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Digital Skills: DG NITDA Sues For ICT-Academia Partnership To Empower Nigerian Students

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By Angeline Mgbele, Bureau Chief, Northern Nigeria

The need for Nigeria to deepen Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) – Academia partnership has again been emphasised by the Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa  at the Huawei Education Summit 2022 (THES2022) which took place at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

Inuwa who was represented by Director, Information Technology Infrastructure Solutions (ITIS), Dr. Usman Gambo Abdullahi said it had become expedient to forge and strengthen linkages between the ICT industry and tertiary institutions due to the benefits.

According to him, NITDA as the apex IT regulator in Nigeria under the supervision of Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, was committed to ensuring that efforts in this regard were supported and sustained.

“We cannot go far as a nation if ICT adoption in our tertiary institutions is not systemic and coherent. The world is becoming digital and tertiary institutions are where our leaders of tomorrow come from. Hence, we must do everything possible to empower them”, Inuwa maintained.

While making reference to available statistics which he noted had shown that about 65 per cent of Nigerians were aged 35 years or younger and they were mostly considered to be millennials, a highly-skilled tech-savvy generation, Inuwa observed that it was not therefore  surprising that the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg during his visit to Nigeria in 2016, asserted that he was blown away with the talents he saw in the Country.

The NITDA DG avowed that developing digital skills for Africans and particularly Nigerian students was significant for the development and industrialisation of the continent, adding that Nigerian students were digital natives; what they needed  was an enabling environment.

“This can be seen in the successes recorded by Nigerian students in global competitions, especially the Huawei Global ICT Competition series.”

“You may recall that at the fourth series, the Nigerian team won the first prize in the Regional Final in South Africa and the third place in the Global Final while at the fifth series, three Nigerian teams entered the Global Final and won the Grand Prize in the Practice Competition in both the Network Track and the Cloud Track”, the DG recalled.

Inuwa further affirmed that humans were now living in an ever evolving digital world where  ICT breeds innovation which had made digital skills highly essential to be successful.

He noted that the importance of ICT informed the identification of the Digital Literacy and Skills pillar of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria (NDEPS, 2020-30), as the policy had an ambitious target of attaining 95 per cent Digital Literacy and Skills by 2030.

“It is plain to see that acquiring digital skills and gaining new qualifications is the key to success in the modern age; whether you are a new entrant looking to climb the career ladder, the founder of a startup, or a senior executive in charge of a large team, failure to keep up with the times could prove disastrous. Regardless of where in the world you find yourself, regardless of the place you start, opportunity can be open for all in the digital economy”, Inuwa explained.

He enumerated other pillars of NDEPS include: Developmental Regulation; Solid Infrastructure; Service Infrastructure; Digital Services Development & Promotion; Soft Infrastructure; Digital Society & Emerging Technologies; andIndigenous Content Development & Adoption.

“NITDA, as one of the implementing Agencies of the Ministry, has been carrying out series of Intervention Programmes in Tertiary Institutions. These include the deployment of ICT Parks and Innovation Hubs, Hive Centres and Centres of Cyber Security Research,” he noted.

He added that the summit couldn’t have come at a better time, as it will avail participants the opportunity to discuss and share ideas on how best the Academia, Industry and Government could partner towards meeting the expectations of learners, industry and society at large.

He commended and expressed gratitude to Huawei Technologies for its commitment to promoting ICT development in Nigeria.

“Huawei’s effort at digital literacy and skills in the country in some was is to help the Agency achieve its mandates. Our presence here shows how committed we are in in the realisation of NDEPS’ vision of transforming Nigeria into a leading digital economy, providing quality life and digital economies for all as well as the mission of  building a nation where digital innovation and entrepreneurship are used to create value and prosperity for all”, Inuwa said.

Other stakeholders described the event as key to empowering the teaming Nigerian students with the requisite skills to thrive.

They expressed the hope that it would also give the Heads and Principals of higher education real life, globally recognised solutions and standards to propel the Nigerian education sector in meeting the growing expectations, and delivering global standard in the quality of teaching and learning experience.

The Huawei Education Summit Themed ” New Approach in Meeting Rising Educational Expectation”, according to the organisers  was convened in response to observed trends in the Nigerian Higher Education Sector – Increasing relevance of technology in higher education learning and teaching, Gender Equity and Inclusion in higher education, research and innovation in higher education campuses, teaching quality and relevance.

Moreso, the Summit provided rare opportunity to highlight the challenges in higher education system, with a view to setting up an agenda for education professionals, industry, government and regulatory bodies, both national and international, to discuss, share, present solutions and a way forward towards addressing identified trends.

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