The Administrator of Digital Bridge Institute, Dr. Ike Adinde, in this interview with Emma Okonji said the recent World Bank report that Nigeria is under-investing in human capital development should propel the nation to do more in funding information communication technology skills development. Excerpts:
What is your view on the recent Word Bank report that Nigeria is under-investing in human capital development?
We know it and we can say from a cursory observation the kind of skills that abound in our economy. People can be unemployed not because they don’t have education but because they don’t have the requisite skill that the industries need. So we can distinguish between unemployment as a result of jobs not being available, and unemployment as a result of not having the employable skills that the industries demand and that is where the World Bank report is important. The report is important to Nigeria to the extent that it also indicates that we need to begin to develop skills that the modern economy needs. There are skills that are required by modern economy and those skills are mostly digital skills. Many of our young people do not have the requisite digital skills to play in the modern economy, that is where Digital Bridge Institute (DBI)DBI comes in. Most of the programmes that we offer today are designed to help our young people, graduates across all discipline to acquire digital skills that will enable them to mainstream into the modern economy. We are hoping that with the kind of intervention the institutions of government like NCC are doing that over time we will be able to bridge this gap. There is a whole lot that is beginning to happen because developing skills is not just to sit in a classroom environment, we also recognise that there are other avenues through which skills can be built.
Tell us about some of the initiatives of DBI in the last one year, especially the newly introduced National Occupational Skills system?
DBI is also taking the initiative to drive what is called the National Occupational Skills system which will target vocational skills development in ICT. A lot of computer villages are scattered across the country. If you get into them, you will find out that many young men are doing some great jobs. They are doing so not necessarily because they have degrees or certificates but because they acquired skills. So, increasingly we want to focus on that area to ensure that these skills are also recognised. We want to see government begin to say that skills development is not about certificate, it is about what you can do just as we have it in the private sector. If you go to EMAB Plazain Centre in Abuja today, for example, you will notice that there are a lot of people who are fixing phones, tablets and repairing computers and they don’t have degrees in ICT. That is the kind of thing we think that we should begin to encourage because there are many job opportunities in that sector. Most of those people do not need jobs, they can be on their own if you prepare them and that is where we are hoping that we will develop those skills to the extent that people will finish school tomorrow, acquire that skill and they don’t look to government or anybody for paid employment, they can set up on they own and do things on their own. From there, rather than become job seekers, they become employers of labour and creators of wealth. It is a possibility that we can create oasis of millionaires, even billionaires, from these sets of people. That is possible in ICT and we will get there.
Is DBI targeting a particular number of people under this initiative?
Our ambition is to reach as many people as possible in the next one year hoping that we can do as many as 10, 000 per year if the program that we are unleashing works as projected. That way all parts of the country will be covered. The program is currently going on, we are working with the National Board for Technical Education to get two things: the accessory and verifiers in which case DBI owns it and eventually becomes the awarding body for those skills. It means that once you pass through the assessment we can award you certification that places you at certain competences level that is if you are able to do a number of things that have been specified in the standard.
DBI had an interactive forum with directors of human resources and ICT in ministry, department and agencies recently, what was the essence of the forum and what value did it bring to DBI?
We were glad that the forum held because it addressed a whole lot of things. The DBI one-day interactive forum with Directors of Human Resources (HR) and Information Technology (IT) of various government agencies was held in order to interact with the key decision makers in organisations to find out how the training calendar year had gone, understand were the issues have been for capacity building particularly in the ICT sector. We feel that the feedback of the interaction will go a long way in helping DBI redesigning its own programme for this new year. Last year we did quite a lot of work, interacting with the same people to get a feedback on their training methods. Our assessment was guided by the survey that we carried out in specific areas of work to determine where skills are mostly needed in ICT for the purpose of supporting their goals and objectives. The aggregate feedback from the programme has helped us to unveil at this time, our 2019 calendar. By interacting with HR directors and ICT directors, we hope to achieve two main things. One is to get a feedback from them on how the training activity for the year has fared. Secondly, to also solicit their cooperation and collaboration with DBI as we begin activities in 2019 so that we can work together to develop the capacity of their workforce especially in ICT skills area where DBI is very strong. It is our expectation that at the end of it all, they will go back to our training calendar and plan for capacity building for the new year, using the broad range of programmes that we have provided in the course manual. We will work with them this year to achieve their training and manpower development plans especially in building ICT skills for their workforce, which is the core in this 21st century for any organisation.
Could you share the ADAPTI Programme of your agency? How was its performance in 2018?
Anytime I meet the press they want to talk about ADAPTI which happens to be DBI flagship programme. ADAPTI stands for Advance Digital Appreciation Programme for Tertiary Institutions. It is a programme that had been with DBI for over a decade sponsored exclusively by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), our parent organisation. It is an intervention programme for supporting capacity building across tertiary institutions in Nigeria over the past 14 years. Since the commencement of ADAPTI, DBI has trained over 40,000 academic and non-academic staff of tertiary institutions. So it continues to be an important programme for supporting capacity building in this digital age. It is helping to increase ICT skills penetration, helping us to increase awareness and acquisition of ICT skill, and increasing digital literacy not just in public universities, but even the private universities have also benefitted from ADAPTI. Through this programme, we have helped in the past years, to update both the lecturers and students to contemporary global standards. ICT is a highly dynamic environment and if you don’t update and innovate, you would be left behind. This is what we have been collaborating with our tertiary institutions to avoid; to make sure that they are still able to compare and compete with their counterparts from around the world.
Two years ago, DBI got accreditation from NBTE to award National Diploma. How is the programme going and what discipline of education is being offered by DBI?
Our accreditation I can say is going to two years now. We are certified and accredited to award National Diploma by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). This is very special because our diploma is in the area of innovation. DBI is an innovation enterprise institute specialised in development of academy programme for specific areas in telecoms, computer hardware, multimedia, networking and system security. So, we began the programme two years ago, first batch will be graduating at the end of this academic session and we are doing well. We matriculated the second batch recently, about 83 of them; 104 altogether from both campuses in Lagos and Kano. We have students across the five disciplines where we are running the programme currently. I am happy to report to you that the first set of our students sat for Microsoft Office and certification exam and recorded a 100 per cent success. What it means for our students is that before they graduate they will take an ICT certification exam that enhances their employability and job prospect in the market because it is not just about the academics, the industry recognises ICT certification. DBI is working hard to make sure that as our students go through our programme, they also go through certifications before they graduate.
Given the areas of speciality in the programme offered by DBI, what do you think is the way forward for Nigeria’s technology innovation?
This is the 21st century. It is not just the knowledge century, it is the innovation century. Such innovation must be deliberately articulated as a national policy to get the youths and the infants digitally savvy from early school. Nigeria, I must note, is very lucky because we have fertile minds ready to out-innovate the world. That is why everywhere you go, Africa and indeed the black man is waiting for Nigeria to lead the way. All we need is the right environment, right tools and requisite skills set and this is the gap we are filling at DBI as a government-owned ICT capacity building institute. I want to see more government spending in ICT skills development. I desire that the private sector gets even more ambitious in its ICT spend in this regard. That way, creating a globally recognised silicon valley and its allied components would not be far-fetched.