columnBy Emeka Aginam
Lagos — With many Nigerian Universities and Polytechnics using ICT as an intervention tool in the 21st century knowledge society, the recent visit of the 1st Vice President of Nigerian Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Chris Uwaje to the state_of_the_art ICT Centers of the Lagos State University, (LASU) may have prepared the institution to the next level Digital Colonization using ICT to improve its position in learning, research and academic service delivery.
While exchaging ideas with the University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Lateef Akanni Hussain on how best to position LASU on the right track in capacity building using ICT, Uwaje was of the opinion that LASU should declare ICT Capacity Building and Infrastructure Development as an emergency, deserving the highest priority and special budgetary allocation, adding that software be recognised as the engine for sustainable growth and security of future education.
Looking at the level of ICT education in the Nigerian educational system, he was worried on the big gap in ICT skills between the average Nigerian students and students of comparable economies, warning that something has to be done to save LASU and other tertiary institutions from eventual collapse.
He nevertheless commended the school authority in their various ICT intervention programmes to bridge this gap, he however warned that this gap, if not addressed immediately with effective intervention, will continue to grow far beyond what we are seeing now.
Professor Hussain welcoming the IT strategist and his entourage including Dele Ajisomo, Chief Executive Officer of Mandriva West Africa/ guest lecturer from the United States, and Henry Unachukwu, IT Consultant, was full of excitement said has strong vision for the university. His words, "We are ready for IT education.
You can attest to that from what you have seen in our ICT centers. It is our resolve to provide an enabling environment within the university community with a view to encouraging LASU students and staff to pursue with vigour the three cardinal principles of ICT: Training, Research, and Rendering of services to the university community," he said with optimism.
For Prof. Hussain, using ICT as a tool to empower the students ahead of the challenges of the knowledge economy, is something whose time is ripe. "That is the reason why we have put in place state_of_art ICT centers for the university community compared to other economies of the world. The students after graduation with what we have on ground should be able to compete with their peers around the world. That is the truth of the matter," he said.
Uwaje earlier in his paper delivered to the university community titled: "Information and Communications Technology and the Future of LASU_Imperatives for knowledge' he said that LASU must brace up with capacity building for global competitiveness.
ICT Career and the Nigerian Youths ; The central message of the Information and Knowledge society, he said is change. "The art of education to our people and Nigerian youths in particular must change, just as the art of governance and entertainment must change from the traditional muscle approach to knowledge and logic application.
No doubt, the IT World presents a formidable challenge to the Nigerian Youths - particularly in the career direction and how to make the right choice in the absence of career guidance in this very complex domain. Most of our youths have become great enthusiast of IT and dream big dreams on how to engage it and excel. But the truth is, they are ill prepared, lack the basic tools and many of them are confused on how to make the right choice"
Uwaje, who has been passionate about youth empowerment told the capacity audience in attendance.
What readily comes to the mind of many youths, he said, is to take a shot at IT industry certification and get a job. "This certification adventure has left a great vacuum in our national IT capacity development objective.
The consequences are that unknown to many, industry type certification is a strategic programme designed by equipment and product manufactures to cheaply support as well as increase and sustain their market share. If and when they go down, these armies of technical support will also be cut in the middle - especially in the hardware support sector," he added.
To engage and succeed in the resultant knowledge society, he noted that our nation must develop a very large pool of software engineering work force.
"The IT career of our youths should therefore be channeled in the direction of creative thinking in the software development domain. The Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) under the auspices of Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) should be encouraged by government and the private sector to develop enduring software development career programmes for the Nigerian youths at all levels. Commercial, service providers, real estate, general consulting, and petty (registered) businesses. These figures on total population include off_springs and second generation Nigerians," he added.
Curriculum Focus: There is urgent need, according to Uwaje who pioneered the Nigerian IT Policy Document, for curriculum review, re_evaluation and change control, if we must succeed in building the right capacities of Nigerian youths for global competitiveness.
With respect to IT, he said that available studies show that the products from our universities are behind the tasks required of them at the industry level. "This is perhaps the most glaring evidence of the dis_connect between our universities and the private sector - which must be urgently redressed. Major areas of IT curriculum restructuring should focus on such core areas as: Software Development Engineering (SDE).
The convergence of IT and communication, according to him, is now real, adding that students should be made to explore and benefit from this track, as an essential component of mastering ICT in the knowledge society, where connectivity have become an important bridge to just_in_time production and market.
The Knowledge Revolution: The new economy, according to the IT expert who has not mixed IT with politics is here, adding that, traditional means of responding to the challenges of national development have now become obsolete - especially for a least developed country (LDC) such as Nigeria .
"With 42% Youth population, Nigeria is definitely a nation to reckon with in the emerging information society - provided there is a conscious and fundamental shift (both in policy articulation, strategic approach and implementation actions - consciously driven by political will) in her perception of incubating and rewarding knowledge. The roadmap to the way forward is in our heads and not in the acquisition of the physical products of technology," he said
Modern education, he explained, is now more or less centred on E-Commerce Management, Internet Education, Business English, Web Development, Entrepreneurship, Technical Writing and Communication, Telecommunications, Human Resources Management, Marketing Communications, Supervision and Management, Programme and Project Management - as backbone to all other traditional domains of education.
However, all these, may not be possible if the necessary technology tools such as the computer are not provided at the Tertiary levels of Education, he explained.
From Digital Colonies to Digital Empires: With this, he predicted that sooner or later, countries which are incapable of learning and/or understanding (or refuse to neither learn nor understand) the possesses of ICT (or whatever it may be become and called in the future - IKT, etc), will not only be left behind, but indeed, will become the digital colonies of very knowledgeable/powerful nations.
According to him, there would be digital colonies, where all is digitally regulated by external forces
and the citizens digitally manipulated to consume e-services rather than create. Such countries will become the digital slaves of the emerging new world.
To meet the digital challenges of the 21st Century Education Development, he suggested that LASU should consider the following strategies:
- Establish the LASU Information Technology Development Policy as strategic imperative for innovative and sustainable education, improved quality skills, creation of wealth and competitiveness. Ensure that IP Surveillance Cameras are installed around the Campus.
- Develop a special/continuous Train-the -Trainer IT programme for all lecturers as well as a universal/compulsory IT training for all LASU students.
- As from 2009, LASU will ensure that employment of new lecturers will be based on IT literacy with enhanced skill-sets in E-Learning and Multimedia e-Leadership, as key imperatives.
- Empower the workforce to innovate and become the driving force of the organisation, by providing major point of policy focus for rapid IT integration and development.
- Establish effective Institutional Framework such as Centre for Knowledge Incubation and Management, CENTRE FOR SOFTWARE Engineering and MULTIMEDIA Modeling - as instrument for sustainable growth and investment security. Priority Task: To Digitally Re-model Lagos State - Urban Environment as future Mega City Project.
- Develop a uniform sets of standards and operational guidelines for Campus-wide Intranet IT Infrastructure and local content.
- Establish a LASU Data Centre - a centralized Network capable of utilizing College-Wide Intranet (Network) - as a bridge for knowledge and experience sharing and also as repository of future campus knowledge. An Education Portal with e-learning capabilities should be a priority infrastructure for LASU
- Establish an IT Strategy Action Plan (with time-line) for Technology Lecturers - focused at attaining short, medium and long-term goals in ICT skill enhancement as a key requirement for promotion.
- The most effective way to provide this focus is to set up the LASU Committee on Information Technology Development (LASU-CITD)
- Establish Knowledge Incubators through International collaboration in Training development issues, Telemedicine and in RD&D knowledge sharing incubator.