Photograph — digiday

The federal government of Nigeria, in collaboration with the International Business Machine(IBM), has signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) which seeks to bridge the huge digital literacy gap in Nigeria. Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim(Pantami), the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy did the signing on behalf of the Federal Government alongside Mr Dipo Faulkner, Country General Manager IBM Nigeria. 

The signing took place last week Thursday at the Minister’s conference room in Abuja. Speaking at the signing of the MoU, Faulkner noted that digital economy and emerging technologies have brought changes in skill requirements as well as unemployment globally. 

He, therefore, stressed the need for institutions of learning to give more priority to digital skills in order to ensure that people do not only acquire academic knowledge but also have skills for self-sustainability in today’s world of emerging technologies. 

Faulkner also said that “IBM works with governments and key Ministries to address the societal impact of digital technology, leveraging” its “investment in education with platforms such as IBM Digital Nation Africa.” He added that the new collaboration furthers IBM’s aims of scaling digital job skills across Africa. 

Also commenting at the event, Dr Pantami said that this new partnership was a further demonstration and commitment of President Mohammadu Buhari’s government on digital skill literacy to the Nigerian populace. According to him, “the MoU provides a platform to empower  Nigerian youths with digital literacy skills, to 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.”

Earlier in January 2020, Dr Pantami, while addressing pressmen, pledged that the government would embark on a massive capacity building across all strata of the society in order to ensure that 95 percent of Nigerians become digital literate by 2030. The minister emphasised the need to train Nigerians on digital literacy and skills, in order to create jobs and generate wealth.

According to UNESCO, digital literacy is the ability to define, access, manage, integrate, communicate, evaluate and create information safely and appropriately through digital technologies and networked devices for participation in economic and social life. It includes competencies that are variously referred to as computer literacy, ICT literacy, information literacy, data literacy and media literacy. With the new government partnership with IBM, more Nigerians in rural areas would be provided with free access to digital literacy programs which would equip them to become more employable and skilled in their entrepreneurial ventures.

There are many factors that have contributed over time to the widening of this digital gap. One of which is low income as many cannot afford data services or digital technology, coupled with poor network services among others. Many digitally underserved Nigerians cannot afford to acquire smart devices that would aid their digitalisation. With this new initiative, they can access various digital skills within the periods of 12 to 16 weeks for free online.

Dr Pantami also stated the importance of broadband in the implementation of a Digital Economy. He called it the lifeline to the success of the initiative. According to him, “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.”

He further appealed to the state governments to understand the importance of broadband in the digital economy of the nation. Last week, the minister called on state governments to honour the agreement on unified and harmonised Right of Way (RoW) levies in the country.

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