It is time for Nigeria to stop doing the same thing and expect a different result, especially in the education sector, where there is a need to adopt and adapt technologies in innovative ways to aid the sector’s competition with developing counterparts.
In this interview with Elemi Ani, Head of Learning & Digital Transformation at elev8 education, he laid emphasis on the need for the government to examine the educational sector critically and invest in innovative technologies.
Ani is a technology and strategic management consultant with a demonstrated history of working in technology, telecommunication, banking and management consulting industry. Excerpts:
How would you assess the Nigerian education sector and how we have embraced technology to drive growth?
Education is the foundation of any society’s development. We are all trying to find new ways to improve, whether in a formal or informal setting. The educational sector in Nigeria is expanding, but not at a commendable or exceptional rate. We still have a long way to go. The pandemic accelerated the needed digital transformation drive for the sector, and with the work-from-home and learn-from-home system (for students) that was implemented, we all had no choice but to adopt and adapt new ways of learning brought about by digital tools. This, I believe, has given us a glimpse into the future of education, and we must do more to stay ahead of the curve in order to avoid falling behind. That said, digital literacy is no more a luxury or a wish list, Individuals lacking in this area must as a matter of urgency prioritize digital. The government must take more proactive steps to achieve greater national literacy targets. In general, there must be a deliberate stir in the system in order to see visible growth and change in the educational sector.
The Federal Government allocated N1.13 trillion out of the N13.6 trillion budgetary provision to the education sector in 2021. What is your take on this?
It’s an intriguing question, and I believe I’ll have to respond with one of my own. How is it possible that the two major sectors (health and education) most impacted by the global health crisis have been allocated a significantly lower budget than in 2020?
According to ONE.org, health and education spending has decreased. Total allocation to the education ministry (including statutory allocations) was just 5.8% of the total budget. This is less than the last 5-year average of 7%..
We must recognize that if we do not take our educational system seriously, we will be unable to progress as a country. Now more than ever, we should be scaling up and upskilling by investing in the country’s talent and educational system across board.
What are your expectations from the government relating to the sector?
You know what they say about doing things the same way and expecting different results. I anticipate that the government will examine the educational sector critically and invest in it. Fixing the educational sector at all levels in Nigeria has the potential to transform the country. We have been stuck in traditional learning methods, which will no longer suffice.
According to a recent report, there were 104.4 million internet users in Nigeria in January 2021. The number of internet users in Nigeria increased by 19 million (+22%) between 2020 and 2021. Internet penetration in Nigeria stood at 50.0% in January 2021.
Looking at these numbers, we should be able to ask ourselves what it means for us, what opportunities it holds for us and how can we leverage these opportunities to achieve success as a nation, against the backdrop of our numerous challenges.
The government’s investment in digital education infrastructure, funding, and awareness will go a long way.
What are the gaps you observed that elev8 aims to address in Nigeria and how you intend to go around them?
We understand the role digital and leadership plays in levelling the playing field for established and startup businesses. We also know that organizations that fail to transform digitally will not be sustainable in the long term. Every industry is undergoing one form of digital disruption or the other. We’ve identified major technical/ digital skill gaps that Nigerian and African businesses need to harness the power of technology to drive growth, efficiency and profitability. We work with organizations to design learning journeys for their employees that align with the organizational objectives. For us at elev8, we are driven to deliver impactful and transformational learning outcomes. Our global footprints and global learning project experiences give us the competitive edge to provide unmatched standard of quality education comparable to anywhere in the world. Organizations no longer need to travel to other parts of the world in search of quality education. You can find out more about what we do at www.elev8me.com
The year 2020 forced Nigeria and other nations to embrace technology faster than they had planned. How do you think the nation can cover more gaps with the use of technology?
I believe Nigeria has lost out on several revolutions in the past and as you know, we are currently at the fourth industrial revolution. We cannot afford to be left out on this one. We must put in a robust national strategy on digital transformation, with every industry and sector deriving its transformation roadmap against the national strategy. The private sector must also key into the national digital strategy and with this, we can begin to close more gaps.
Policies that will drive digital education and openness to adopt technology will also serve as a major way to cover more gaps from the education standpoint. From the student to entrepreneur and civil servant, everyone has to be taught how to leverage digital.
What are the deficiencies you have observed in the skills of the Nigerian workforce?
At elev8, we’ve noticed that some businesses don’t understand the value of upskilling their employees. As an illustration, consider the following. A company hires a qualified person for a position, but the position has grown or evolved over the course of five years. It would be absurd to expect the person who was hired to be able to fulfill these new responsibilities of the role without any formal training, which would be detrimental to the organization. elev8 accomplishes this by providing technical, leadership, and executive skills that are relevant in today’s environment.
