REMARKABLE achievements by Nigerians who reside in overseas countries are difficult to identify in light of the widespread view that our citizens are mostly involved in inappropriate behaviour, regardless of where they live.
Not only is that view highly exaggerated, it also tends to diminish the notable accomplishments of many Nigerians, who contribute in various ways to the development of their fatherland.
So, when I received on Sunday, August 9, last year, an email from Mr. Adebayo Oladapo about a new digitised Nigerian food recipe application applications (apps) he created to make it easy for anyone, including children, adults and young people to cook our traditional foods, I decided that must be one outstanding achievement that deserves to be acknowledged and publicized.
Oladapo is the director of a private enterprise, TalkaSoft Pty Ltd in Brisbane, Australia.
The applications (apps)- Digitised Nigerian Food Recipe and Shopping List app- provide step-by-step guide to food preparation.
It also contains an ingredient list that can be converted to a shopping list, which could be used at the shops or ordered online.
The applications are available on Google App Store and is expected to be available on the Apple platform.
Anyone who has experienced the negative image associated with Nigeria would understand why I was delighted to find in Oladapo’s innovation a reason to crow about something that would help Nigeria and its citizens to begin to redeem their tattered image.
On Tuesday, September 15, last year, I settled down in my office to interview Oladapo on his latest and previous technological innovations.
I asked what he intended to accomplish through the development and his response was as detailed and clinical as you can expect from a man with a humble background.
Oladapo said: “The app is intended to modernise and at the same time preserve one of the greatest exports of Nigerian culture- our food. Every Nigerian understands this.
“Our food has unified our people and our cultures for many years and it deserves to be preserved for future generations.
“Many people may wonder why and what is so special about this app, after all, we have many Nigerian cookbooks and other apps that illustrate Nigerian foods.
“My response to such queries is that this new app provides the recipe in a digitised format, which means you can change the attributes of the recipe (such as ingredient quantity, unit costs and also add more ingredients and link the recipe to a shopping list, so that you can get everything you need when shopping).”
He elaborated further: “The digitised format enables you to calculate the quantity and number of people who will eat the food, thereby reducing waste and ensuring the food maintains its taste and comes out perfectly at all times, whether you are cooking for two or 20 people.
“The format also allows the user to video each cooking step and/or take pictures to graphically explain the cooking processes.
“This provides an opportunity for mothers, aunties and uncles and other relatives to record their special recipes as a legacy for their children.
“These functions are not available even in the best cookbooks and other Nigerian food apps currently in the market.”
The key features of the app, he said, are that it can create new recipes for your favourite dishes; use the best of Nigerian food recipes already packaged with the app; create your own preferred recipe ingredients’ list; create your recipe preparation process; create your recipe cooking instructions; add recipe ingredients to your shopping list; enter each ingredient’s cost to have an idea about the cost of the recipe; and add extra number of people for whom the food is intended. This will trigger the app to automatically update the ingredient quantities accordingly.
In addition, it enable you to know how much the extra people will cost; get phone alert for next cooking steps, so you don’t miss a step, helping new starters to cook perfect meals at all times; record recipe ingredients with pictures and videos and cooking instructions with pictures and videos; share your recipes with family and friends via SMS and emails.
The second function allows you to create ad-hoc shopping list, for example, save and re-use your weekly shopping list; know the amount your shopping will cost you; create your shopping list as a daily, weekly, monthly or ad-hoc shopping list; recall shopping list items by speaking to the app; use items barcode to insert the app on your shopping list; and create Favourite shopping list.
It is refreshing to note that something remarkably groundbreaking could emerge from our fellow citizen.
Through the app, Oladapo has demonstrated a rare application of his technological skills to the benefit of humanity, not only in Nigeria and Africa, but also across the world.
Oladapo was born in Osun State and grew up in Lagos.
He graduated as a production engineer from the University of Benin and worked at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), Oshodi, Lagos, before travelling to Adelaide, Australia to undertake a postgraduate in Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Australia, specialising in Computer Aided Design.
He subsequently worked for three years as a research engineer for an agricultural machinery company in Adelaide, but following an observation about the growing interest in Information Technology (IT) in the early 1990s, he changed occupation to focus on IT and has worked in this area for the past 23 years.
Oladapo, who has lived in Australia for 26 years, currently works as a Principal Consultant in Enterprise Documents and Records Management Systems (eDRMS), an IT company in Brisbane and doubles as the director of his own firm, TalkaSoft Pty Limited.
