Nigerian youths have been advised by the NITDA DG to join hands with the government and other relevant stakeholders to acquire necessary digital skills in order to be self-reliant during the post-COVID-19 era.
The Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, gave the advice during an online interactive session with Nigerian youths on the topic: ‘Education, Employment & Technology in Nigeria: Gaps & Opportunities Post COVID-19 Pandemic’, organised by Global Shapers Community, an international non-governmental organisation which specialises in outsourcing talents, creating jobs and building careers.
The DG, NITDA said Nigerian youths should stay committed and focused on their endeavours, adding that the time to hold on to only educational qualifications without prerequisite skills is gone, especially now that the world has changed in a different dimension.
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The DG, NITDA added that the outbreak of COVID-19 has been a monumental disaster globally, Nigeria inclusive. It has led to unprecedented disruptions to the global economy, sharp drop in global crude oil prices, Nigeria’s 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.
“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,” he said.
“Prior to the 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 COVID-19 pandemic, these statistics cannot be better,” he added.
“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 COVID-19 pandemic has presented by using technology for human capital development and employment for next generation to curb the impact of the pandemic,” he advised.
The DG, NITDA further noted that because the closure of schools due to the virile nature of the virus, NITDA under the supervision of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, launched a Virtual 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 to 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 COVID-19 pandemic. We got close to 2000 applicants with lots of interesting ideas from different parts of the country,” the NITDA 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.