BY HENRY TYOHEMBA |
The minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has commended Tertiary Education Fund (TETFund) for championing strategic efforts geared towards promoting research and development in the country.
Pantami, who made the commendation when the ICT and Digital Economy Subcommittee of TETFund’s Research and Development Standing Committee (RDSC) paid him an official visit in his office, stressed the need for Nigeria to change her position from being a consuming nation to a producing nation, saying that cannot be achieved without research and development.
The subcommittee was led by the coordinator, Professor Bashir Shehu Galadanci, who is also the head of department, Software Engineering, Bayero University, Kano.
Pantami used the opportunity to commend the board for coming up with an initiative to promote research and development in Nigeria, noting that there is need to focus more on bridging the gap between academia and industry so as to have joint research for development purposes.
He said TETFund’s effort to boost research and development came at the right time as the ministry had been pushing the federal government at the higher level to focus more on research and development that will lead to production and manufacturing.
According to him, “If you look at our national digital and policy strategy, research and development are keys towards the implementation and what we emphasized is we need to change our position from being a consuming nation to a producing nation and that cannot be achieved without research and development.
“This indigenous content we are agitating cannot be achieved without research and development. We are agitating for more than one per cent of our annual budget go into research and development, this can be done through harmonising what we have been providing for research and development in our various parastatals.”
He advised the board to focus more to bridge the gap between the academia and industry, saying that there is a huge gap between academia on one hand and industry on the other, that gap brought about our challenge of what we usually said unemployment which to me is not unemployment, our major challenge is unemployability.
“If you look at the number of our graduates you will be worried but in real sense you will discover looking at our curriculum graduates usually graduate with only theory the practical is not sufficient, this is the gap, they don’t have enough skills that will prepare them for an opportunity immediately.
“When you employed a graduate today you have to teach him the way you want him to get the skills, his entire life on campus focus more on theory and we are so much addicted to class of degree and most of the institutions we have you must get first class or second class upper before you will be employed so now our children focus on only class of degree without given any emphasis on skills as it is require globally.
“The earlier we focus more on skills the better for us, as it is now bridging that gap should be our priority,” he said.
The Minister also stressed the need to reduce emphasis on paper qualification which is putting students under pressure to obtain best grades without perfecting the practical aspect.
“One area the work of this committee will be very effective in this country is to work on this area of skills. Secondly, to come up with areas of research and development that will lead to production and manufacturing.”
He noted that the ministry is on the same page with TETFund in ensuring that research and development is boosted in the country, saying the ministry has established a national council for research and skills development chaired by the Vice President Yemi Osibanjo .
“We had almost three meetings where we have started collecting institutions that engage in research, all our research centers all over the country, their performance and challenges, what they have achieved so far, what are the gaps do we have and what government needs to do to fill up the gaps and many more. It is because of this I think this effort is very apt and it came up at the right time and I want to use the opportunity to encourage you to continue to do the best you can and to always count on our support whenever that support is needed.
“in addition, we have some ongoing projects in promoting research and development particularly, in the paratatals we supervise. Part of our national digital economy policy and strategy is supporting research and development. There are eight pillars in the document number one is research and developmental regulation, digital skills, solid infrastructure, service infrastructure, digital services, indigenous content promotion among others.”
Earlier speaking, Prof Bashir noted that the assignment was given to them when TETFund established the Research and Development Standing Committee as an initiative towards the establishment of the National Research Foundation.
“ This is not the first time that there has been an effort in this direction but this time TETfund and all of us that has been given this honour and privilege of being a part of this effort we are fully determine to succeed this time in putting the nation on a very smooth path towards going into knowledge economy with all the necessary research and development effort and the initiative in place as very well know for this effort to be successive there has to be a lot of collaborations and working together among stakeholders.
“Research institutions and the higher institutions on the one hand, government again on the other hand, businesses in particular where there will be need for a lot of collaborations and perhaps general public, as very well know there has not been much cooperation among research institutes and business organisations. This has very much hampered our desire as a nation to see that research is the principal factor in our socio economic effort and drive to be a great nation.
“We want to move forward so that hopefully we can have a country that is backed by a lot of research and development effort that will be the principal drivers of our economy,” he said.
He stressed that IT remains the sector that will drive us to become a great nation. “Today, Information Technology or Information and Communication Technologies are the principal drivers of digital and knowledge economy and it is both an enabler of all other sectors but over and above that it is an economic sector in itself that can bring about a lot of socio economic development. Quite a number of countries are relying almost entirely on IT as a sector in itself,” Bashir added.