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Digital language for Imo youths – MDEEG

Senator Hope Uzodinma and Dr Chimezie Anadi

When I was much younger, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late political sage, in a moment of political flamboyance and philosophical exactitude, had said life was a “continuum.” It was the time when children still rushed to their dictionaries searching for words that could build up their vocabularies.

Oh, could he be talking about life stretching into the future indeterminately and without any break or what some may call interregnum? Vocabulary! Young men of yore liked to acquire them and throw them around like bullets by way of demonstrating their bombastic grammatical acquisition.

Growing up, sustainability has joined my little collection. In language, there is always something for the age. Sustainable development goals could be appropriated now by the United Nations, but my little flirtation with the word is more of project, programme or policy development, nurtured or supported to endure the vicissitudes of a fragile state. Unlike in politics where the winner takes all and everything comes to a screeching, shameful halt once he exits office. Or in moments of interregnum!

Could this be the reason I was excited last week seeing some images coming out of Imo State? It was quite exciting for me to see that the SkillUpImo project has not been subjected to the opprobrium of an interregnum or endured a crushing hiatus that could have a telling effect on a well-thought-out programme with which Governor Hope Uzodinma hopes to lure some youths away from the streets and crime and imbue them with tech skills for a better future, even for a better state and country.

In Imo State, interregnum has lost meaning or relevance. While yet to form a cabinet after an election victory, Governor Uzodinma, secured the partnership of global tech giant, Meta Incorporated, formerly Facebook, to train 5000 tech graduates on digital marketing on Meta social platforms of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, still using the enthusiastic commitment of former Commissioner of Digital Economy and E-Governance, Dr Chimezie Amadi.

That is sustainability, that the importance of a cardinal programme of the State government was not allowed to flag. An official of the Nigerian tech partner of Meta, Innovation Growth (IG) Hub, Daniel Chinagozi,  told reporters that the training was one of the series lined up to support the government in its audacious effort to decongest the streets of restless youths and give them a meaningful living.

The governor in his first tenure promoted an ambitious Imo Digital Economy Agenda (IDEA) 2022 – 2026, with one of its primary pillars being Digital Literacy and Skills Acquisition. Under the programme, the government planned to train 100,000 youths, women and people living with disabilities in core 21st-century skills in software development, blockchain, game development and other technical vocational skills.

A smart move by the governor was to enlist Dr Amadi, a hard-core technocrat at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to champion his vision for a new Imo.

It was like hitting the bullseye. Perhaps for the visible achievements of the programme and even more for the love of his people, the governor has encouraged

Amadi to pursue his state’s tech vision even in an ordinary capacity.

The efforts of the state in this respect are measurable. The training programme provided Amadi with an auspicious opportunity to give a situation report. Speaking on Channels Television, last week, Amadi informed viewers that through the SkillUpImo project which is about a year old, the governor has trained exactly 20,000 youths in Cohorts 1 and  2 in different genres of tech application, out of which 5,000 were picked for further training by tech partners, IG Hub, representing Meta in Nigeria.

On the choice of Meta, Amadi explained that the company builds its innovation around people and some of these technologies are specially suited for the promotion of MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises), the sort of small businesses sprouting in different parts of the state, a number of them promoted by tech graduates of the ImoSkillUp project.

“Meta through IG Hub is working with us to train digital marketing graduates from Cohort 1 and 2 by sharpening their knowledge and deepening their skills in using the Meta family of Apps to promote small businesses. Some of them have opted to set up their ventures instead of searching for paid employment,” he said.

Some benefits are already very noticeable, according to the former Commissioner. “The good thing happening in Imo is the sporadic growth of small businesses. Some companies come to Imo State in search of tech talents to employ. Imo State is becoming a net exporter of tech talents to other parts of the country and even to the global community,” Amadi said.

Until recently, Imo State resonated mostly in ugly situations, either insecurity or mugging of Labour leaders. The governor has said his tech training drive for the youths is to stir them away from being cheap recruits for troublemakers. And Amadi would tell this writer that there is nobody who is gainfully employed that will want to spill his blood on the street.

Does Uzodinma’s tech plan have the fuel boosters to accelerate to 2026 and achieve its goals without political distractions?  Will it achieve its training target of 100,000  and make Imo a digitally driven state – E-Government, connected ministries, connected cities, driven on e-commerce that is powered by a state-supported broadband buildout? Time, they say, will tell.

From afar, one can say Governor Uzodinma has got something good going in Imo State. On tech training for Imo youths, he has scaled the rubicon while shaming a discouraging interregnum offered by the absence of a cabinet, to press the accelerator of his best offering to the Imo people.

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