Furore over ICT University
By Prince Osuagwu (Hi-Tech Editor) & Emmauel Elebeke
APPARENTLY going through the list of the committee members drawn by the Minister of Communications Technology, Adebayo Shittu, recently, some stakeholders in the ICT sector have urged government to rethink the essence of the ICT University save Nigeria millions of naira that could be wasted.
While some of them criticised the minister’s framework for establishing the university on, some faulted the composition of the committee, saying that it has shown a clear lack of foresight at the dynamic nature of technology development generally. Shittu, last week announced that the proposed ICT university would take off, September, and went ahead to inaugurate a committee to set the right template on which the university should thrive.
Members of the committee include: Prof Julius Okojie, Dr. Amina Sambi-Magaji, Prof. Ibikunle Tijani, Wole Oyeniran, Dr. Henry Nkemadu, Engr. Kazeem Raji, Dr. Joshua Atah, Abdulhakeem Ajijola, Liz Donaholu, Hakeem Adeniji Adele, Dr. Suleiman Mohammed, Olaniyan Mathew, Ayoola Oke, Chris Uwaje, Prof. Olusegun Okunnu, Prof. Aderounmu Adesaola, Kabir Usman, Tajudeen Kareem, Dr. Suleiman Garba and Prof. Patience Akpan-Obong
The committee, which is expected to submit its report in six weeks, will also deliver a business case that must include a very robust curriculum of the proposed ICT University of Nigeria; DBI’s facilities utilization including upgrade and expansion where necessary; proposed faculty members for the university including resource persons; framework for collaboration between the university and the industry on one hand and between the university and global industry giants; a sustainable PPP Model for funding the university; and regulations and standards for the proposed university.
However, former President of Nigerian Internet Group, Mr. Adebayo Banjo, contended that no house can stand on a faulty foundation. He said: “ICT is the only discipline known to man where traditional experience is irrelevant. Everything changes in three to five years. To be useful in ICT you have to be updating yourself every month on the things that are completely new. Certain aspects of ICT cannot be taught within the old types of educational framework. The dynamics of technology generally is such that a person trained 20 years ago in ICT hardware must have to accept the fact that tapes, floppies and other things he was taught with in those days have all gone obsolete, hard disks will soon follow.
“So unless he constantly upgrades himself it would be baseless to flaunt a B.Sc in hardware with 20 years experience because the framework of his study is not relevant in today’s reality. If you look at the composition of the committee, you’ll get exactly what I am driving at. So I think the best thing to do is rethink the concept of ICT University in DBI because it can’t work. ICT doesn’t work with a mixture of youth and experience as some erroneously think, it rather requires a mixture of fast new minds and the latest technology. In fact, ICT is a young man’s game”.
Another stakeholder and renowned Lagos based computer instructor, Mr. Ben Dikeorgu, frowned at the composition of the committee. He said, According to him, “government should not play politics with everything. ICT is a critical sector and it is expected to take over the economy from oil, so we should be careful with everything concerning getting it to the right track. In this committee, where are the app developers, the ICT journalists who have been championing the development of this sector for decades; where are the new media specialists? These people cannot be brushed aside in a framework that would establish ICT University in the country. This is pure technology business and should not be left entirely in the hands of those who used to be tech giants but obviously not relevant in the new world order”
However, former President of Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria, ISPON, Mr. Chris Uwaje, who is a member of the University Implementation Committee, argued that Nigeria actually needs the university now because systems and processes must change to be in tune with global innovations and civilization. “Now that we are in the fourth revolution in transformation of humanity, we need to compete in the new world, we need to deliver the skills and components, policies and strategies constructively to engage other people because at the end of the day, we find ourselves in a world where we either sell or we consume what others produce.”
Uwaje also credited the actualization of the university to the media, which he said created awareness for the ICT sector. According to him, youths should be encouraged to champion software development, design and ensure every child in primary schools is compelled to do software programming to build their interest in ICT from primary to secondary schools.
Also, Prof. Patience Akpanubong, who is a member of the University’s Implementation Committee from Arizona State University, described the initiative as a good one that would help Nigeria’s quest for economic growth and development. “We need a specialized university so that we will have the human capacity to engage in ICT, which drives economies in many countries. If we do not have the human capacity that knows what needs to be done, then we will fall behind. It is also about technological capacity or infrastructure capacity. Hopefully, through this university, we will build capacity that will make Nigeria self sufficient,” she enthused.
According to her, the university is not only for learning ICT but also to create the knowledge base that will enable primary technologies and infrastructure to thrive.
The former NUC Executive Secretary and Chairman of the Committee, Prof. Julius Okojie, said: “I am excited to be part of the history of the first ICT University in Africa. Nigeria has lost out in terms of research and development due to absence of specialised universities. If Nigeria is to drive economic development, ICT is the way to go, which is why we must encourage this university for research and development”.
In 2016, Shittu, announced Federal Government’s plan to convert the Digital Bridge Institute, DBI, Abuja into a university of ICT, with the six campuses in the six zones of the country. According to him; “The Ministry of Communications has identified the establishment of an ICT University as one of the ways to move to the next phase of the nation’s ICT growth by the enhancing the ICT learning environment, geared towards stimulating creative thinking.
“The university is also expected to create employment opportunities for Nigerians and others within the West-African sub-region, aside from several opportunities that would be created for self-employment.”
As part of effort to fast-track the process, the minister said the ministry had secured necessary endorsements from relevant stakeholders within and outside of government including global leaders in the ICT industry such as Cisco, Facebook, Huawei, MTN, D-Links, Globacom, Lenovo, Samsung, Apple, Siemens-Nortel, Intel, Motorola, Ericsson, Dell, HP, ZTE and IBM.