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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Changing hunger figure with biotech

Features of the week:

Inspired to change the world around him in Northern Nigeria and beyond, young award-winning Samuel Odofin, thinks the psyche of youth over biotechnology must change for good, REMMY NWEKE reports.

The second phase of the World Summit on the Informa-tion Society (WSIS-05) ended in the city of Tunis, with 18-year Nigerian, Samuel Oloyede Odofin, emerging the second prize winner for the development category of the World Summit Youth Award (WSYA).

The awards organised by the Salzburg, Austria-based coordinating team at the International Centre for New Media (ICNM), has its organizational framework within the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society in partnership with the WSIS Youth Caucus.

The WSYA is held under the patronage of Vivienne Reding, European Commissioner for the Information Society and media, whereas it enjoys sponsorships of Internet Society (ISOC), Logitech and Siemens AG.

Participants of the awards are youths under the age of 30 who are leading adopters of new technologies, as well as playing critical role in a global information society.

Images of youth in most developing countries look apathetic, distrustful and angry, but there is another world of youth; those who have technological expertise, dynamic energy and innovation according to ICNM.

Biotechnology, as said by Pamela Peters, author of ‘Biotechnology: A Guide To Genetic Engineering,’ published by Wm. C. Brown Inc., 1993, said that the term ‘biotechnology’ has flourished since prehistoric times and when the first human beings realized that they could plant their own crops and breed their own animals, they learned to use biotechnology.

He also said that the discovery that fruit juices fermented into wine, or that milk could be converted into cheese or yoghurt, or that beer could be made by fermenting solutions of malt and hops began the study of biotechnology.

Emphasizing that the term brings to mind many different things; some think of developing new types of animals, others dream of almost unlimited sources of human therapeutic drugs. Yet another group envisions the possibility of growing crops that are more nutritious and naturally pest-resistant to feed a rapidly growing world population.

Mr. Peters went on to say that in the purest form, "biotechnology"
term refers to the use of living organisms or their products to modify human
health and the human environment.
Probably, this is where our Samuel Odofin fits in when he began his Biotechnology: The Food Solution - at www.odofin.com, a campaign which began three years ago.

This online informative and educational gateway, he said, was set up to see to the creation of awareness on biotechnology and its relevance for agricultural products as well as food security in this era.

The campaign for biotechnology, Odofin noted, is evident of the compassion he has for the people who stay around him, at his base in the northern country side of Kaduna.

"And it has contributed to creating the ‘hunger’ figure that is internationally imposed on Africa as a continent. Moreso, we are faced with a fiscally tested solution but it’s still going under heavy criticism, that’s why I took the campaign as seriously as it is now and obviously to the international level involving big organizations," he informed.

In Nigeria, he said, the nation needs to re-orientate the psyche of the youths, and until this is done the youths would start thinking of how to better the live of others in every little way they could, in other words, the situation might not be significantly different.

This, he also said, is because one thing worthy of learning from the
project has been that, in the process of trying to help others "you find out
that you are helping yourself even more".

He cited an instance, which is the privilege he has to travel to about six countries with his biotech campaign and twice to the United kingdom and which has really exposed him as a person and of course, elevated his personality and yet still fighting for the African future in his own way.

Odofin, a member of the International Association of Webmasters and a certified Microsoft’s Application Developer (ASP) since 2003, started his internet multimedia production at the age of 15, and at that time has produced a web portal on Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) which was nominated and eventually won the golden web awards organised by the International Association of Webmasters.

Then in July 2003 Samuel Odofin began another project; the biotech project, in collaboration with a 16 year-old Egyptian friend named, Mohammed Abdel Raouf.

By September of that year, both produced the initial version of the website which was used to enter for the Microsoft motandao Afrika contest, of which Odofin was invited for project defense in Egypt in October 2003.

He used the chance to explain the idea of the project before professionals from various fields and international personalities, and at the end, the project was awarded the first place - platinum - award in the contest whereas he was given a crystal laurel.

Early 2004, he commenced the redesigning of the whole website alone to make it even more interactive and easy to use, based on the context that he was given a free server in the Netherlands by a friend which hosts the domain www.odofin.com.

Late in 2004, he entered another international contest for youth-led
action project; the Childnet Academy awards, which was co-hosted by the Cable
and Wireless Telecommunication Company and a London-based Childnet
International, while the award presentation was held in Montego Bay in
Jamaica.

He crowned it all this year by picking the WSIS WSYA award at the just concluded second phase in Tunis.

Odofin’s interactive website designed to raise awareness on the use of agricultural biotechnology in combating food shortages and insecurity in Africa was chosen as one of the best e-content projects, so odofin.com, on November 16, at a gala nite received the WSYA award amidst other notable young men and women.

Managed from the city of Kaduna, Odofin’s project scaled through amidst 299 others from over 70 countries of the world, and which leaves the young man excited.

Speaking to Champion Infotel on his Tunis experience, he said, it was an honour for him.

"I felt extremely honoured when I was informed that I was one of the best multimedia developers in the world and I looked at it first as a privilege and secondly as an opportunity to tell the world that good things still come out of the slum," he asserted.

Project manager of ICNM, Mr. Thomas Biebl, said that the award has availed them the opportunity to see online music communities, digital design training for slum youth, interactive gaming platforms, e-learning, flash applications and an HIV/AIDS information portal to name just a few.

The top three projects, he explained, in each WSYA category were
focused on development, creativity and culture as well as community
engagement.

He stressed, it is a global initiative to select and promote the world’s best in e-Content and creativity.

The Biotechnology: The Food Solution campaign shows is like what the organizers, ICNM rightly pointed out;
looking at the other side, there are some young men and women embarking on something positive that would not merely change their lives but that of others in the society.

Though Odofin may be unsung in the country, but his campaign speaks for itself and him as well, in addition to being worthy of encouragement.

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