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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Budgit - Oluseun Onigbinde (Co-founder) #inthespiritofenterprise

Finally, we got budgit to share their story. I know some of you would have been wondering, who is this budgit that Mofolusade is always talking about sef! hahaha. Well here they are....


Tell us about yourself 

My name is Oluseun Onigbinde. I am the Team Lead and Co-Founder of BudgIT. I am really confused what to call myself. Maybe I should say data analyst, data journalist, data scientist, citizen scientist or even budget expert. Actually, I did not set out to be all of these. I graduated from the University of Agriculture Abeokuta as an Electrical/Electronics Engineer. Since my days at the university, I knew I won’t practise engineering because I felt the kind of knowledge passed was not what works in fast-paced, viral and technological driven world that we live today. I worked in two banks – Access and First Bank - for four years before leaving to fully focus on BudgIT. That’s what I have been doing since then as well as other consultancy for DFID and sub-regional projects. I am also a Knight Foundation Fellow, which requires me to teach creative tools that can improve storytelling.

What is BudgIT about?
BudgIT is what makes me tick and it is a product of an idea with huge assumptions that if we shows citizens regardless of their literacy class and level of interest how the budget works and how it affects them, hopefully they will become active participants and strive to be vanguards of budget performance. These assumptions are what we are testing by looking for all means to explain the budget to citizens. This includes infographics, interactive applications, games, apps, sms and other tools. We just want to deepen access of the budgets, as we believe that this is key to civic engagement and institutional reform. We also act as a catalyst for all stakeholders such as media, government institutions by providing support in terms of capacity building and data access.

How did you conceive the idea for BudgIT?
I was sitting in my desk in First Bank and I thought about a new offer made by Co-Creation Hub to look for new ideas that can strengthen governance. This was an intense hackathon that was meant to build prototype of ideas. I put in for the hackathon in February 2011 and we came second. It was at the hackathon that I met Joseph Agunbiade who co-founded BudgIT with me. However, I know BudgIT was out of the desire to do something that reshapes the paradigm.

How did you bring it to life?

I wondered if I would be able to do it all alone and keep paying my bills. I decided to combine my work in the bank with BudgIT for a year before I decided to face it fully. This is about a lot of toil, hardwork and discontent. I just feel like I am a steward of an idea whose time has come. The online availability of the data, the evolution of social media and also Co-Creation Hub that provided mentorship, space and seed funding all showed that this idea appeared at the right time. Like I said, I am just a steward accountable to the work committed to my hand. 

What has the experience been so far?

Amazing experience so far. As an entrepreneur, you lose your steps momentarily which makes you to nearly doubt if you are on the right path. I have gone through those times before but today I count it all joy. Leading an organization is a mind building exercise. It makes you think, innovate and also want keep winning. It’s been more work but I am enjoying it. Right now at BudgIT, we are thinking of building products, which might also be profit-oriented as we don’t want to run BudgIT as an organisation eternally dependent on grant.

How would you summarize the social impact of Budgit in Nigerian Governance today?

We can take a cue from the comment by Reuben Abati that roadside mechanics and okada riders are analyzing the budget. I don’t want to take the full glory for that but we have a made dent somewhere and you will agree that the interest is getting deeper. We have trained officials of the National Assembly Budget and Research Office. We have held data journalism classes and provided funds for citizens. We are doing our best to make impact at the social urban and rural grassroots level.

What challenges do you face and how have you been able to overcome these challenges?

Access to data is a key challenge especially procurement data that can be used to deepen conversation. Most states still treat the budget as state secret making it difficult for citizens to get. We are also trying to validate government projects by demanding accountability. A big challenge is also getting funds to scale. For such scale we are still dependent on grant and we want to ensure that we build a strong financial model that is sustainable.

Given the chance, would you do this again?

Another chance? Maybe this idea might come to early or might be too late and be of no value. Right now it is what our democracy needs and I am enjoying it. Another time? Depends what works for that season. One day, I will quit BudgIT and handover to someone else. That’s the mindset I carry.

Want to know more? Want to get involved in promoting accountability and good governance in Nigeria? 

follow - @budgitng

Have an opinion? Speak out, it just might help make a difference.

Cheers guys!