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‘IT skills gap is closing’

By Prince Osuagwu

After announcing recently that CISCO has over 1 million students on its academy recently, Hi-Tech tracked the company’s Area Academy Manager, West & Central Africa, Mr. Chinedu Dibor, and besides confirming the information, he also advised on how entreprises should help Nigeria raise trusted ICT advisers to various stake holds of the economy.

When Cisco announced recently that it has about 1 million students globally, I was thinking of how many of that lot would be Nigerians?

Nigeria has 8,276 Cisco students and we are still counting. You see, like our CEO, John Chambers, always says, the internet and education are the two great equalizers.

Mr. Chinedu Dibor, CISCO's Area Academy Manager, West & Central Africa

It is evident that IT and Networking are becoming core in any industry, hence we need to collaborate better with our governments to help build technical capacity that will help build our nations.

Multinationals are more inclined towards expatriates, particularly in the IT field. How far are you assisting to close the skills gap in Nigeria?

That is the main essence of CISCO Networking Academy, to close the skills gap and groom locals that can manage the rapid evolution of technology in their various communities.

Today we are seeing a transition, not only in the Information Technology industry but across other sectors. We don’t need to hire external experts into our countries to earn all the money. We need locals to get those benefits and values, we need locals to have those skills and get those jobs.

The good news is that it’s happening already. The GM of CISCO for English Speaking West Africa, Mr. Richard Edet, is a Nigerian, as well as all staff in CISCO Nigeria. Most multinational companies here have Nigerians in key top positions. In the past, it was more of a dream.

Now we see this skills gap being closed in many other countries. Cisco contributes in making people locally relevant and globally competitive.

What are other objectives of the Cisco Networking Academies?

We play the role of trusted ICT adviser to our various stakeholders and partners and we empower locals too so they are able to maintain and deploy networks in the area where we do business.

To help the younger generation as well as the older one build technical capacity to participate in the new global economy.

Though getting academies to take ownership of the program has its own challenges in Nigeria, we must admit it has been a very rewarding experience. As a matter of fact Nigeria needs trusted ICT advisers in various stake holds of the economy. That is the only way to grow a country’s economy in this 21st century.

You educate people on how to manage your technology alone, is that not self serving. The country would have preferred a more pronounced CSR?

In Cisco, we like to abide by the theory of teaching people to fish rather than giving them fish. That is why we preach for more trusted ICT advisers like us to spring up in the country.

You would agree with me that in the wake of this 21st century where information and technology have become key, it’s not just about providing technology, it’s about providing the skill-set necessary for the locals to be able to use and make the most of it.

We don’t only teach people to manage our technology, at least we do not manufacture computers, but we have an Information Technology Essential, ITE, curriculum that deals with the basic essence of the Personal Computer.

It is more sustainable to educate people than to donate food, for example. By educating them, we are giving them opportunity to build their skills, because only then would they be able to build their nations.

What connection does the academy has with the Clinton Global Initiative you partnered recently to launch the Community Knowledge Centre Initiative in Nigeria?

The objective of this project is to provide access to information to rural communities, as well as ICT and other technical skills to the unreached communities.

They need access to information on health, education, among others. We are at the final stage of selection of pilot centers, next will be full implementation. Both the academies and the community knowledge centre initiative all deal with transfer of technology.

But we also have a stake in Abuja Technology Village. The Village is a Technology Park concept, that will provide technology-driven businesses of varying sizes, with an opportunity to cluster in an environment to unlock their potentials through facilitated knowledge transfer and leveraging on-site research and human capital capabilities.

It shall be one of the world’s largest Technology Parks by land mass and is envisaged to open global avenues for numerous Nigerian entrepreneurs.

It follows the global vision of using technology clusters as a reliable tool for bolstering economic development; given Nigeria’s emerging prominence in the global economy. It only comes natural for CISCO to be fully committed in such technology and economic development.

Your predecessor Julius Ayuk-Tabe made a mark in the industry; how do you hope to work without being in the shadows of his achievements?

Julius is a hard working man, He knows the job in and out, and has left a very big shoe for me to fill. However, I will take total advantage of the good will he has created in this region. In fact, that makes the job easy for me.

Fortunately, I am a Nigerian, and my 1st degree was here in Nigeria, and I had the opportunity of working for several years at the National Assembly Abuja for one of the most respected Senators at the time, before I moved abroad.

Therefore, the educational, political, and civil society, is a path I am very familiar with. I am comfortable and at home.

We will only have a Regional Instructors’ event this year in Nigeria and Senegal, but from next year, the annual Safari continues here. In all, there is no limit to the success you can record when you work with an incredible team like we have in this region.


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