THE Nigerian government is partnering with Microsoft Corporation to upskill five million citizens over the next three years, as part of initiatives to accelerate the country’s digital economy push.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo announced on Twitter on Monday that the partnership was the outcome of discussions held in January 2021 with Microsoft Corporation President, Brad Smith.
After extensive consultations with the government, Microsoft identified connectivity, skilling and digital transformation as three key pillars that would help to build strong foundations for a digital economy in Nigeria
“Our government is committed to leveraging innovation and technology to bring better outcomes across a wide area of governance concerns,” Osinbajo said.
The vice president explained that Microsoft’s extensive experience in the utilisation of technology as an enabler for the delivery of public and social good made them an ideal partner.
On his part, Smith said the company believed in the future of Nigeria, noting that the partnership provided an enormous opportunity to put technology to work, create jobs and foster the technology ecosystem across Nigeria,
“Research points to internet penetration in Nigeria of around 50 percent and while the pandemic has increased the pace of digitisation, much needs to be done to empower all citizens to take advantage of the opportunities of a digital economy,” the Microsoft president said.
The six regions of the country have been earmarked for the development of Microsoft’s Airband Initiative, which is a high-speed internet infrastructure that is cheaper and faster to deploy than fibre and has the added advantage of being able to travel long distances and through forested terrain.
Microsoft’s Airband team are expected to work closely with local partners to improve broadband connectivity in these communities while also assisting with the design and implementation of hyper-scale cloud services.
Smith said to help reach the goal of upskilling five million Nigerians, 1,700 trainers would provide blended online and in-person training courses to the country’s youth as well as government workers.
“Government will also be given the tools to digitally transform skilling, education, and employment methods to match job seekers with the right employers. In doing so, we hope to create over 27,000 new digital jobs in the next three years,” he said.
The final pillar, digital transformation, would initially be made up of two initiatives. The first would address corruption, a major global challenge with economic losses totalling $3.6 trillion each year, while the second would help protect Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage, the company said.
By collaborating with local partners like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Microsoft will support the design and implementation of cloud-based tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning to help identify potential risk, highlight them, and reduce corruption.
Microsoft will also support government’s efforts to preserve and revive Nigeria’s three major indigenous languages: Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo.
“This is one of my favourite projects that we pursue around the world. It uses the most advanced technology of the 21st century to nurture and keep alive the culture that has been so important for humanity from the centuries past,” Smith added.
A joint working committee will guide these investments, and will provide regular updates on the programmes.