Emma Okonji writes on the importance of technology development in nation building and the need for Nigeria to focus more on technology development among the youths, if Nigeria must catch up with global technology trends
Technology has been described as the bedrock for global development, and many nations of the world have keyed into it.
Nigeria as a nation has seen the increasing importance of global technology development. In recent times most of its policies are tilted towards technology as the main driver of economic development.
One major policy statement of government lately is to make Nigeria a destination ground for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), as well as position the country to be among the first 20 economies of the world in the year 2020, through the vision 20:2020 initiative.
All these are laudable initiatives but they lack technology investment and drive. Nigeria is yet to understand that there is no meaningful development without investment in technology, and that is where the country is getting it wrong. We cannot talk of becoming a destination ground for BPO, when our youths that are technology savvy are not encouraged to develop their skills in the technology that is driving BPO globally.
Again we cannot achieve vision 20:2020, when Nigeria is not investing in technology education of the youths that are potential leaders of tomorrow. Youths unemployment is on the rise because university students do not graduate with the right entrepreneurial and technology skills that will make them self reliant and employers of labour.
Nigeria must begin to invest in technology education among the youths in order to reduce youth unemployment, and advance the country technologically.
Youth and technology education
Worried that technology investment in the country is still at its lowest ebb, and that unemployment rate among Nigerian youths is on the increase, Chairman, Zinox Group of Technology Companies, Mr. Leo Stan-Ekeh said: â€œIt is impossible to create enough jobs in this century without first developing multiple technology platforms that will instigate smart wealth with style, which is what the new generation of Nigerians want, just like their mates all over the world.
These are modern platforms of employment, huge wealth, with healthy living and style and this is the concern of our present graduates. Technology, in itself, employs more smart people than Agriculture because of the dictates of modern times, even though Agriculture is very key to the growth of every economy.”
He added: “Todayâ€™s youth want quality technology-driven education that will offer them global opportunities to create huge wealth in no distance time with less headaches. These kids have digitally auditable brains to create wealth and style to enjoy it and therefore are impatient with any analogue system that offers nothing than huge burden with no hope for future wealth.”
His standpoint is incisive if one thinks about Whatsup that was sold two weeks ago for $19B with no infrastructural Headaches. Whatsup story is the dream of todaysâ€™ youths and it is possible that a Nigerian would have earned that in just three years and that would have altered the fortunes of this nation positively for life and there are many youths in Nigeria who can create multiples of this.
Government must therefore invest more in technology education in order to address youth unemployment on one hand, and also address economic development of Nigeria as a nation on the other hand.
Technology and online trade
Online trade is key to human and national development and it is driving todayâ€™s global economy. However the mastery of online business is in technology. Therefore there is great need for Nigerian government to invest more in technology education, according to stakeholders
Online business is self employment generated and could also create employment for thousands of Nigerians. What the Nigerian youth needs in this area, is the right online technology skills, and the laptop that has internet connectivity. Again, the skills cannot be developed from the blues, but must be learnt from infancy and the best place to begin young is the school environment, hence the need for more investment in technology across Nigerian schools.
The school curriculum should also be addressed. A situation where young school graduates could not cope with labour skills because what the student has leant has no relevance with labour demand, and it poses challenge to the economy. Many employers of labour train and retrain fresh employees to fit into labour market before they have mastery of the required technology skills, and because Nigerians are highly technology savvy, they grasp the skills within a short period of time, and abandon their first employers that have spent fortunes training them, all in the name of better remuneration.
The argument then is that Nigerians have been tested to be highly intelligent, but lack basic technological skills because they were not exposed to such technology at school, which is a function of the inability of government as a duty bearer to provide the right technology infrastructure to the rights holders, which are the students.
Slow pace in technology development
Bitter about the ugly trend in the slow pace of technology development in the country, Stan-Ekeh said: â€œGovernment has not done really enough to activate a technology revolution in the education sector. The countryâ€™s educational system is weak. If government restructures the sector with a mindset to achieve worldclass products as graduates, it has no choice but to equip the school system with the appropriate technology tools, skills and infrastructures. These are available locally if given to certified delivery partners.
An average Nigerian university has more than 40, 000 undergraduates, excluding the number of teaching and none-teaching staff, and we have over 200 higher institutions spread across the country. If we decide to take an average of 25, 000 undergraduates and multiply them by 200 universities in the country, you will discover that the country has large population of students, and each year, the university authorities graduate part of them and push them into the labour market, without the basic technological and entrepreneurial skills that will make them survive on their own and even become employers of labour, Stan-Ekeh said.
According to him, â€œThe only way God can bless Nigerian youths is through technology, which is fast sweeping the globe. Technology is the miracle we need to grow this country Nigeria. The individual, collective, and national wealth of this country Nigeria will explode through technology, and not through oil, which most Nigerian leaders think. Oil and Agriculture are cumbersome to create true sustainable wealth in the 21st century and beyond. While oil and Agriculture are hostage to nature, technology is absolutely knowledge driven and that is why it does not lie.
Todayâ€™s youth are highly technologically savvy, and they live their entire lives in technology innovation. Therefore they need encouragement where their passion is, since 90 per cent of todayâ€™s graduates believe in technology as their future hope, even though not all of them studied technology related courses, Stan-Ekeh said.
â€œI see governmentâ€™s in ability to invest in technology in the past from the angle of innocence. Government is innocent of the power of technology in all round development hence it does appears that government is shying away from technology development,â€ Stan-Ekeh added.
Task ahead of government
President of the Association Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, who added his voice on the need for government to invest in technology education of the country, is of the view that government should subsidise laptop computers for all students in tertiary institutions, instead of subsiding fuel for Nigerians. If this is done, then parents, students and Nigerians will benefit more from it, because by that singular investment, every home will have at least one laptop with internet connectivity or more, such that other family members could still use the computer to access the world via the internet, for the purpose of academic research and for business.
According to Stan-Ekeh, â€œIf government for instance, invests in one million laptops for schools with internet connectivity, it will go a long way in driving technology development among students. If a student takes his laptop home, the priority of the family changes, because they too could have access to it.â€
Corporate social responsibility
Many observers say the contributions of corporate organisation in donating laptops and desktop computers to schools as part of their corporate social responsibility, will not drive far, the idea of technology development, frowned to a situation where organisations would donate 50 computers to a school with a population of about 50 thousand students. Of what benefit will such donations be to the entire students that will be struggling to have five minutes tutorial on computer education, he queried.
With such donations, the technology needs of the students were not met, and that is why the duty bearers like the government must wake up to invest heavily in technology education, while the CSR donations from corporate organisations, will be complimentary to whatever government had already invested in, he said. By Government here I am referring to Federal, State and Local Governments as its not only a burden meant for Federal government.
Industry watchers are of the view that government has taken some laudable initiatives in technology development that is currently being driven by the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, but insisted that such technology developments are too minute, compared to the vast population of Nigerian youths that are technology savvy and hungry for technology.
â€œDeveloping technology idea in a Co-Creation Hub in Yaba, Lagos, is minute, compared to the number of people across the country that need that development and skills as a matter of right, yet they are denied by governments at different levels, whose duty is to provide the citizens with the necessary tools and learning environment where they could acquire technology skills,â€ Stan-Ekeh said.
According to him, I sincerely think government at all levels should see investment in the technology sector as critical investments that would drive the creation and sustenance of wealth and most importantly the unity of this country.
He said: â€œA nation that is financially broke is a nation anything can happen anytime.â€
Having identified the importance of investments in technology education, government should begin to see the advantage and move to make such investment that will change the fortune of Nigeria and indeed Nigerians.