Bridging Skills Gap with Technology Innovation

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The need to boost technology innovation and bridge the existing skills gap in the ICT sector has become an imperative, writes Emma Okonji

The dearth of technology skills in the country is being addressed through the process of on-the-job training and re-training of young school graduates so as to equip them with the requisite skills needed for today’s job market.

Many seminars, symposiums and workshops are being organised across the country but some technology experts believe that, in addition to those trainings, exposing Nigerians to latest technologies and innovations will go a long way in addressing the skill gap.
Connect Marketing, one of the drivers of technology innovation in the country, is currently doing that through TechPlus.

The idea of TechPlus was conceived in 2015 primarily to address the technology innovation gap in the country. The organisers saw an opportunity to build a technology platform which technology innovators could use to develop technology in the country, through the creation and showcasing of technology products and services.
Since its inception, TechPlus has been able to add value to technology innovation in the county and several of such platforms must be encouraged by government.

Smart cities and tech innovation

Recent reports have spotted cities like Lagos in Nigeria and Johannesburg in South Africa as upcoming smart cities that the world should look up to. At the recently concluded GSMA Mobile 360 Africa in Tanzania, attention was drawn to Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa in the area of smart city development. The forum called on African governments to consider their policies and regulations and ensure that they do not stifle technology innovation and growth. The forum encouraged Africans to focus more on technology innovations that will drive development on the African continent.

Last month in Lagos, Connect Marketing used the TechPlus platform to bring technology experts together to showcase latest technology solutions that will help bridge technology skills gap in the country.
The TechPlus forum focused more on technology innovation and smart city development.
At the forum, a lot of discussions were centred on smart city and how technology will help drive the smart city initiative of the Lagos State government.

Managing Director, Connect Marketing Services, Mr. Tunji Adeyinka, organisers of TechPlus, said: “We are aware that Lagos has signed a deal with some companies to develop the state into a smart city state, and TechPlus offered ample opportunities for governments at all levels to tap into new technology ideas for smart city development at the forum. We brought speakers from Spain, who have wealth of experiences in smart city development, to speak and we invited state governments to be part of our event, to enable them take advantage of the opportunities that TechPlus offers in today’s digital world.”

Nigeria’s future in a connected world

Speaking at the TechPlus forum, the Chairperson, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Dr. Omobola Johnson, who is also the former Minister of Communications Technology, said that Nigeria and Africa must step up technology innovation in order to attain a state of technology connectivity.

According to her, “We live today in a world that is more connected than ever before. In the relatively short time since its invention, the Internet has revolutionised our world and has radically altered the way we work, play, and live. With little more than the touch of a button or the swipe of a screen, we can connect with friends, even if they are halfway across the world. We can check the news and the latest football scores, watch videos and play games, search for jobs, engage in political processes, prepare for natural disasters, access financial services, buy and sell goods and services.”

She noted that connectivity has become so indispensable to modern life that last year, the United Nations set a new global goal: Universal, Affordable Internet access for all by the year 2020.

She said: “This ambitious goal underscores the importance of internet access to global development and empowerment. But the reality is that we have a long way to go to achieve this goal. Today, over half of the world’s population is still offline. That’s more than 4 billion people, unable to take advantage of the connectivity and opportunities that come with internet access. Across our continent, just one in five people is online today. What’s more, growth is slowing and recent statistics from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) have shown that over the past year, internet use in Africa grew by just 1.8 per cent. At this rate, it will take decades for Africa to reach the internet usage levels currently seen in Europe. This gap becomes all the more real when you consider that it will exclude an entire generation from the benefits and potential of an internet connection.”

Issues with broadband

Citing high cost of broadband access as a major impediment to technology innovation, Johnson called for affordable internet access in Nigeria to enable more people have access to the internet, which she said, would improve innovation.
“The inability to afford even a basic broadband connection remains one of the biggest obstacles to wider internet access and use across Africa. In some African countries, basic broadband costs as much as 58 per cent of average income whereas in the US or Europe it is a very small fraction.
Expanding connectivity and securing Africa’s future in the connected world of today and tomorrow, requires us to take bold action now. The good news is that we already have the tools and know-how to tackle this challenge, but there is however need for us as a country Prioritise, Collaborate and Create,’ she said.

Collaboration
In order to boost innovation that will bridge technology skills gap, governments at all levels have been called upon to work together with service providers, with civil society and other stakeholders to develop and put into place the policies needed to make affordable, universal access across the continent a reality. According to experts, these policies must take into consideration local barriers to access and affordability. They must set out and work toward an ambitious new target to cut down on the cost of broadband in the country.
The experts were of the view that governments must work hard to collaborate with the private sector to create environments that encourage continued growth and investment, and continued commitment to the development of local economies.

Local content

Local content development is key to technology innovation as identified by experts present at the TechPlus forum.
According to them, securing the country’s digital future will require the development of local contents, rather than consuming from other nations. They cited the lack of relevant local content as a main reason for not using the internet.

Gaming competition
As part of measures to boost technology innovation among Nigerian youths, organisers of TechPlus used the 2016 TechPlus forum to organise gaming competition, where nine winners emerged from over two thousand gamers that contested in the gaming tournament at the Techplus 2016 conference and exhibition.
Describing the competition as healthy for technology innovation in Nigeria, Adeyinka said the competition was a brilliant opportunity for young people to sharpen their gaming skills. “Gaming is on a growth trajectory and Nigerians need to plug into the play not just as consumers but also as game-makers,” Adeyinka said.
He noted that the competition offered young people the desired digital skills, knowledge and industry connections they needed to become the next generation of game makers.

“This year, we are proud to display games made by Nigerians that are available online. Techplus has come at the right time to tap into the potential that exists in technology for job creation. We see our platform as a catalyst which will bring together the entire ecosystem. When we started we were hoping to create a platform that would allow companies, individuals and businesses in the tech space to bring together customers, clients and for all players to showcase their products and services,” he said.

MTN Executive, Amina Oyagbola, while highlighting the importance of the Techplus conference to technology promotion and adoption in Nigeria’s ecosystem, said the platform promotes technology debate, interaction and sharing of ideas that would benefit everyone in the technology space.

“As a technology company, MTN is always at the forefront of promoting any idea that supports technology discussion and its merits to business at all level,” she said.

In the FIFA 16 Soccer gaming category, Bamigbola Oluwadare emerged as the overall winner after defeating 1,467 gamers, to win grand cash prize of N500,000. Tari Ikoli Travis and Henry Andrew went home with N300,000 and N200,000 as second and third place winners respectively. The Mortal Kombat gaming category saw Richmond Boampong from Ghana grab the first place prize of N300,000, while Micah Dipsy and Abdalah Abubakar were rewarded with N200,000 and N100,000 as second and third place winners respectively. Obinna Akpen, Nonso Anumbo and Bolarin Olawadamilola won prizes for their skills in the Call of Duty gaming category, which was described as the best first-person shooter video game.
Governments at all levels must continue to support technology innovation, in order to achieve fast economic development.