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Dearth of IT skills in Nigeria worries experts

By Adeyemi Adepetun
22 April 2015   |   10:07 am
THE growing dearth of Information Technology skills in Nigeria is not resting well with the country’s vision of becoming a top economic bloc by 2020.

Group Chief Executive Officer, Computer Warehouse Group, Austin Okere (left); Country Director, Oracle Nigeria, Adebayo Sanni; Director General, Lagos State Financial Systems Management Bureau, Abdulahmed Mustapha; Director of Software and Training, Edo State ICT Agency, Toju Onaiwu at the Oracle skill roundtable event in Lagos.

THE growing dearth of Information Technology skills in Nigeria is not resting well with the country’s vision of becoming a top economic bloc by 2020.

According to technology experts, who spoke at the Oracle Corporation Roundtable in Lagos, at the weekend, fumed at the increasing IT skills gaps in the country, urgently called for measures to stem the tide.

The experts include the Country Manager, Oracle Nigeria, Adebayo Sanni; Group Chief  Executive Officer, Computer Warehouse Group, Austin Okere; Director -General, Lagos State Financial Systems Management Bureau, Abdulahmed Mustapha and, Director, Software at Edo State ICT Agency, Toju Onaiwu.

According to them, IT or ICT hold greater economic values for Nigeria and that such sector should not be allowed to suffer any challenges. They called on the incoming governments, both at the Federal and state government levels, to give priority to ICT, stressing that it is able to salvage the economy from excess dependent on oil and gas.

Okere, who said that it was revealed at the World Economic Forum in 2014 that technology added six billion jobs, even as world economy increased by $193billion, said such sector should be held in high regards.

Okere said that CWG, now a Group company, discovered at the early stage of the business that skill sets are prerequisite to delivering quality products and services to the customers.

He said the idea gave birth to CWG Academy for training and retraining of CWG staff and those from the partners’ circles.   “This singular idea is now helping OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) galvanize the skills aspects of their business.

Even the Lagos Business School has been receiving support from us in the form of tools; we engage the best graduates and release others to help partners and Governments to get their IT practices right.

“We worked with the World Bank to connect students in research institutions and universities. Today, there are 27 universities connected via NgREN and others on the verge of joining,” Okere said.

He identified Oracle Systems as ‘no-brainers’; requiring just interests from the youths to excel.To the Oracle Nigeria Country Manager, while many may watch the tumbling oil price with dismay, in some ways it can be viewed in a positive light. He said that the loss of oil revenues has compelled the country to give more attention to other areas of the economy, including technology.

According to him, the Country will perform better in the IT space with requisite skill sets, especially with the private and public sector working cordially to ensure the teeming youths in the society are equipped.

A recent survey by the CBI revealed that 39 per cent of firms are already struggling to recruit workers with the advanced technical science, technology, engineering and Maths (STEM) skills they need, and four per cent of firms believe that the shortage will persist over the next three years.

In the software and applications development space there is a shortage of developers, especially in Nigeria where the digital economy is expected to grow exponentially.

To tackle this, Sanni said that Oracle and Lagos State have just completed phase 2 of the Lagos State Workforce Development Program, to assist in training graduates on Oracle Database or Oracle E-Business Suite.

The program provides graduates with opportunities to acquire industry-relevant skills and internships within the private sector and in some of the State’s ministries.

Oracle Nigeria also offers hands-on internships at its office situated in Lagos, Abuja, and other African countries, to grow a pipeline of fresh business and ICT talent for Oracle and its West African ecosystem.

Currently, 12 interns are engaged at Oracle Nigeria.    He said, “These are just two examples of initiatives that Oracle, as a local employer, is driving to support the creation of a technical savvy workforce – other programs include supporting universities and women in leadership activities.

“Technology is no doubt changing the way we live and work around the world and specifically in Nigeria.“Public and private organizations have a responsibility to work together to help young people acquire key business and IT skills that can help them in turn to cultivate long-term success”.

He said that individuals, companies and governments are already using technology to innovate, bringing a fresh approach to creating new businesses or boosting growth in industries that make up the Nigerian economy.

To Mustapha, the army of unemployed youths portends a nation seated on a keg of gunpowder; hence the State Government has continued to work with Oracle to find better ways to serve the citizens.

He recalled that, then government of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in 2001, made moves for the computerization of the accounting processes; results are the increase in the internally generated revenue (IGR) from N600miilion to presently N25billion monthly.

Mustapha said, “Oracle Systems have helped us keep our money well in terms of record keeping, which springs over to infrastructural development. In Lagos with about 20 million populations, every Lagosian needs one service or the other.

So, technology is the only apparatus that will help less than 200,000 government workers to deliver services to the people and promptly.    “Today, Lagos State Public Service Staff Development Centre (LSPSSDC) has Oracle tools to train workers and develop youths for skills that will benefit the government and other OEMs.

Banks are retrenching, telecoms are looking for ways to balance their books, so, when they are not employing, how do we keep the people’s hopes high, as a government? Currently, we are working with UniLag, LASU, LASPOTECH and other tertiary institutions in the State to even get the lecturers ready, because skills transfer is important”.

The Director-General, Lagos State Financial Systems Management Bureau expressed confidence that IT developmental agenda of Governor Babatunde Fashola will be sustained by the in-coming administration, adding that, “We have a 25-year developmental plan from where every government in the State draws its aspiration and ICT takes centre stage in the document”.

Also, Onaiwu from the Edo State ICT Agency said that the agency was established to booster the knowledge economy of the State.   He said, “”About six years ago when we came in, the Governor Adams Oshomole felt the need to identify key developmental areas, which led to the four-years short term and eight-years long term agenda on using ICT to drive business and governance.

“Right from 2009, we identified Oracle solutions have helped us in the areas of auditing and scrutinizing the workforce for ghost workers, saving N2billion in the first year. Procurement and payment systems are done using Oracle system”.

He said the Government also identified skill sets shortage as setback to actualizing the targets but has succeeded in recruiting youths to aid the Government in that regard.