OPINION: Will Technology Change The Imo Narrative?

For the first time in a long while, Imo State recently was in the news for good reasons after the incessant fratricidal attacks on the state and other parts of the South East geopolitical zone by people believed to be unknown gunmen (UGM).

Technology took its pride of place on September 27, 2023, when what was likened to the biblical mustard seed bore fruits.

15,000 young men and women graduated from what I have chosen to tag the “ technology incubation” process.
And for the first time in a long while, there was jubilation in Imo state, the type the governor, Hope Uzodinma didn’t get when he was named governor a few years ago.

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For the first time too in a long while, Uzodinma was applauded not just for this maverick approach to engage the young people constructively in an attempt to make meaningful changes to their lives, but that his government will actualise their dreams by offering them 4,000 offshore jobs in Europe and elsewhere.

Was he grandstanding or trying to prove a point? We are waiting. But the applause had not died down everywhere before a European Union official allegedly spoke to discountenance this promise of abundance for the Imo youth.

Strangely too, the EU man spoke through the voice of a politician and Uzodinma is one so we should weigh the reality between Uzodinma who has promised a life of abundance for his people, and the opposition politician who said it was not true.

But like Bob Marley (1978) said in his hit song “Time Will Tell “ yes time alone will tell and we wait.

Uzodinma said he would personally hand over employment letters to 4,000 young people in December 2023. Was he making political statements in the line of pending election in November 2023? Time alone will tell.

While Uzodinma’s promises may not ring a bell as Dynasty, the Los Angeles, USA, musical group of the 1980s sang, we should grant him the benefit of the doubt as he hopes to give hope to the youths who now see him replicating Imo state as paradise on earth. Yes, Time will tell.

I have no way of placing the governor and his government except through repute, but I encountered his Commissioner for Digital Economy, Chimezie Amadi, while he was on the staff of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) shortly before he joined Uzodinma in Owerri. And with the experience he got at the NCC, Amadi boasted the other day that he was going to Imo to make a difference. Time Will Tell as we await his victory.

The SKILLUPIMO, a pet programme initiated by Amadi whose idea he incubated and sold to Uzodinma may make a difference as it is calculated to take many young people off the streets, off crime and criminal gangs. A programme that is expected to give meaning to the lives of 300,000 youths in the first instance and if the government survives the harsh economic realities, increase the number as it boasts of a win-win template. Time will tell.

One of the primary pillars of The Digital Imo Agenda, the SkillUpImo Project in three years, is ambitiously aimed at training and equipping 300,000 people with digital skills and knowledge, getting them off the streets to be more useful to themselves and society, a running document states.

“Such youths will be trained in the fields of Computer Appreciation, Data Analytics, UI/UX, Web Design, Digital Marketing, Content creation, Phone Repairs, Video Editing, Programming, and a host of other fields of digital appreciation. The graduates of such training will not only be able to function within our borders but will be knowledgeable enough to work remotely in other parts of the word,” the document continues.

Some of the beneficiary students are being trained in Cohorts or tranches in staggered arrangements.

The first batch of 5,000 students graduated on February 22, 2023. And on September 27, 2023, the second batch or cohort graduated 15, 000, students bringing the total figures so far to 20, 000.

If the Imo state example is replicated across the 36 states including the Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria will be on its way to becoming a major centre for outsourcing human capital.

And Nigeria may be playing in the big league with countries like India where Information and Communications Technology (ICT) human capital development and outsourcing is second to none, China which has become the last bus stop for low-priced workforce in ICT, construction and industrial experts in the world and of Course Cuba which prides itself in medicine and ever ready to export well trained medical personnel to parts of the globe on request.
The Imo example is calculated to cushion the pains of orphans and the less endowed young people, the poor, the underprivileged, and the needy including those who have a strong appetite for knowledge.

Uzodima wants to clothe them with the garment of knowledge that is likely to transform them translate them from their underprivileged background and provide them with the process of joining the ruling class. Time will tell.
There’s hope rising for these young people as they navigate this sure route to a future of promises of life abundance not only for them but also for their families and society at large. Time will tell.

The state appears to have created a favourable and enabling environment for tech startups, accelerators, and innovation hubs which have attracted talents and investors to the state.
“A resultant factor which has led to the forging of beneficial partnerships between the public and private sector in the tech ecosystem of Imo State.
SkillupImo is in partnership with Tech companies like Cisco, Huawei, and Microsoft, in conjunction with their local partners. The National Examining Board for Technical Education (NABTEB) is in charge of certification and value optimization of the programme” a document for the scheme noted.

Four new Learning Centres including, Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Imo Polytechnic Omuma, University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Umuagwo, and K. O Mbadiwe University, Ideato, are established to complement the existing centres at the Ministry of Digital Economy and E-Government headquarters office, Imo State University, Alvan Ikoku College of Education and Claretian University all geared towards enhancing access to digital skills learning for IMO Youths across the state.
The newly reconstructed 3R Digital Learning edifice at the Ministry of Digital Economy and E-Government by Uzodinma now seats thousands of learners to ease the rush of the present tech-enthusiastic youths of Imo.

IMO under the skillupimo project has witnessed a surge intech-related initiatives and investments. Tech- driven solutions are now employed to address critical issues in healthcare, education, and infrastructure. The deployment of technology in the public service has enhanced efficiency, transparency and productivity. Initiatives like e-governance and digital record-keeping have streamlined administrative processes, making government services more accessible to Imolites.

The SkillupImo project is the premier human capacity development programme of Uzodinma’s administration designed to empower Imo youths with cutting-edge digital and employability skills in emerging and mainstream technology. This Agenda is in sync with the Federal Government’s National Digital Economy Policy & Strategy (NDEPS), 2020-2030.

The SkillUpImo Project; rooted in the First Pillar of the IMO DIGITAL ECONOMY AGENDA (I.D.E.A) 2022-2026, as a humanitarian training and empowerment program, is aimed at training 300,000 three hundred thousand Imo youths and equipping them with fourth industrial revolution skill set within the next three years, connecting 60 percent of the graduands to job opportunities while empowering 40 percent to become tech-preneurs to align in a digitally evolving world.

Officials boast that SkillupImo has the triple objectives of positioning IMO state as the digital skills hub of Africa, tackling Youth unemployment as well as insecurity and diversifying and building the state’s digital economy.Time indeed will tell.

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