Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been identified as one of the most important tools that drive the economic development of a nation. It drives most of the key sectors that facilitate social as well as economic development.
However, there is always a seismic gap among the most important key stakeholders in ICT development. There is a significant gap between the key players which are the academia, in charge of churning out research and innovations in the ICT sector, the industry players, who take these technologies and commercialise them to solve challenges in the society and the government whose job is often times to regulate these technologies.
The need to bridge this gap among the trio and facilitate the rapid socio-economic development of the nation cannot be overemphasized. Nigeria needs to borrow a leaf from developed countries who have been able to bridge this gap, where we see situations where the industries work in direct correlation with the academia to conduct research and come up with groundbreaking innovations needed in the society to address pressing challenges instead of working in silos and having situations where the academia conducts research and comes up with innovations not needed in the society that seat in shelves just to aid and facilitate their promotion.
The telecommunication regulatory agency, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in its quest to bridge the digital divide among the trio convened stakeholders forum with the academia and the industry, the second of its nature with the theme “Academia, accelerator for innovation, industry growth and sustainability” in Abuja to explore strategic collaboration with the academia and encourage productive partnerships among stakeholders for the benefit of both the industry and the society.
The executive vice chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, in his opening remarks, said the forum was to provide a platform to engage each other on how the academia could be more involved with the telecommunication industry, develop more tangible relationships with the operators while seeking opportunities to be more engaged in the activities of the sector and also contribute to producing the more needed manpower for the same.
He advised telecom companies to establish research and innovation centres in Nigerian universities in line with what NCC is doing to transform research and development.
He urged them to embark on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives to drive local content development.
“The telecommunication industry should encourage the funding of academia and the academia must understand that research sponsors have a stake in the outcomes.
“The input of the telecommunication industry is necessary for curriculum development. Telecom operators should therefore be encouraged to have research and development units,’’ he said.
Danbatta said the research project which started in 2013 and with the maiden interactive forum with the academia in 2017 had an increase in research proposals, explaining that the submission of research proposals climbed from 56 in 2016 to about 96 currently.
“And this came up to about 90 per cent and in appreciation of the development, the research budget was subsequently increased,’’ he said.
He disclosed that NCC also recently approved collaborative academia stakeholders meetings to discuss more on how to improve on research and development (R&D), saying apart from the involvement of the university heads, such meetings would meaningfully engage lecturers currently teaching in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
In his welcome address, the executive commissioner, technical services, NCC, Engr. Ubale Maska, said the forum provided a platform to deliberate and identify research areas in the industry and present opportunities of research proposals to the academia, adding the academia, by this means, could play a vital role in the growth and development of the telecom industry by producing research-oriented results that would create opportunities and add values to the industry.
“Please note that with the advancement of technology and development of new ICT applications we expect more research areas in telecom and ICT related fields, while the commission continue to identify and provide research grants to outstanding initiatives,” he told the participants.
Earlier in his remark, former vice-chancellor, Igbinedion University, Okada, Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, said the country lacked what it takes to embrace research and development seriously, expressing concern that industries in the country invest so little on R&D and the academia.
“Our best brains have drained abroad where they are doing extraordinary things in science, technology and medicine to further develop their developing receiving countries.
“The industrial sector in Nigeria has to critically re-examine itself. It must de-colonise its import-substitution orientation to be able to make use of the academia in any meaningful way,” he added.
The forum was attended by 49 vice chancellors of various universities across the country, including the University of Lagos, University of Benin, Covenant University, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Delta State University, Abraka, University of Maiduguri, Bayero University, Kano, University of Abuja, University of Ilorin and University of Port Harcourt, among others.
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