By Kristi Pelzel
Technology is trending across conversations in Nigeria, primarily driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, renewing the call to action to equip the country for the future and close educational gaps. “The COVID-19 crisis is a reminder of the existing gap between policy discourse and reality [for technology advancement],” Mrs. Olukemi Kalesanwo, Director, Agency for Mass Education, Lagos. (2020)
The Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPM) seconded Mrs. Kalesanwo’s comment in its 36th Omolayole Management Lecture (OML) titled “Leading at the Speed of Technology: Implications for the Corporate World.” President and Chairman, Wale Adediran, stated that industry leaders must support energy and technology advancement by addressing development challenges, noting these imperative needs became more evident following the outbreak of COVID-19, which created significant disruptions.
The need for hardware, software, infrastructure to improve connectivity, and skill-building are in vast deficit. However, this deficit also brings an opportunity for Nigerians. They can skip ahead of earlier technology iterations, moving into the latest programs as the starting point. Still, there must be a real, identifiable starting point which a majority recognizes as a “good” start.
Nigerian organizations, local, state, national, and United States private industry partners are taking up the task. Dr. Adejoke Ajayi, Chief Lecturer at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, stressed the need to bridge the gap between adult learning and government policies in a webinar on International Literacy Day.
“Nigeria has been without a national policy to specifically direct and propel science and technology education despite incorporating science curricula in its education before independence” (C. Okeke, 09/2020).
The lack of national policy contributed to the deficit, but that’s changing. On September 24, 2020, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, launched the National Policy on Science and Technology Education to reposition and improve science and technology education in the country for global competitiveness.
On the same day, a call to action was made in the 36th Omolayole Management Lecture by President and Chairman Wale Adediran; the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, launched the National Policy on Science and Technology Education, and Dell Technologies announced a partnership with global tech firms to establish a Tech Experience Centre in Nigeria.
“The launch of the Experience Centre will support technology growth in Nigeria and the West African region. Also, it provides a fantastic platform for Dell Technologies to showcase the very many technologies we offer,” Nicholas Travers, Director, Dell Technologies, Central and West Africa. The Dell program launches as soon as October 1, 2020.
A week prior to these events, Facebook announced its ambitions to develop talent across West Africa, primarily in Nigeria, recognizing the fast-growing market and opportunities on the horizon. Facebook will open its second Africa office in Lagos in late 2021, following Google and Microsoft’s continued investments, committing 100 million (USD) to build African-based software development centers by 2023.
These policy changes and conversations amongst leaders, government, and private industry seem to be creating some movement in the right direction, but there is a optimistic hesitancy among my peers.
“Launching policies in itself is a good thing. I like launching things – but everyone knows that after launching, comes execution. This is for any real development to take place; so we should hold the minister accountable and see to it that the policy breathes and lives. To reposition and improve STEM education in Nigeria would mean a hard reset for the educational system. Data that captures the present emerging state of educational infrastructure should be leveraged, prioritizing development in a bottom-up fashion.
“Getting STEM education in people’s hands is not about buying and distributing 100,000 tablets but also considering the micro and macroeconomic variables at play for sustenance. By this, I mean that things like electricity and internet infrastructure should be in place. Overall, the minister seems optimistic in his approach, so this is good.” – Evelyn Dan Epelle, Channel Manager at KAFTAN TV and International Multi-media Journalist.
“In my view, science and technology should be at its peak in education because they are interwoven. However, for this new policy not to look like a statement made out of ‘lip-service’, proper measures should be in check for a good outcome of the policy.” – Adegoke Damilola, Business Development Officer at FCMB Trustees Limited.
“The details of the policy is still sketchy. More problematic is the fact that unworkable policies are announced prematurely. One thing is to roll out a bold enviable policy, another is to effectively implement it. I am not convinced that this will go anywhere. The devil is the details and I don’t see any details.” – LaBode Obanor, JD
With so much interest and support for developing what will become the world’s largest workforce, this progress will hopefully be balanced in policy, action, and accountability. Nigeria has a real opportunity to capitalize on momentum in the technology sector, while improving life for the citizens ready to support the changes and grow together as a nation.
Bio: Kristi Pelzel is an international communications consultant and advisor working across U.S. and African markets. She is a global news correspondent for KAFTAN TV. Her industry experience spans 10 years in broadcast, digital, and social media communication, emphasizing strategic planning, and creative design. Kristi holds a B.A. from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California, and an M.A. from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.