The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), on Thursday 16th January 2020 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on behalf of the Federal Government with Tech giant, International Business Machines (IBM) West Africa, for partnership and collaboration in the area of Digital Skills development in Nigeria.
The process started somewhat in October last year when the tech giant’s delegation led by the Vice President, IBM Citizenship Global Market and Digital Hub, Jean-Christopher Knoertzer, were at the Ministry to explore partnership which is aimed at promoting education and skills development for Nigerian Digital Natives.
The partnership, Pantami said, gives impetus to the digital, innovation and Entreprenuership skills of the economic development plan of President Muhammadu Buhari and it is a quantum leap in the Digital Economy strategy of the Ministry.
The MoU provides a platform to empower Nigerian youths with digital literacy skills, to enable innovation, design and development of indigenous solutions, self sufficiency and make Nigeria a hub for critical skills for Africa and the world at large.
Under the partnership, and in line with the Digital Literacy initiative and drive of Dr Dr. Pantami, 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. 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;
- 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.
Addressing IBM representatives led by the Country General Manager, the Minister expressed satisfaction at the organisation’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”.
The Minister further disclosed that the importance of Broadband in the implementation of a Digital Economy is the life line to its success and this again has 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”, he said.
Pantami encouraged institutions of learning to give priority to skills, especially digital skills over paper qualifications as according to him, “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 at the signing ceremony which held at the Minister’s conference room in Abuja, the Country General Manager 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”.
The programme is scheduled to take off in February 2020.