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Federal Government to partner with Microsoft for digital skill programs

Vice President Yemi Osibanjo - News and Gist Blog in Nigeria

The Federal Government is partnering with Microsoft Corporation to accelerate Nigeria’s resolve towards a more digital economy.

This is in line with the Economic Sustainability Plan of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, said a statement by Laolu Akande, the spokesman for the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

In a dual announcement on Monday by both the government and the tech giant, no less than five million Nigerians would benefit from a digital upskilling programme.

Locations in each of the six geopolitical zones would also enjoy active internet connection and cloud services courtesy of the digital transformation plan.

Speaking in a formal video announcement of the partnership with the tech giant, Professor Osinbajo stated that the government was committed to leveraging innovation and technology to bring better outcomes across a wide area of governance concerns.

“Indeed, it is with this in mind that we have sought constructive partnerships that bridge the knowledge, skills and technology gap that exist in most of our communities,” he said.

The Vice President added, “This launch is indicative of our commitment to this and will involve collaboration with various government agencies as implementing partners, including the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Nigerian Institute of Cultural Orientation, and various other local partners.

“We intend that these initiatives become institutions in their own rights and make a real impact in the lives of our citizens going forward.”

The partnership with the tech giant anchored on connectivity, skilling and digital transformation, followed discussions between both parties led by the Vice President and Microsoft President, Brad Smith, earlier in 2021.

In January, Professor Osinbajo had a virtual meeting with Smith where discussions covered areas of intersection between technology and governance to enhance Nigeria’s digital transformation.

On the core areas of the partnership, the Vice President explained that the partnership would focus on two pillars – connectivity and skilling, as well as digital transformation.

“We plan to connect under-served communities in each of the six geo-political zones with access to internet and cloud services.

“This project is a critical component of our objective of expanding broadband connectivity, which is by itself, a major pillar of our Economic Sustainability Plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

The Vice President added, “Working with Microsoft, we intend to upskill five million Nigerians through this increased internet access over the next three years in various digital skills which will increase both employability and entrepreneurship.

“The multiplier effect will bring opportunities in rural and urban areas to many young people and will help us deal with unemployment problems made worse by the pandemic.”

Using digital tools under the project, the Vice President remarked that the government would pioneer innovative approaches in the fight against corruption – a major priority of the present administration.

According to him, the government seeks to use cutting edge analytical and case management tools to plug holes in the public sector system and confront white-collar criminality efficiently while leveraging Microsoft’s technology tools.

“This pillar will also serve a vital social function by using Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence technology and resources to preserve and promote our major languages so we can revitalise these important aspects of our culture.

“Our focus is, of course, the Nigerian people. With over 80 million regular internet users, there is no question that Nigerians have fully embraced technology, the internet and their various uses,” Professor Osinbajo stated.

A file photo of Microsoft President, Brad Smith.

On his part, Smith said Microsoft believed in the future of Nigeria and was excited as a company to add to its investments.

He noted that the company partnered with Tek experts to create a Customer Support Centre – a centre in Lagos that employed over 1,600 people in 2018.

The tech company chief explained that they had another opportunity to broaden their investment even more by creating the African Development Centre.

The centre, according to him, will employ over 200 software developers and engineers by the end of 2021 – people who are creating technology and Microsoft products to serve not only the people of Nigeria but the people of the world.

“All of these is giving us the kind of confidence to want to invest even more, and one of the things that we have recognised as a company is the need to grow with communities and countries and not just buying for ourselves,” Smith said.

On the new partnership with the Federal Government, he stated, “We are embarking on a series of broad-based, really multifaceted investments to better serve Nigeria in three areas of internet connectivity, digital skilling, and digital transformation.

“We will be providing digital skills to five million Nigerians over the next three years, and along the way, creating 27,000 new jobs during the same period.”

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