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FG, Microsoft partner on 5m Nigerians digital skills training

By News Desk

The Federal Government and Microsoft Corporation have disclosed that the duo would be joining forces in training five million Nigerians on digital upskilling programme in a period of three years.

Aside from the training, the partnership would also ensure locations in each of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones enjoy active internet connection and cloud services courtesy of the digital transformation plan.

As stated, the agreement was reached when Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, and Microsoft President, Brad Smith, earlier in the year to perfect plans on connectivity, skilling and digital transformation of the country.

Osibanjo, while reacting to the development, said that the Buhari administration was partnering with the tech giant to accelerate Nigeria’s certain advance towards a more digital economy in line with the Economic Sustainability Plan.

Through a statement by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, on Monday in Abuja, said that the collaboration was in line with the administration’s commitment to leveraging innovation and technology to bring better outcomes across a wide area of governance concerns.

According to him, it is with this in mind that we have sought constructive partnerships that bridge the knowledge, skills and technology gap that exist in most of our communities.

“This launch is indicative of our commitment to this and will involve collaboration with various government agencies as implementing partners, including the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Nigerian Institute of Cultural Orientation, and various other local partners. We intend that these initiatives become institutions in their own rights and make a real impact in the lives of our citizens going forward,” Osinbajo was quoted as saying in the statement.

On the core areas of the partnership, Prof. Osinbajo said that the partnership would focus on two pillars including Connectivity and Skilling, and Digital Transformation.

“We plan to connect under-served communities in each of the six geo-political zones with access to internet and cloud services. This project is a critical component of our objective of expanding broadband connectivity, which is by itself, a major pillar of our Economic Sustainability Plan in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Working with Microsoft, we intend to upskill 5 million Nigerians through this increased internet access over the next three years in various digital skills which will increase both employability and entrepreneurship. The multiplier effect will bring opportunities in rural and urban areas to many young people and will help us deal with unemployment problems made worse by the pandemic,”, he said.

Using digital tools under the project, the Vice President said that the government would pioneer innovative approaches in the fight against corruption, which he described as a major priority of the Buhari’s administration.

Continuing, the Vice President said, “leveraging Microsoft’s Technology tools which can be deployed to minimise governance risks and block loopholes, working with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), we will seek to use cutting edge analytical and case management tools to plug holes in our public sector system as well as confront white-collar criminality efficiently.

“This pillar will also serve a vital social function. by using Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence technology and resources to preserve and promote our major languages so we can revitalize these important aspects of our culture. Our focus is of course the Nigerian people. With over 80 million regular internet users, there is no question that Nigerians have fully embraced technology, the internet and their various uses,” the Vice President added.

On his part, Smith said that the company believed in the future of Nigeria and was excited to extend the tech company’s investment to Nigeria.

“In 2018 we partnered with Tek experts to create a Customer Support Centre, a centre in Lagos that employs over 1,600 people. And then we had another opportunity to broaden our investment even more by creating our African Development Centre.

“A centre that, by the end of this year, will employ over 200 software developers and engineers, people who are creating technology and Microsoft products to serve not only the people of Nigeria but the people of the world.

“All of these is giving us the kind of confidence to want to invest even more. And one of the things that we have recognized as a company is the need to grow with communities and countries and not just buying for ourselves”, he said.

On the new partnership with the Federal Government, Smith said that “we are embarking on a series of broad-based, really multifaceted investments to better serve Nigeria in three areas of internet connectivity, digital skilling and digital transformation. We will be providing digital skills to 5 million Nigerians over the next three years, and along the way, creating 27,000 new jobs during the same period.”

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