FG, IBM Sign MoU for Digital Skill Development 

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Emma Okonji

The federal government through the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Tech giant, International Business Machines (IBM) West Africa.

The deal is for partnership and collaboration in the area of digital skills development in Nigeria.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, who signed on behalf of the federal government, said the partnership would give impetus to the digital, innovation and entrepreneurship skills of the economic development plan of President Muhammadu Buhari.

He described the partnership as a quantum leap in the digital economy strategy of the ministry. 

The MoU, which was signed in Abuja recently, is scheduled to take off in February 2020.

The MoU provides a platform to empower Nigerian youths with digital literacy skills, enable innovation, design and development of indigenous solutions, self -sufficiency and make Nigeria a hub for critical skills for Africa and the world at large. 

Under the partnership, and in line with the Digital Literacy initiative and drive of the Minister, IBM would through its Digital Nation Africa Initiative, provide free training to Nigerians for a period of 12 to 16 weeks, in diverse areas of Information Technology (IT). 

The MoU seeks to create awareness and support in the development and use of digital tools and applications to improve the delivery of government services; create a pool of Nigerians with digital skills validated by globally recognised certifications; bridge the gap between the academia and the industry through sensitisation on digital tools and skills; and lower the access barrier to digital tools for the citizens.

Addressing IBM representatives led by the Country General Manager, Pantami expressed satisfaction at the organisation’s response to the digital economy policy by, sufficiently keying in, to bridge the divide between the academia and the industry, education and entrepreneurship. 

Pantami noted that, “to achieve a digital economy, digital skills are central, and this has been adequately captured in the second pillar of the Digital Economy Strategy Policy Document as approved and launched by the President on the 28th of November 2019.”

The minister further disclosed that the importance of broadband in the implementation of a digital economy is the life line to its success and this again has been reflected in the seventh pillar of the strategy document. 

“The importance of broadband penetration in achieving a digital economy has given rise to the National Broadband Committee to ensure that we thoroughly address the impediments to broadband penetration and achieving a Digital Economy,” Pantami said.

The minister urged institutions of learning to give priority to skills, especially digital skills over paper qualifications. 

According to him, “Digital skills are more relevant in today’s world of emerging technologies, therefore we must encourage innovation and drive digital literacy and skills among the populace.”

In his remarks, the Country General Manager at IBM, Mr. Dipo Faulkner, said: “IBM works with governments and key Ministries to address the societal impact of digital technology, leveraging our investment in education with platforms such as IBM Digital Nation Africa. This new collaboration furthers our aims of scaling digital job skills across Africa.”