One of your mandates is to train up to 1000 companies in technology-specialized training programs by 2022 to help businesses reach their full potential. What sectors are you looking at and what informed your choices?
We are looking at becoming the skilling partner of choice for most enterprises and to help them achieve their objectives from a human capital and digital perspective. Over the years, we have partnered with government and companies globally for digital skilling initiatives which has made tremendous impacts and helped them achieve their objectives.
We are bringing this experience to all enterprises including government, private and public. With our consultative approach to determining the right personalized learning journeys for each employee based on current and future job roles, we are able to help consolidate the right skills for organizations to achieve their goals.
We truly want to help companies take advantage of emerging and digital technologies to gain competitive edge and be sustainable in the face of disruptions in today’s dynamic business environment.
What are your expectations in terms of technology tools companies should consider in the second half of 2021?
There are a lot of emerging technologies changing the business landscape today. Technologies such as cloud computing, Data analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain are setting the pace for what would be the next-generation companies. Efforts must be taken to adopt and adapt technologies in innovative ways to drive competitive advantage. I am not an advocate for vendor-specific solutions. I do prefer looking at technology from an architectural point of view. Typically, every organization must first determine what good looks like for them in say, the next one or two years. This then sets the stage for the business and IT alignment needed to achieve the overall goals of the organization. With that said, strategic digital and technology imperatives taking into consideration these emerging technologies can then be developed with a robust architectural roadmap to direct the organization in the right transformational direction. This transformation should cut across operational efficiencies, new products, new business models and customer experiences. Finally, an effective project and change management must then govern all implementations to success.
As cloud computing’s popularity grows, so does its risks. What are the risks associated with the growth and can they be tackled?
Cloud services are infrastructure, platforms, or software systems that store data online and make it available to users with a single click at any time. In many ways, this technology is present in people’s and businesses’ daily lives. From data storage platforms like Microsoft 365, Google Drive, and iCloud to corporate services like Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS, and even apps like Waze, Spotify, and Netflix, there are a plethora of options.
Security/data breach is one of the most significant risks associated with cloud computing. There is also a scarcity of resources and specific skills to support and sustain the situation.
It is critical to stay current with best practices, particularly as an organization invests in training its employees on how to support and maintain the company’s cloud assets. elev8 recently hosted a free webinar to teach business leaders how to best protect their cloud assets and brand reputation.
The training focused on the importance of cloud services in general, as well as real-life examples of common cloud risks.
elev8 also offers a special course on cyber security and cloud asset management.
What are the risks associated with the work-from-home policy and how can businesses protect their data?
Simply put, the way we work, play and socialize has changed. Everyone must adopt these new realities in ways that make sense to them. Work from home is not a new phenomenon, a lot of companies had effectively governed these practices long before COVID 19. As with every practice, there are tailorable best practices that can help organizations minimize the risk associated with the concept of Work from home. Some of the greatest risks in this domain are, work-life balance, governance and cybersecurity. Without undermining the importance of the other risks mentioned, let’s talk about the cybersecurity risk in a layman term. If someone is working from home with a public internet – such as home internet, he faces a high probability of exposing the company and sensitive information to malicious persons implementing various attacks. Cyber-attacks such as malware, virus, MITM, Phishing, ransomware etc will definitely increase in the coming days and years with higher spread rate from the index computer. There are a lot of reported COVID-19 related scams resulting from the work from home practice. Effective cybersecurity awareness training for all employees and up to date cybersecurity mechanisms such as antiviral & malware software and cryptography technologies are some of the ways of mitigating these risks.
Where do you see Nigeria in five years in terms of cyber security and adoption of required tech skills?
The oil sector currently provides for 95% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings and 80% of its budgetary revenues. I see this changing significantly in the coming years. With noticeable increase in GNP, GDP from tech services and an increased FDI to tech startups, making it one of the largest VC markets in Africa for three years now. These trends show that tech skills is the game-changer for Nigeria of the future. The Nigerian human capital market is gradually becoming the topmost IT hub for tech skills due to the abundance of human talent, predominantly a youthful population-about 62% below the age of 25, and a time zone that plays a key role in attracting western companies. Some of the in-demand skills for most Nigerian youths are in the areas of software development, cybersecurity, data analytics and AI, technology infrastructure, cloud computing, digital transformation. elev8 understands this overwhelming need in a market like Nigeria and looking into the future for Nigeria, is well-positioned to close the digital skill gap and to position Nigeria youth to be globally sort after and generate foreign exchange earnings from its abundant human capital.