my preparation for the SAT. I had a friend then,AkinSOFT as he used to be called, who would follow me to the cybercafé. He knew his way around the internet, so I let him take the lead there. I would leave the house for vigils online, because you got to pay about N150 to browse the internet from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Considering the slow internet one battled in those days, between 2001 and 2002, all night browsing was the best way to get anything done. If you paid for the regular 30 minutes and one hour to browse, you would not do much before your time was up. Soon after that an acquaintance showed me how he generated numbers to shop online from different websites. This was the early days of Yahoo! Yahoo! The cybercrime that some Nigerians have since become notorious for. I was not interested in shopping online, I just wanted to get an admission to a US university. He even generated numbers for me to use, but I never used them. I had wasted a year since leaving secondary school, and I only had one thing on my mind, and it was not shopping online. Things were not working for me, and even though I never spoke to anyone or shared my pains, I was a frustrated, but I kept a clear head.

My dream to attend a US university did not come through at the time – I passed my SAT exam in flying colours, but my dad kept the result away from me for months. This is a story for another day. While I was battling for my university admission, I met the guys at SIRL Technologies. The company was owned by two brothers Adekunle (Dekun) and Segun Adekoya. Those days back in Owode, Ikorodu, I was a fish out of water. After years of attending King’s College and finding an escape with friends during the holidays, here I was with nothing to do. I had to find myself something to do. The SIRL Tech was situated in Dekun’s house, not far from where I stayed so I would walk there to see what they were up to. These guys were building stuff. They were the first programmers I knew—Dekun, Lanre, Deji, Dare and Dipo. Yomi was there too, but he was not into tech. 

Dipo even created a site called Somolu.net, where I contributed a poem and ideas. Dare even tried to teach me how to build a site using Dreamweaver, while Dekun persuaded me to buy financial accounting textbooks, saying one had to know a lot of those to build anything. I still have my accounting book. Dekun was a genius. He seemed to know everything, and I believe that he saw something in me because he got me involved with their work, even though I was not a staff. I spent a lot of time with them, eating with and learning from them. Having access to the internet was of course a great plus. Then I finally left for school. If I had stayed with them for, say six months, I would have learned to code. I am sure of that. Dekun had already started to make me sit with the guys. I started with Dreamweaver and he was already talking C#. That experience was certainly a useful building block for where I was going, even though I did not know it at the time

Discovering Facebook at the University

I ended up attending the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta; It now has “Federal” at the beginning of its name. This was and remains a beautiful school, but I never felt at home. Here was this former KC superstar—I performed well in academics and won sporting laurels for my house and the school—in a place where I felt lost. I was always looking for an escape; thankfully, my escape was not drugs or even endless partying. Rather, I joined the Junior Chamber International (JCI) and that helped a bit. I got involved in a lot of volunteering and community development programmes. We would even travel to other schools. I was also helping friends defend their business projects, even their business proposals in Lagos, when they were invited to come speak about what they proposed. I made money writing proposals and helping others register their businesses, so I always found it quite easy filling in to defend the proposals as though I was a member of the company.