* Governor graduates, another 15,000 Imo youths on digital skill acquisition
Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State has graduated the 15,000 Cohort 2 Skill-Up Imo Project students with a promise that the Cohort 3 will soon start the training of 40,000 youths on different digital skills.
The Governor spoke on Wednesday at the Dan Anyiam Stadium Owerri where the 15,000 graduates were, each, also handed over an HP brand new laptop to enable them put what they have learnt into practice. The total number of youths so far trained under the Skill-Up Imo Project is 20,000.
At the event, the Chairman of Zinox Technologies Ltd, Mr. Leo-Stan Ekeh challenged the 15,000 youths who graduated from the Cohort 2 Skill-Up Imo project to take advantage of the training they have acquired to be what God says they should be.
He insisted that in Imo, “nobody has done what Governor Hope Uzodimma is doing.”
Apparently referring to the huge investment Governor Uzodimma has made on Imo youths to turn around their fortune around, Mr. Eke noted that with the Skill-Up Imo project, he foresees billionaires emerging in no time from the graduates who have embraced technological innovations.
Mr. Ekeh also advised the families of the lucky graduates to commit Governor Uzodimma in their prayers so that God will continue to use him to improve on the lives of the people.
“I am not a politician. But I can tell you this is not politics. I come from here, from one remote community here in Imo State. If I was given an opportunity like this many years ago, I would have been one of the five richest men in the world. Nobody has done what Governor Hope Uzodimma is doing in Imo,” Mr. Ekeh whose Zinox Technologies Ltd dominates the market in Africa said.
The Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani in his remarks congratulated Governor Uzodimma for taking such bold step to impact on the lives of the youths.
Dr. Tijani said going by what he has seen, Imo State is emerging as the digital headquarters of Nigeria. He said that the Governor can conveniently be referred to as a Professor in digital affairs.
The Minister who admonished the graduates not to misuse the opportunity which has been given to them promised that his ministry will partner with the Governor and government on all areas that concern the welfare and upliftment of the youths.
In Governor Uzodimma’s remarks he said that “the Skill-Up Imo project is one of the key programmes of our shared prosperity agenda,” noting, “for the records, five thousand youths had earlier graduated from the programme, thus bringing the total number of graduates to 20,000.”
The Governor’s speech read in full: “Today, we make yet another effort to etch the Eastern Heartland on the sands of history. For the avoidance of doubt, Imo is the first State in Nigeria to successfully equip this number of young citizens with vital digital skills, thus getting them equipped and ready for today’s technology-driven world and economy.
“Just as I pointed out during the flag-off, the aim of the Skill-Up Imo Project is to up-skill, re-skill and train 300,000 Imo youths to acquire the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) skill sets needed to align and fit into the evolving digital world.
“As I have said repeatedly, no infrastructure is as important as educating our youths and equipping them with crucial skills they need to succeed in life. This explains the sense of fulfilment that I feel at this graduation ceremony of the second batch of youths, who have been successfully trained and equipped with literacy, digital and entrepreneurial skills.
“The initiative to infuse Imo youths with digital skills is in line with the Imo Digital Economy Agenda (IDEA) 2022 to 2026 with the aim of making Imo one of the digital skills hubs of Africa and curbing the menace of unemployment and insecurity. The Agenda is also in sync with the Federal Government’s National Digital Economy Policy & Strategy (NDEPS), 2020-2030.
“You may recall that at the inauguration of this programme, I stated that in today’s world, literacy no longer means the ability to read and write. To be considered literate in today’s world, you must be familiar with and fluent in digital skills. Today, our daily lives depend, to a large extent, if not entirely on technology and the digital economy.
“Never in the history of mankind have ideas ruled the world than in this age of artificial intelligence (A.I). In fact, not only do digital ideas govern the world today, but they are doing so and transforming the world at such a speed that we cannot afford to sit back and hope to play catch-up.
