Teniola: ICT varsity will define Nigeria’s digital future

Olusola Teniola, president of ATCON


• School Will Address Skill Sets Deficit
• PPP Can Give Nigeria A Befitting ICT Varsity

President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, told ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, that if the Federal Government is ready, Public Private Partnership could deliver an ICT varsity that the country would be proud of.

Looking at the bureaucratic bottlenecks that characterise projects in the country, what is the possibility of the proposed ICT university coming on stream, through Public Private Partnership?
The reality in Nigeria, as it is with other African countries, is that the pace of implementation of capital-intensive public infrastructure projects lags way behind those carried out by private institutions. Hence, it is imperative that our government begins to accelerate the Public Private Partnership (PPP) policies and implementation in a manner that sees 100 per cent of public-based projects executed by the private sector, and that government hands off on execution and seeks an oversight, or monitoring role to ensure suitability.

So far, researches dictate that on yearly basis for the next 10 years, Africa will require to spend $1.2 trillion on infrastructural projects. This volume of funding cannot be met by governments alone, so a lot more FDI is required to meet this expectation, and a greater level of transparency in contract awards will be demanded by these investors.

What prospects does the ICT university hold for national development?
Politically, the Federal Government of Nigeria appears not to accept that our universities have failed our youths in terms of what an average graduate can achieve in the real world, post-tertiary level education. The ICT university was conceived to address the immediate issues that current universities cannot and will not address – lack of skill sets in digital technology. The current science technology deficit requires a mindset from our leaders in Abuja that the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) was created for NITEL training (telecoms) and was outside the university curriculum, and had Siemens technology taught to the NITEL engineers’ privy to the courses being taught at that time, especially at the Oshodi facility.

So, an upgrade from DBI to an ICT university is not farfetched and should not be used as a political instrument to justify the fact that our universities are currently underfunded, but should be used as an opportunity to build facilities that will educate Nigerian youths in technology, that will be relevant to today’s and tomorrow’s digital future.

How can collaborative efforts with international organisations like Facebook, Motorola, Ericsson, among others rub off positively on an initiative like the ICT varsity?
Frankly, Cisco Academy already runs a successful accredited training course on its equipment, and turns out CCIE engineers. Likewise Microsoft, SAP, Oracle and other software-based companies. What we require are for these companies to setup centres of excellence in Nigeria, similar to what IBM Research did in Kenya some years ago.

The best that these companies can do is to fund a building on campus and have the building named after them. This defeats the knowledge transfer approach to what their academies are already doing, and more importantly falls short of the creation of centers of excellence, which is more sustainable as their brand image is at stake.

The Federal Government finds it difficult to honour and respect agreements, especially with varsity teachers. Do you see this ugly development playing a limiting role, if the Federal Government gives the final nod for the take-off of the university?
I don’t work for the government. However, from a simple viewpoint, the ICT university would have become a private university in any practical sense.

Unless the private sector was involved in some form of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme at the tertiary level, it is hard to envision a build-run-transfer type of concession agreement being allowed to happen within our current educational system. It sets a precedence that I believe the government is not prepared to address at this particular point in the administration life, hence the skeptism.

In this article:
ATCONOlusola Teniola


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