Inaugural address by Barrister Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu Honourable Minister of Communications at the inauguration of the implementation committee on the proposed ICT university of Nigeria on Thursday, 1st June, 2017 at the SGF Conference Room Federal Secretariat Complex, Shehu Shagari Way, Abuja.
1. I am delighted to welcome distinguished members of the Implementation Committee on the proposed ICT UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA to this auspicious occasion. I am particularly happy that a new history is today being written in the annals of ICT development in Nigeria.
2. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the ICT sector has come to play a critical role in the sustainable growth and development of this nation. At the rate of 24.42 percent, the ICT sector is currently the fastest growing in the Nigerian economy. This exponential growth in the sector was heralded by the liberalization of the telecommunications industry alongside technological development in the industry, supported by sound policy and regulatory frameworks. The result of this is an increasingly competitive industry, reduced digital divide, increased contribution to the GDP as well as an overall positive impact on all sectors of the nation’s economy.
3. It is of interest to note that although the global ICT industry is both promising and flourishing, the local industry has continued to suffer from skills shortage, with nowhere near enough professionals to meet the demand for niche roles being created as a result of rapid technological development. As you are aware, on my assumption of duty as Hon. Minister of Communications, the Ministry organized the Communications Sector Retreat. The retreat was targeted at fashioning strategies that would reposition the sector as the key driver of the Nigerian economy. One of the fallout of the retreat was the fact that there were several unfilled vacancies in the Nigeria ICT industry because many job seeking Nigerian graduates do not possess the requisite skills to take up such opportunities. Expatriates have had a field day. This contrasts sharply with the fact that we have a large pool of unemployed youths in the country.
4. To ensure that Nigeria keeps pace with the rapidly changing technological development in the global ICT industry, deliberate policy strategies must therefore be put in place within a nationally and globally defined agenda for sustainable ICT development. Indeed, as the Nigeria ICT sector continues to evolve at a frenetic pace, and with technology increasingly converging into all sectors of the economy, the demand for technical talent and specialists across a range of sectors would continue to grow, as we strive to meet the growing demand in the emerging digital economy. This also brings to the fore, the need to have a logical plan for manpower development and long-term workforce planning as well as Research & Development (R&D) in this critical sector.
5. In response to the foregoing, the Ministry of Communications has identified the establishment of an ICT University as one of the ways to move to the next phase of the nation’s ICT growth by the enhancement of ICT learning environment that is geared towards the stimulation of creative thinking. Another obvious way is to re-strategize our ICT skills requisition and R&D to focus more on solutions to current and anticipated challenges in the sector.
6. You will recall that prior to the privatization of the defunct NITEL, it had invested heavily in assets and equipment for modern and up to date training. The Centres served as the continuous learning locations for staff, engineers and technicians to keep them abreast on all telecommunications development. Fortunately, the Centres were not sold off with the assets of NITEL after its privatization. They are now under the supervision of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which converted them into the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI), with Campuses in each of the six (6) geo-political zones to foster the development and growth of the Nigerian Telecommunications marketplace and to produce suitably qualified hands in telecoms engineering. Some modest successes have been recorded in this regard. Since the establishment of DBI, the world has moved on, particularly with technology convergence completely obliterating the divide between Information Technology, Communication technology and even broadcasting technology. To further confirm the need for an upgrade, the National Board for Technical Education also recently accredited the Digital Bridge Institute to operate as an Innovation Enterprise Institution, offering specialized Diploma courses in IT.
7. The potentials of the DBI are enormous and the benefits to the country unquantifiable. The Institute, when transformed into the ICT University, will provide fit-for-purpose curricular to cater for University graduates with specialization in various ICT fields and expertise. This will create employment opportunities for Nigerians both locally, within the West-African sub-region and even at the international level, aside from several opportunities that would be created for self-employment.
8. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, Research & Development and human capacity building are key focus areas critical for the full development and harnessing of ICT towards fast-tracking socio-economic progress in Nigeria. R&D propels innovation while human capacity building helps to equip the people with necessary skills and literacy to innovate and to use ICT for further development. In many cases in the past, researches have been carried out without recourse to the relevant industries. Consequently, many outcomes of such researches have remained in the laboratories and not in the industry where they would have been exploited. In countries such as South Korea, Singapore, India and Thailand where ICTs have propelled economic development, ICT curriculum in institutions such as Universities, Polytechnics and Technical Schools are developed with the industry as a focus. Thus, students from such institutions on completion of programmes continue to find relevance in industry.
