The Nigerian Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with International Business Machines (IBM) West Africa, for partnership and collaboration in the area of Digital Skills Development in Nigeria.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami who signed the MoU on behalf of the Federal Government said “the partnership which gives impetus to the digital, innovation and entrepreneurship skills of the economic development plan of President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, is a quantum leap in the Digital Economy strategy of the Ministry.”
The MoU provides a platform to empower Nigerian youths with digital literacy and skills, to enable innovation, design and development of indigenous solutions, self-sufficiency and make Nigeria a hub for critical skills in Africa and the world at large.
Under the partnership, and in line with the Digital Literacy initiative and drive of the Ministry, Dr Pantami explained that IBM will through its Digital Nation Africa Initiative, provide free training to Nigerians for a period of 12 to 16 weeks, in diverse areas of Information Technology.
He noted that the objectives of the MoU are mainly to: “Create awareness and support in the development and use of digital tools and applications to improve the delivery of government services; Create a pool of Nigerians with digital skills validated by globally recognized certifications; Also to bridge the gap between the academia and the industry through sensitization on digital tools and skills, and Lower the access barrier to digital tools for the citizens.”
The Minister also expressed satisfaction at the organization’s response to the Digital Economy policy by, sufficiently keying in, to bridge the divide between the academia and the industry, education, and entrepreneurship.
Dr Pantami noted that “to achieve a Digital Economy, digital skills are central, and this has been adequately captured in the second pillar of the Digital Economy Strategy Policy Document as approved and launched by the President on the 28th of November 2019”.
He further disclosed that the importance of Broadband in the implementation of a Digital Economy is the life line to its success which has also been reflected in the seventh pillar of the strategy document.
“The importance of broadband penetration in achieving a digital economy has given rise to the National Broadband Committee to ensure that we thoroughly address the impediments to broadband penetration and achieving a Digital Economy”.
Pantami urged institutions of learning to give priority to skills, especially digital skills over paper qualifications saying that “digital skills are more relevant in today’s world of emerging technologies, therefore we must encourage innovation and drive digital literacy and skills among the populace”.
In his remarks the Country General Manager IBM, Mr Dipo Faulkner, stated that “IBM works with governments and key Ministries to address the societal impact of digital technology, leveraging our investment in education with platforms such as IBM Digital Nation Africa. This new collaboration furthers our aims of scaling digital job skills across Africa”.
According to him there is a need to bridge the gap between education and entrepreneurship “Digital Economy and emerging technologies have brought changes in skill requirements as well as unemployment, and in jobs Globally today. There is need to bridge the gap between education and entrepreneurship to ensure that people don’t acquire education alone but that they have skills for self-sustainability and development of their environment’’.
He added that “this will be IBM’s contributions to Nigeria to help bridge the skills gap. We cannot afford to be left behind in the digital economy”.
The programme is scheduled to take off in February 2020.