Kashifu Inuwa, the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has advised Nigerian youths to develop their digital skills to support government effort toward building digital economy.
Mr Inuwa gave the advice during an online interactive session with Nigerian youths on the topic: ‘Education, Employment and Technology in Nigeria: Gaps and Opportunities Post COVID-19 Pandemic’.
The meeting was organised by Global Shapers Community, an international Non-Governmental Organisation which specialises in outsourcing talents, creating jobs and building careers.
The NITDA boss said that developing digital skills would help them be self reliant post COVID-19 era.
“Nigerian youths should stay committed and focused on their endeavours because time to hold-on to only educational qualifications without prerequisite skills is gone, especially now that the world has changed in different dimensions.
“The outbreak of the novel Coronavirus has been a monumental disaster globally, Nigeria inclusive.
“It has led to unprecedented disruptions to global economy, sharp drop in global crude oil prices, Nigeria economic mainstay and financial markets are struggling; massive loss of employment to the teaming youth, lockdown of schools and institutes of higher learning, among others.
“As of March 28, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing more than 1.6 billion children and youth to be out of school in 161 countries. This is close to 80 per cent of the world’s enrolled students,” he said.
According to him, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment rate was 23.1 per cent in 2019 according to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), while some predicted it could reach 33 per cent by the end of 2020.
The NITDA official further said that youth unemployment and underemployment is 55.4 per cent and with the existence of the pandemic, the statistics will increase.
“To overcome these challenges of illiteracy and unemployment amongst the population of our teaming youth, there is a need for careful planning to harness the opportunities the pandemic presented.
“These opportunities can come through by using technology as a tool for human capital development and employment for next generation to curb the impact of the pandemic,” he advised.
Mr Inuwa further recalled that NITDA launched a Virtual Academy in May to enable interested candidates to engage their time meaningfully and learn some skills while schools were shutdown, among other interventions.
“We have 47 different technology related courses and so far 18,000 students have started taking lessons. This is part of our commitment in creating opportunities to deal with the challenges of COVID-19 lockdown.
“We (NITDA) also launched an innovative challenge for Nigerians to come up with workable solutions to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
“We got close to 2, 000 applicants with lots of interesting ideas from different parts of the country,” the D-G said.
He also said that ICT for mass literacy, healthcare, agriculture, women empowerment, security and surveillance are areas likely to witness a boom as an aftermath of COVID-19.
According to him, there will be job opportunities for Content Production, Animation Design for learning, Drones for medical supply deliveries, Robotics in surgeries and telemedicine, as well as Sensors for proximity monitoring.
He said that all the opportunities can be achieved if the youths leverage on digital skills rather than qualifications only.
“At NITDA, we are building Skills Acquisition Centres across the country to bridge the Digital gap, because we identified the need for escalating our activities to rural areas.
“To succeed, we need to improve our technology innovation to defeating the pandemic and turning it to a thing of blessing in disguise.
“Whether we like it or not, there is certainly a new normal in post COVID-19 pandemic where digital technologies are playing a major role,” he said. (NAN)