What could have motivated him to develop the app? He said: “As a Nigerian who has lived overseas for most of my life, I was concerned that my children and other Nigerian children born overseas may not feel confident to continue upholding our culture or preparing/cooking Nigerian foods or sharing this wonderful culture with their own family when their parents have departed.
“The fear of what will happen to my children in foreign land when I am gone is the main motivation.
“Our legacy is mostly illustrated in our language and our food. I promised myself to do my very best, as an IT consultant/developer, to use the technology at my disposal to preserve our legacy and make this more accessible to young Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora and also to preserve and expose them to other African cultures.”
He added: “This is why I developed in 2007 my first application, Soro Nigeria, which translated over 1,000 words and phrases in Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa languages to English, and Speak Ghana, for translating Akan (Twi) and Ga languages to English.”
These applications run on Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 operating systems and come with their own language translation engine as well.
Oladapo would appreciate support from the Nigerian governments to develop other apps.
He replied: “I would like to cover many of the Nigerian languages, at least the main ones, and also digitise many other Nigerian food recipes. So, I would like to work with the Nigerian government for assistance and support.
“Our languages are so important to preserve and it would appear that more people are speaking English than our dialects in Nigeria.
“This concerns me and I am ready to work with federal, state and local governments to translate their languages or dialects and digitise their foods for posterity.
“I see this as a further uniting factor for our great country, knowing that if you can speak other people’s languages or cook their food, it makes it very difficult to be one another’s enemies.”
Oladapo is an active member of the Nigerian community in Queensland, Australia and was a former president of the association, during which he initiated new ways of assisting Nigerian community.
Through his apps, Oladapo guides users on how to make their food choices, including the ingredients required in preparing the food, as well as the quantity of ingredients required, the cost of feeding a certain number of people and time required to prepare the food.
Users are guided systematically on how to access the ingredients, how to prepare the foods and indeed how to shop for the ingredients.
Oladapo said his apps are targeted at all Nigerians and those who love Nigerian foods, regardless of whether they reside in Nigeria or overseas.
“I also want people from other cultures who love technology and foreign foods to have an app that can help them to experience delicious foods from the largest African country, Nigeria.
“This will also be developed for other African countries,” he said.
On acceptability of his apps, Oladapo revealed the total downloads of all his apps is now close to 70,000, mostly by people in the United States (US) and other European countries, thereby
achieving his goal of reaching Nigerians in foreign countries.
He has close to 25,000 downloads of the Ghanaian Akan (Twi) language, also mostly from the US and Europe.
“This is evidence that the apps are being harnessed and are having impact.
“The apps have made a major difference by simplifying Nigerian foods, as well as some Nigerian and Ghanaian languages.
“I strongly recommend the apps to everyone,” he noted.
Asked his greatest challenges in developing his apps, Oladapo said: “Time has been my greatest challenge. Having to work fulltime as a Principal IT consultant, it takes a lot of motivation to develop all these apps using my own free time.
“I get through this by reminding myself of the reason why I am doing this, which is, to leave a legacy and preserve our culture in the way that I know best.
Young men and women who are grappling with knowledge of how to prepare Nigerian foods, including the ingredients required for preparing the foods, will find the apps veritable tool to practice and improve their cooking skills.
“The apps are easy to understand and apply. They are available to men and women, boys and girls, the young and the old, Nigerians and non-Nigerians, as well as people of other cultural backgrounds.
“The apps are tailored to suit the needs of people in rural, remote and urban locations. It does not matter where you reside or what your socioeconomic status might be.”
He attributes his accomplishments to his perseverance, tenacity and incomparable determination to succeed where other people might have encountered difficulties.
Oladapo is a self-made man. Despite the successes he achieved through his apps, he remains unpretentious, polished, unassuming, amiable and courteous.
To young Nigerian students aspiring to achieve success with new technology, he said: “I have dedicated most of my time in engaging with young Nigerian students. I always encourage them to know what they are capable of and be determined to work hard to achieve their goals against all odds.
“I impress it on them to be motivated and to believe in their strength and to stay focused in achieving their objectives.”
Nigerians in the Diaspora are often described in offensive terms, such as “economic refugees” in the countries in which they reside.
As Oladapo has shown through his apps, Nigerians in the Diaspora make valuable contributions to Nigeria’s economic and political development in different ways.
And they do these from their overseas locations based on their hard-earned and legitimate incomes, as well as their professional skills.