Interview: Bolutife Ogunsola, Nigerian winner of Google Apps Developer Challenge 2012

Four students from the University of Lagos, Nigeria, have won US$20,000 and their department US$18,000 after winning November’s Google Apps Developer Challenge 2012.

Their acclaimed entry was Form+, an application with an easy drag and drop interface aimed at helping people efficiently create Curriculum Vitaes (CV), resume forms and submission pages for lecturers.

It is aimed at universities, large enterprises and small businesses. The four team members are Bolutife Ogunsola, Omotunde Bajo, Willie Aniebiet and Michael Adeyeri.

HumanIPO caught up with Bolutife Ogunsola to find out how the group came together. He also discussed how the education system in Nigeria has affected their project, their future plans and how the $20,000 will be shared.

HumanIPO: How did your team hear about the Google Apps Developer Challenge?

Bolutife Ogunsola: I probably heard from multiple sources. Around that period, an MITI programme was running in my school and Google was the sponsor. So I joined the apps challenge. Also, I move with a group of people who look for opportunities around, coupled with the internet and from local sources.

What peaks your interest in apps development? And what kind of apps have you developed before – was this your first project, or have you worked on similar projects in the past?

Singular, no. Prior to now, I‘ve not done anything and I’ve not worked on any project in web applications. But I’ve done desktop applications, but my interest in programming has always been in computation and algorithms like recreational programming. I do programme challenges on soft coder and I have an academic interest in algorithm, data and desktop. For me, this is my first web application, but not for my other team members.

How did you meet?

I volunteered at a lab in my school, a research lab that was donated to my faculty by LG some years back. One of the things that was introduced after the lab was set up was instead of getting regular staff and lab attendants to run the lab they allow students to volunteer to run the place. Hence the lab is run entirely by students. We handle day-to-day activities in the lab which has lots of software. I met other members of the team in the lab; they also volunteered to work there.

How did the idea come up?

I have a friend who does online Yearbook. To do an online yearbook, you have to do some data driving, part of which involves collecting pictures from people. While you can conveniently create a Google form to supply data and other information needed, you won’t conveniently collect photographs of people. And it’s a whole work entirely to create a website solely for collecting pictures. That was a motivation.

Also at the MITI programme, I was a technical instructor. There the students were given lab projects to do and I found it really inconvenient that they had to send it through their mails because I had to confirm it was their codes they were sending. So I thought maybe it was better we had a form that would be hosted so that they can upload their files. The whole idea was that you can use Google form with the whole advantage of having file upload.

Talking of Form+, who can use it?

People who will benefit are those who are interested in collecting data from some other people via the internet. It has many uses, one which I like to think of is as a lecturer, you can create forms for the submission of assignment and tell your students “this is where you’ll submit this week’s assignment.” You can also set deadlines.

Small businesses can also use it for their feedback form. Generally, Form+ isn’t restricted to use; it can be used for general data collection.

Recently we covered a story on the launch of Google Drive services in Nigeria. What is the nexus between your Form+ and Google Drive?

Form+ is integrated into Google Drive. To use the app, you have to sign in with your Google account. Google Drive lets you store files in Google Cloud which could also be shared with people. So when you create the form, it is stored on Google Drive as spreadsheet. Furthermore, when people upload files, it goes to your Google Drive so I can say the app works well on Google platform.

Let’s deviate a bit from the technicalities of the app. What was the contribution of your
institution to the project?

Primarily, the support we got was the fact that we had access to the laboratory where we all were allowed to work for 24 hours daily. You can think of the app as an innovation resulting from access to internet without power failure because electricity is on round the clock.

In terms of quality of education at your department, and by extension your institution,
do you think University of Lagos is affected by the falling standard of education? And can it compete effectively with other African colleges?

For the whole part, I think learning about web development is essentially self-learnt.
Many of the great web developers I’ve read about essentially learned themselves so I can’t really say that the quality of education here is an advantage or disadvantage with respect to that.

How did your lecturers react to your success at the competition?

From their views, I think they are going to challenge students to seek competitions and to participate. They will tell their students to avail themselves of opportunities and participate. They will also create awareness. In our case, it was without much noise. I imagine that in the future, lecturers will be on the lookout for opportunities for their students.

What is next for you? Are you still going to be working together?

Yes, we will still work together as a team. We are refining the product and we wish to stick together and create other apps.

Can you give us an idea of what we should be expecting from you next?

I can assure you of so many interesting things over the next couple of years. But if I say anything specific, I am sort of bound to you.

What is the sharing formula of the $20,000?

Every person is getting equal share. I would like to point out that we are four and not three as being publicized in the media.

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