By Chimezie Godfrey
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantam) has applauded National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and CISCO Network Academy for their efforts in supporting the Federal Government of Nigeria in achieving a digital economy through the nation’s Academic Institutions.
Pantami equally appreciated the fact that this will greatly impact universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in training students on digital skills, reiterating that equipping citizens with requisite skills rather than depending on certifications that cannot be validated, will produce employers of labour and end unemployability in the country.
Prof Pantami made the commendation while delivering a Keynote Address at the CISCO SAFARI International Conference 2022 organised by NITDA in collaboration with CISCO held at the Digital Economy Complex, Mbora, Abuja.
The conference themed “Digital Skills in the 4th Industrial Revolution, the Impact on National Development” is an annual event where experts converge to discuss the progress and achievements of CISCO Academy in mentorship, career development programmes in the country and to strengthen the partnership it has enjoyed with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) over the years.
Describing the theme of the conference as apt and a reflection of the present administration’s foresight in aligning with global trends, Pantami stated that digital skills and the 4th Industrial Revolution have been highlighted in the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy as key pillars in diversifying the country’s economy.
“If you look at our National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a digital Nigeria 2020- 2030 which was unveiled by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, on the 28th of November 2019, you will discover that these two components of the theme have been effectively mentioned and captured in the policy under pillars number 2 and 7. Pillar number 2 is digital skills and literacy while pillar number 7 is digital society and emerging technologies”, he noted.
Arguing that the world is already in the 4th Industrial Revolution, Pantami averred those emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Blockchain Technology among many others have replaced the existing emergence of computers, worldwide webs and the internet which was experienced in the 3rd Industrial Revolution.
“There is a clear line of demarcation between general Information Communication Technology and Emerging Technologies. The world is being converted to a virtual world today to the extent that we are so much addicted to the virtual world and we know the virtual world more than how we know and interact with the physical world. We are already in the 4th Industrial Revolution”, he opined.
While highlighting the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution on the national economy through the emergence and dominance of a knowledge-based economy over a resource-based economy, Pantami disclosed that Nigeria experienced ICT and other digital services contributed 17.9% to the Nation’s economy as regard 8% contributed by Oil in the second quarter of the year 2021.
Stating that the 4th Industrial Revolution is about knowledge and not natural resources, the Minister further reiterated that organizations like Microsoft, Apple, SpaceX and Amazon have taken prevalence over organizations like Shell, Mobil and Chevron.
Commending the country’s educational sector on various policies developed to upscale digital skills in their institutions, Pantami noted that the major focus should be on equipping undergraduates with Soft Skills such as analytical thinking, critical thinking, project management and hlHard Skills such as artificial intelligence, robotics, internet of things should be introduced to boost employability in the country.
Giving assurances of the government’s support, Prof. Pantami stated that “Of recent, we have had an agreement with Huawei and CISCO to establish a minimum of 300 academies in Nigeria and to train a minimum of 30,000 citizens on advanced training. In addition to this, we have another agreement with Microsoft in which 5 million citizens are going to be trained on ICT, particularly in the area of Artificial Intelligence”.
While giving his special address earlier, the Honorable Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu commended Prof. Pantami on the unprecedented achievements he recorded in sustaining a digital Nigeria.
Adamu who was ably represented by the Ministry’s Director for ICT, Mr. Gbenga Oderemi, expressed the Ministry’s commitment to equipping their institutions with the requisite skills to produce middle and high-level manpower needed to play an active role in the country’s drive for development.
“There is need for us to improve the existing teaching methodology in our schools and our commitment is to provide digital skills for our students as demonstrated in our policies, strategies and initiatives”, he said.
On his part, the Chief Host of the event, Director General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa CCIE stated that the conference reflects the strong ambition and commitment of the Nation’s leadership to transform Nigeria into a knowledge and skills-based economy.
He expressed the government’s target of attaining 95% digital literacy in the country by 2030, noting that “even though it is ambitious, it is attainable and with this partnership, we will certainly achieve this 95% digital literacy before 2030”.
Other dignitaries present at the event were the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta who was ably represented, the Director General of the National Identity Management Commission, Engr. Aliyu Abubakar Aziz, the National Commissioner of the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau, Dr. Vincent Olatunji, the Postmaster General of the Nigerian Postal Services, Dr. Ismail Adewusi who was ably represented, the Managing Director, Nigerian Communications and Satellite, Dr. Abimbola Alale who was represented among many others.