9. In addition, in the countries mentioned earlier, ICT capacity building including R&D are championed by the private sector; thus creating opportunities for continuous linkage between the outcome of researches and the industry. In this regard, the proposed ICT University of Nigeria should be driven by the ICT industry itself. The University would offer varieties of programmes aimed at providing specialist knowledge and expertise required for a professional career in the broad field of Information Communication Technology such as Telecommunications, Internet of Things, Cyber Security, Robotic embedded systems, Computer forensics, digital media and Entertainment technology. The University would also be expected to offer skills development programmes in emerging and transformational technologies such as Cloud Computing and Big Data. It is expected that each of the six Campuses of the present DBI would be transformed into a centre of technological excellence in specific areas of ICT. Teaching experience in the new university should include a blend of theory, analysis, innovation and hands-on activities, such as project based learning and live industry-led projects.
10. I wish to reiterate here that the establishment of a specialized ICT University is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. Such institutions located around the globe include the Multimedia University of Malaysia; IT University of Gutenberg, Sweden; IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark; the Informatics Institute in Singapore; University of Information Technology and Management, Poland; Jaypee University of Information Technologies, India; Tashkent University of Information Technologies, Uzbekistan; Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications in China; and the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.
11. I am also pleased to inform you that we have secured necessary endorsements from relevant stakeholders both within and outside of government including global leaders in the ICT industry such as CISCO, FACEBOOK, HUAWEI, MTN, D-LINKS, GLOBACOM, LENOVO, SAMSUNG, APPLE, SIEMENS – NORTEL, INTEL, MOTOROLA, ERICSSON, DELL, HP, ZTE and IBM. These industry giants have expressed their unequivocal support for this project with pledges in the provision of faculty, library content, syllabus, logistics, including funds towards the realization of the ICT University of Nigeria. In other words, we shall be partnering with some of these globally-acknowledged ICT giants to run the ICT UNIVERSITY of NIGERIA on a public-private partnership basis.
12. It is my conviction therefore, that as demand for ICT products and services in Nigeria grow rapidly with the emergence of digital economy, the demand for ICT skills is expected to also grow exponentially. There is need for capacity of ICT education in Nigeria to be strengthened to provide the required skills. It is also my hope that the seamless linkage which would be created between the academia and industry as a result of the establishment of the ICT University of Nigeria will not only lead to constant improvement of the curriculum, but also drive innovation through joint research and development programmes. Of course, the unquantifiable benefits of this revolutionary initiative would be to the greatest advantage of Nigeria in particular, Africa and the world in general.
13. In view of the importance attached to this assignment, members of this Committee have been carefully selected to reflect men and women who have made their marks in ICT development in Nigeria, including people who have constantly put the future outlook and the potential of the Nigeria ICT sector in view. My expectations at the end of the assignment of this Committee would be an extensive business case for this project with details such as:
- A very robust Curriculum of the proposed ICT University of Nigeria;
- DBI’s facilities utilization including upgrade and expansion where necessary;
- Proposed faculty members for the University including resource persons;
- Framework for collaboration between the university and the industry on one hand and between the university and global industry giants;
- A sustainable PPP Model for funding the University; and
- Regulations and standards for the proposed university.
14. While assuring you that all efforts are already in top gear to appoint both an Acting Vice-Chancellor and an Acting Registrar for this University within the next few weeks, I expect your full report to be submitted to my office within six weeks from today. Furthermore, copies of a draft bill for the consideration of the Federal Executive Council and ultimate transmission to the National Assembly for passage into law would be circulated to members of this Committee for your inputs. It is hoped that members would bring their respective experiences and knowledge and wisdom to bear on the final draft of the bill.
15. May I use this opportunity to appreciate your individual commitment to the development of ICT in Nigeria which you have demonstrated by accepting to take up this onerous assignment.
16. It is therefore my honour and privilege to inaugurate this Implementation Committee on the proposed ICT University of Nigeria, today the 1st day of June, 2017. I want to assure members that the Ministry would put necessary human, material and financial resources, within the limit of its budget appropriations at the disposal of this Committee to ensure a hitch free assignment. Like I mentioned earlier, I look forward to receiving your report in six weeks to ensure that the University commences academic activities at the beginning of the coming academic session.
Thank you and God bless you all.