Benjamin Babine, Abuja
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has called on Nigerian youths to work with government and other stakeholders to acquire necessary digital skills in order to be self-reliant in the post-COVID-19 era.
The Director-General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, gave this advice during an online interactive session with some Nigerian youths on the topic “Education, Employment & Technology in Nigeria: Gaps & Opportunities Post COVID-19 Pandemic” organised by Global Shapers Community.
Abdullahi advised that youths should stay committed and focused on their endeavours, adding that the time to depend on only educational qualifications is gone. He stressed that skills are even more important now because of the pandemic.
The DG went on speaking about the pandemic calling it a monumental disaster to the world.
‘It has led to unprecedented disruptions to the global economy, sharp drop in global crude oil prices, Nigeria economic mainstay and financial markets are struggling; massive loss of employment to the teeming youth, the lockdown of schools and institutes of higher learning, among others,’ he said.
‘As of March 28, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing more than 1.6 billion children and youth to be out of school in 161 countries. This is close to 80% of the world’s enrolled students.
‘Prior to COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate was 23.1% in 2019 according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), though some predicted it could reach 33% by 2020. Youth unemployment and underemployment is 55.4%. With the onset of the pandemic, these statistics cannot be better.
‘To overcome these challenges of illiteracy and unemployment amongst the population of teeming youth, there is a need for careful planning to harness the opportunities the pandemic presented by using technology for human capital development and employment for next generation to curb the impact of the pandemic,’ he advised.
Abdullahi further noted that by the closure of schools due to the nature of the virus, NITDA under the supervision of Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy launched Virtually Academy for those staying at home to use their time meaningfully for learning some skills.
‘When we looked at the situation, we decided to come up with NITDA Academy for Research and Development (NART), we have 47 different technology-related courses and so far 18,000 students have started taking lessons. This is part of our commitment in creating opportunities to deal with the challenges.
‘Furthermore, we launched an innovative challenge for Nigerians to come up with workable solutions to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. We got close to 2000 applicants with lots of interesting ideas from different parts of the country,’ the DG added.
He said ‘there is likely a boom in response to the aftermath of COVID-19. Areas to watch out for are ICT for mass literacy, Health care, Agriculture, Women Empowerment, Security and Surveillance.
‘Job opportunities for Content Production, Animation Design for learning, Drones for medical supply deliveries, Robotics in surgeries and telemedicine and Sensors for proximity monitoring. All these can only be achieved if the youths leverage digital skills rather than qualifications only.’
‘At NITDA, we are building Skills Acquisition Centres across the country to bridge the digital gap. Because we identified the need for escalating our activities to Rural Areas, this falls under our Digital Inclusion programme.’
‘To succeed, we need to improve our technology innovation to defeating the pandemic and turning it to a thing of blessing in disguise. Whether we like it or not, there is certainly a new normal in post-COVID-19 pandemic where digital technologies are playing a major role,’ he concluded.