BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

COVID-19: Nigerian youths must leverage on skills to contribute to digital economy – DG NITDA

By Raphael Jov, Abuja

Nigerian Youths have been advised to join hands with 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 Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, 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.

He said, Nigerian youths should stay committed and focused on their endeavors, adding that time to hold-on to only educational qualifications without prerequisite skills is gone, especially now that the world has changed in different dimension.

The DG said that the outbreak of novel Coronavirus has been a monumental disaster globally, Nigeria inclusive. It has led to unprecedented disruptions to global economy, sharp drop in global crude oil prices, Nigeria economic mainstay and financial markets are struggling; massive loss of employment to the teaming youth, 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 COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment rate was 23.1% in 2019 according to 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, this statistics cannot be better,” he added.

“To overcome these challenges of illiteracy and unemployment amongst the population of teaming 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 virile 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 on 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.

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