One area in which Nigeria and Nigerians have made critical contributions to the global economy in recent years is in information communications technology (ICT). Over 20 Nigerians are currently actively engaged at Facebook at different managerial positions. Nigerians are part of the new tribe of digital natives shaping the world at Microsoft, Apple and other top-of-the-cream global IT conglomerates.
Back home, many young Nigerians are quietly doing great things at different ICT hubs across the country. There are over
It is a testimony to the growing profile of the country in the sector many have described as the next oil, in fact, bigger than oil and gas sector. ICT is an enabler and it is fast defining the real meaning of sovereignty of nations. The beauty of the ICT sector is that it is an industry for the youths.
How then can Nigeria with a huge youth population make the most of this?
Answering this question, the Administrator of Digital Bridge Institute (DBI), Dr. Ike Adinde, said increased government spending on ICT training for its youths will keep the nation at the cutting edge of the global Silicon Valley.
DBI is the training arm of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). Though not a degree-awarding institute but It is an equivalent of the India Institute of Technology (IIT), the ICT capacity-building mill that has created an army of Indian digital natives swarming all over the world and adding digital value to humanity.
Prior to this time, the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, had also advocated huge investments in youths and ICT. He stressed that the country can do more if the army of unemployed youths in Nigeria can be engaged through the ICT. Buttressing this, Adinde said that Nigerian, can do what other tech experts are doing and even much more because the country has savvy, entrepreneurial and talented youths.
Despite Nigerians critical contributions to the global economy in information communications technology (ICT), he noted that environmental factors are major limitations and in a bid to survive, some deploy these talents negatively. Adinde said: “India was able to identify the need to mainstream the talents and skills of their young people positively by consciously building a structure and framework to enable them acquire these skills and it became an export product for India and the rest of the world and that is what Nigeria has not done.
“If we’re able to harness the potentials of these young people, especially in the area of ICT it will amaze you how much they will unleash. Many of the African economies are waiting for Nigeria; a lot of our young people can go into sub-Saharan countries in West, East and North Africa by exporting their skills to do things, but that hasn’t happened because there has not been a conscious effort to actually develop these things and tap into them.”
Through the efforts of IIT with campuses scattered all over India, the Asian nation has become the outsourcing capital of the world with high throughput in software engineering. India is reaping from a deliberate policy of Indian governments to scale up ICT training through aggressive investments. It is on record that the largest office of Microsoft outside its headquarters in Reddington in the United States is in India. It is also on record that these offices are manned by young IT-savvy Indians.
Adinde, who believes that Nigeria can adapt the Indian model of deliberately funding ICT training for its teeming youths, said there is a correlation between Indians and Nigerians because both countries have youths that can excel in diverse and cognitive tasks especially software engineering.
On the role of DBI in producing world class digital experts that would help in the making of Smart Nigeria, Adinde said the institute is ready and even much more.“We developed the National Occupational Standard (NOS) framework. The NOS seeks to harness talents of our young people. Many of the people you see doing very impressive things in ICT have not even gone to formal schools but they’ve got talent and skills.
“The NOS seeks to identify these skills rate and grade them such that these people will be recognised as acquiring and possessing certain skills at certain levels that are equivalent to someone who had gone through a higher institution and earned a BSc, OND, or PhD, and then becomes employable in certain sectors of the economy within the public and private sectors. It is to give relevance to this pool of people who have skills and competencies that are outside the main academic programmes that universities run, but whose contributions are making impact and contributing significantly to our GDP,” he added.
He charged governments at all levels to allocate critical funds for training of young minds because building ICT capacity has multiplier effects, as one well-trained ICT nerd can train scores of others and the cycle continues to grow.
In his words: “There are two ways to funding ICT; infrastructure side and soft side (skills and knowledge). On the hard side, which is the infrastructure, it is easy to appreciate the investment that is being made and often times that’s what the government talks about (buying computers, equipment, installing gadgets etc.), but the most important part is the skills and the knowledge that people need to even harness the potentials in those investments.
“We had made a case sometime in 2016 at the capacity building symposium organised by the ITU that the investments in USPF across Africa, that is, increasing ICT skills development instead of focusing on ICT infrastructure alone. If someone is investing $10million to ICT infrastructure, 10 per cent of the money should go for ICT skills development especially targeted at those who are called the millennials.
“They are the ones who will use the infrastructure to innovate, create and develop the things that will make the future happen, but as long as we don’t make that investment then it means that you’ll put a piece of ICT equipment in an office and nobody is using it because the skills are not there.
“There’s a critical need and that need is urgent for a country like Nigeria to invest in building ICT capacity for the young people and that’s why DBI continues to innovate programmes that target the young people so that we fulfill our mandate in that area.”Citing Gartner Inc, the global ICT intelligence group, he said worldwide IT spending is projected to total $3.7 trillion in 2018, an increase of 4.3 percent from 2017 estimated spending of $3.5 trillion.
“Of this, enterprise software and IT services have continually exhibited strong growth, with communications services continuing to drive the majority of spending. Software spending grew by about 8.5 percent in 2017, and it is expected to grow by another 9.4 percent by end of 2018 to total $387 billion,” he added.
While commending the Federal Government for increasing spending on ICT infrastructure relative to economic growth, he noted that creating pocket of digital natives especially among the youths across the country would help drive e-governance and give real essence to openness in governance.
“Investing in building human capital in ICT skills in the public sector, would help complement the various trails being blazed in the private sector by young Nigerians. I believe that with the calibre of graduates churned out by DBI coupled with contributions from various tertiary institutions across the nation, Nigeria would soon become less dependent on crude oil receipts to becoming a net exporter of ICT knowledge out of Africa,” he stressed.