“My dear future technology tycoons, the Skill-Up Imo project means the world to me, and I desire to see you succeed. To me, Skill-Up Imo is the investment of our administration in a future that has already arrived. I see an array of opportunities in the digital sphere that if exploited, will give Imo the competitive advantage among the comity of states affording us the enviable status of the technology hub of the country.
“If this is achieved, we would have succeeded in re-writing the economic history of our dear state. This is why we have spared no expense to make you competent to fish in this digital pond instead of merely giving you fish from the pond.
“The Digital literacy skills you just acquired have the potential to transform your life like a miracle, with the greater benefit belonging to our society. I am sure you all know the story of how at the age of 10, Elon Musk bought his first computer and taught himself programming, or the story of how in the late ‘60s, Bill Gates was fortunate to attend one of the only few high schools in the whole world that had a computer, the Lakeside School in Seattle.
“No more than 13 years old back then, Bill Gates seized the opportunity. He absorbed everything he could and practised with the computer at every opportunity he got. Today, his diligence has paid off. That is what happens when diligence meets opportunity. But then one might ask: what could have been if more people like Bill Gates had access to the computer or digital literacy? How many ‘Microsofts’, dollar billionaires and Gates Foundations could have been if more students had the same opportunity?
“This is why our Shared Prosperity administration has set a target to expose, not one, not a few, but at least three hundred thousand Imo sons and daughters to the digital ecosystem. Hopefully, you will all succeed and take Imo State off the poverty map.
“The prospects are simply endless. It is impossible to overemphasize this. Digital literacy will make you better no matter your profession or trade. As a teacher with digital skills, you can create personalized learning for your pupils so that you leave no one behind. As an artisan with digital skills, you can easily respond with new concepts to the changing needs of your clients. As a trader with digital skills, you can collapse physical barriers with e-commerce.
“As a doctor with digital skills, you can reach more patients leveraging telemedicine. As a content creator, the world becomes your audience. Even as a government, we can, through digitalization, deepen inclusion and break the mold of unemployment and unrest, which is exactly what we are doing today through Skill-Up Imo.
“As good as it sounds, that is just one half of it. Skill-Up Imo is a strategic investment in the economic growth or GDP of our dear state. Your instructors might have told you already that digitally transformed companies are outcompeting regular enterprises. Let me reiterate this point with some data.
“Statistical reports that ‘in 2018, digitally transformed enterprises accounted for 13.5 trillion U.S. dollars of the global nominal GDP. In 2023, they are forecast to account for 53.3 trillion U.S. dollars, more than half of the overall nominal GDP. This signals that digital supremacy in the global economy is near.’
“By comparison, in the first quarter of 2018, the digital economy, or if you like, digitally transformed enterprises, contributed about 3 trillion naira to Nigeria’s nominal GDP. By the second quarter of 2023 (the most recent assessment), the contribution of the digital economy or digitally transformed enterprises to Nigeria’s nominal GDP is put at about 6.8 trillion naira far more than crude oil. This is according to the National Bureau of Statistics. That is a remarkable growth, and Imo State needs to own a large piece of this pie.
“I am happy to note that the skills that you have acquired are in demand and they are top earning skills that will not only grant you financial freedom, but will give you the capacity to collaborate with one another to imagine and co-create solutions to problems of Imo State and our country at large. You should now be able to rationally consume digital products and thus shift our society towards greater digital adoption, create your own digital products for the benefit of others and effectively communicate your product to the market and laugh all the way to the bank.
“In furtherance of this, I am glad to inform you that we already have an understanding with some European and Canadian Companies. Through this understanding, Companies in these countries have agreed to send us a list of specific digital skills they require to service their production in their home countries, and requested us to train our youths in these specified skills.
“On our part we train the youths to the specified digital skills standard, which qualifies them for automatic employments in these companies abroad. Also to facilitate their movement to their employers, the government has agreed to foot the bills for their air tickets and initial living expenses.
