INTERVIEW: We Are Set To Train 300 Youths On Digital Literacy, Telcom Networking In Northeast – NEICTI Boss, Alkali
TECHDIGEST – The Team Lead of the North East ICT Initiative (NEICTI), Abdulrahman Barkindo Alkali, has been up and down in recent times with a robust plan to take ICT savviness to the majorly disadvantaged areas of the Northeast. In this exclusive interview with TechDigest’s trio of Abbas Badmus, Zeenat Sambo and Fom Gyem, Alkali opened up on the plans and modalities for the upcoming training workshop for Northeast youngsters which is set to take place in Gombe.
Can you tell us the agenda and immediate plan of the NEICTI?
The North East ICT Initiative (NEICTI) is a youth-driven non-profit organisation which we started about a decade ago. It was founded primarily to among other things, foster the promotion of ICT and innovations within the Northeast zone of Nigeria. One of our core objectives is to take ICT and digital literacy to the digitally disadvantaged rural dwellers.
There is a project our organisation is about to accomplish this August. It is themed “First North East Telecoms & Networking Workshop.” We are doing this in collaboration with the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy through its various agencies and partners like the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Galaxy Backbone and other corporate institutions in Nigeria.
What specific role is the Ministry playing in the event and have you reached out to them?
We have written to them and we are expecting a positive feedback.
What kind of partnership do you seek from them?
The program was meant to take place in our headquarters in Yola, Adamawa State. Then, we were advised by people to move it to Gombe which is more strategic because it is the Minister’s state, We wrote the Governor, requesting as the host state to give us accommodation and feeding for the participants. The Commissioner and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology have both reached out to us to confirm the accommodation arrangement.
They are giving us accommodation in Gombe State University hostel. We told them that we have people coming from the academia as well, lecturers and professors because these courses are high earned courses in 5G, AI and the rest. So I asked the Perm Sec for more but he said based on the reality of the economy, that is all the accommodation they can offer and even for the feeding, he was not sure if they will take responsibility for it.
What do you propose to be the role of NITDA in the event?
We are requesting NITDA and NCC to give the participants one laptop each. Also, we are looking up to Galaxy Backbone to provide resource persons and MTN/Glo and Airtel to assist us with materials, Mifi and possibly, accommodation so that the event will be successful.
We have written to them and the telecom companies but we are yet to hear positive response from them but are hopeful they will respond soon.
NITDA North East office in Gombe is giving us venue for the workshop. We have 6 halls named after the North East state training centers in Gombe. Each of the training facilities has ICT capacity that we can use for these courses but we will still follow up with NITDA to facilitate some of our requests.
Actually we have written to them since last year that we want partnership, we gave our complete proposals but they said they don’t have the budget allocation to take care of this kind of events but they said they can help in terms of resource persons and facilitators.
How many participants are you looking at?
We have 50 participants from each state of the 6 northeast states making it 300 participants for the event..
Is this your first edition of this program?
Is this annually?
Yes, after this we will move online for virtual classes. We have online academics although Galaxy Backbone has online academy offering all these courses. So it’s just for us to set the ball running with this and subsequently move online. After this program, we will sit with the stakeholders and they will look through it.
We have never done any program this huge that’s why we included NITDA so that they can support and give the laptops to a contractor to guarantee that the laptops are given to the rightful individuals. So the contractor and NITDA will be the one to come to the training workshop and give out the laptops to the participants.
How did you select the participants and are they paying?
No they are not paying. The program is free. They are selected based on their expertise. They are professionals in IT and they are ecosystem technical players. These courses are not for the layman, they are for people already in the tech field that participate in the ecosystem activities. Right now we have 5,300 applicants.
In each state of the north east we have focal persons and I have sent an excel application form for them to fill and choose from among the tech ecosystem players fit to participate. But for a state like Borno, selection is done between the tech community and the Ministry because they do it in unison. Borno and Yobe have ministry of science and technology unlike Adamawa, so they participate in selecting applicants.
Do you have the full list of the participants?
Yes, we have the comprehensive list of all the participants as submitted by the states to participate in the first North East Telecoms and Networking Workshop taking place from August 8th-20th this year.
So what academy logo will be on the certificate?
The certificate will be under Galaxy Backbone Academy to make it more authoritative and credible. Galaxy Backbone partners companies like Huawei and other notable tech outlets. Well, we know that Huawei also has their own online academy but I don’t know which one is allocated because they have many partners but we are hopeful it will be Huawei because I already know their online academy. So the certificate will be titled “North East ICT Development Initiative Certificate”.
What are the challenges do you face as an organisation?
The major challenge we are faced with is lack of mentoring. We don’t have enough ICT/ Tech savvy personnel in the northeast to mentor the teaming youth. Also there is lack of networking in the Northeast, everybody wants to go on solo game.
No tech solutions coming from the northeast, making us helpless when we are in need of tech experts to tackle faulty technical operations. Another challenge is the lack of collaboration and synergy which we hope will be resolved with the successful hosting of this coming workshop.