Expanding Digital Inclusion To Tackle Unemployment
Tech Digest – As unemployment bears its fangs on Nigerians, especially youths, experts have harped on Information Communication and Technology (ICT) as portent tool for turning things around if deployed optimally.
Although, there has been deliberate effort by government to promote digital inclusion and leverage ICT to improve quality of life of women, persons with disabilities, youths and other vulnerable groups in the country.
Also, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) through the Digital Inclusion Programme (DIP), tasked members to empower all persons regardless of gender, age, ability, or location by promoting ICT accessibility to create a more equitable and inclusive digital society.
To actualise the digital economy agenda of the Federal Government, experts suggested that no one or group of persons should be left behind.
They noted that equal opportunities to accessible ICT and assistive technologies were critical to building inclusive societies.
In realisation of this objective, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in the last 12 months has made digital inclusion one of the most urgent priorities under the stewardship of its Director-General, Kashifu Abdullahi.
The Techdigest gathered that the need to promote digital inclusion has made it more urgent in view of challenges posed by outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
To bridge the digital literacy gap especially among the most vulnerable groups in the society, NITDA trained 200 women in Ekiti, Nasarawa on ICT and entrepreneurship at different times, where they were provided with laptops and pre-installed with the requisite e-resources as support for their start-ups.
The support had created more than 500 jobs while 650 artisans from Warri, Suleja, Okene, Ogbomosho and Owerri have been trained in phone repairs.
Also the agency has commenced a specialised ICT training for Persons Living With Disabilities (PLWDs), where about 30 Persons Living with Disabilities (PLWD) were trained in Kano, 100 in July and 130 farmers were adopted in the NAVSA project.
Already, these interventions have created an employment for about 30,000 youths.
While the outbreak of COVID-19 brought a huge setback to the global economy, NITDA under Abdullahi saw it as an opportunity to further accelerate Nigeria’s journey to digital economy through various initiatives.
Speaking on the various initiatives aimed at boosting digital penetration, the NITDA boss said rescue effort in growing Nigerian digital economy post-pandemic was a strategic plan developed by the Agency’s Tech4COVID-19 Committee to support about 100,000 ICT jobs and create an additional 30,000 jobs.
He added that the agency has set up a Virtual Start-up Clinic, mostly for young people to meet with mentors, successful entrepreneurs, investors, industry specialists, business consultants and hub operators to solve problems and challenges they were facing during the pandemic.
Again, under the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA) initiative, put in place by the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy to take small scale farmers to commercial level using a performance-based approach, the agency has trained and empowered 145 farmers to utilise digital, smart and precision technology to improve farm yield.
Speaking on some of the strides recorded by the agency since his assumption of duty, the NITDA boss said the agency had set up 80 digital capacity training centres across all geopolitical zones within a year and has also established three IT hubs, four innovation and incubation parks, six IT community centres and three IT capacity-building centres in higher institutions of learning as well as in unserved and underserved communities across the country.
According to him, NITDA so far has supported 246 start-ups while 125 IT hubs while ecosystems builders have received support through Nigeria ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Vision (NIIEV).
The NITDA boss revealed that the agency has embarked on massive online open courses initiative for Nigeria’s tertiary institutions adding that the outbreak of coronavirus is a challenge to prioritize e-learning in the country.
On future of digital technology in Nigeria, he hinted that the ICT sector accounts for 17.83% of Nigeria’s GDP, saying NITDA is targeting at least five per cent quarterly increase on every achievement in the years ahead.
He hinted that in its quest to boost job creation initiatives, NITDA is already seeking partnership with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
He stated that there is need to stimulate the IT industry through content localisation, rather than importation from other countries especially that the large population of Nigeria consist young and brilliant innovators.
An IT expert and founder Jidaw System, Jide Awe noted that NITDA in the last one year has made some commendable efforts such as establishment of Digital Job Creation Centres, Scholarship programmes, Capacity Building initiatives, building knowledge centres and the creation of the IoT/AI STEAM Unity Board which is particularly useful for fostering important emerging technology skills in education.