“My dear young ones, in this world of technology, there is no room for laxity, arms folding, or aimless slumber. The world has virtually been reduced to a small village that sits on the palm of your hand. If ever the maxim ‘your destiny is in your hands’ were true, it is now. I urge you to get up and maximize this opportunity for destiny favours the diligent.
“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we are here to present to the world the second batch of our ‘finished products’ from our lofty Skill-Up Imo Programme. The graduates are the second batch of 15,000 youths, who were transparently selected and diligently trained under the digital empowerment scheme.
“These young men and women were put through very intense and hands-on digital entrepreneurial and literacy training, covering entry, intermediate, and advanced level courses over the past 4 to 12 weeks.
“It is, therefore, gratifying that our graduands, who came in with little or no experience in digital technology, are today equipped with skills in Digital Marketing, Web and App Development, LAN Networking, Content Creation, Basic Data Analytics, Graphics Design, Programming, Cyber Security, Virtual Assistance, as well as skills to repair phones and other digital devices, among others.
“There is no doubt that they can favourably compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world in their areas of specialization and, as such, contribute to the economic growth of Imo State and Nigeria as a whole This will, in turn, help transform Nigeria into one of the leading economies through a digital economy, which is the ultimate goal of the federal government.
“These expectations from our modest effort in Imo State are giving concrete expression to the Wiley Digital Skills Index Report (2021), which clearly indicates that the strongest economies will be those best able to establish a clear lead in the development of digital skills.
“The good news is that we have recorded significant milestones. Within a short time, we have been able to train 20,000 youths in the first and second cohorts and equipped them with relevant digital tools to enable them to launch their own startups, create new ventures and become self-reliant. Today, some of these startups are taking advantage of the freelancing opportunities that come with the digital economy to provide tech services for local and foreign based companies right here from Imo State.
“In addition, we have continued to record high graduate employment in the Skill-Up Imo programme as tech-based companies such as Zinox Technologies Ltd, Konga Online Ltd, Wakanow.com and businesses within and outside the State have variously engaged technological talents from the programme.
“Consequently my administration will leave no stone unturned in our commitment to leverage technology to build a sustainable digital economy that will generate new jobs for the labour force and expand the economic space for increased participation of Imo people, in line with our Shared Prosperity Agenda.
“Today, I call on all our graduates to make the best use of the skills learnt towards transforming Imo State and, by extension, the entire country into a bedrock of technological advancement in Africa.
“I am pleased to announce that the Cohort III batch of the Skill-Up Imo programme which will commence soon will train another set of Forty Thousand (40,000) youths in digital skills
“Let me also assure you all that we shall not relent in our efforts towards making the quality of the Programme a world-class standard by strengthening our collaborative partnerships with global tech giants like Microsoft, CISCO and Hauwei. In this regard, the experiences and feedback from the just-concluded sessions will be duly considered with a view to enriching subsequent training rounds of the Programme, which we intend to inaugurate shortly.
“Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you very much for creating time to be part of this epoch-making event, which will help balloon our dear state to greater socio-economic development.
“Please join me to wish our graduates the very best of luck as they march confidently into the lucrative world of digital technology.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the Imo State Commissioner for Digital Economy and E- Government, Dr. Chimezie Amadi thanked Governor Uzodimma for all he has invested on the youths.
He reminded the audience that in the history of Nigeria, no Governor or government has invested as much as Governor Uzodimma in one single swoop for a graduation programme like the one under review.
Dr. Amadi said that the graduates will not forget Governor Uzodimma in a hurry.
Some of the graduates who gave testimonies of their experiences regarding the programme,on behalf of their colleagues, noted that through it the Governor has turned their lives around for the better.
The event was attended by many dignitaries including the wife of the Governor, Barr. Chioma Uzodimma, the Minister of Science and Technology, Chief Uche Nnaji, the Minister of States, Labour and Employment, Rt. Hon Nkiruka Onyejiocha, the Director General of South East Governors Forum, Sen. Uche Ekwunife, the Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Rt Hon. Chike Olemgbe, the Chief Judge of Imo State, Justice Theresa Chikeka, among others.