Will Technology Change Imo’s Narrative?

Sonny Aragba-Akpore
Sonny Aragba-Akpore

For the first time in a long while, Imo State recently made headlines for positive reasons after enduring incessant fratricidal attacks. These attacks affected not only the state but also other parts of the southeast geopolitical zone, orchestrated by individuals believed to be unknown gunmen (UGM).

However, on September 27, 2023, technology took centre stage and bore fruit in the form of 15,000 young men and women who graduated from what I would like to refer to as “technology incubation”. This marked a significant turning point.

For the first time in a while, Imo State witnessed genuine jubilation. Governor Hope Uzodinma, who had experienced little elation when he was appointed governor a few years ago, finally found himself applauded. His government had taken a maverick approach to constructively engage young people in an effort to bring meaningful change to their lives. This engagement held the promise of providing these young graduates with 4,000 offshore jobs in Europe and elsewhere. However, the truth behind this promise remains to be seen, as it was swiftly met with scepticism from a European Union official.

This skepticism voiced through an opposition politician, pits Uzodinma’s vow of abundance for Imo’s youth against political rhetoric. The promise is that the government will personally deliver employment letters to 4,000 young people in December 2023. Yet, some question whether this pledge is an electioneering gambit, with the state’s gubernatorial elections just around the corner.

While Uzodinma’s promises may not resonate like a Dynasty hit song, we must grant him the benefit of the doubt. His administration aims to provide hope to the youth, who now view Imo as a paradise on earth. However, as Bob Marley sang in his 1978 hit “Time Will Tell,” we must indeed await time’s verdict.

Although I cannot fully evaluate the governor and his administration, I have crossed paths with his Commissioner for Digital Economy, Chimezie Amadi. I encountered Amadi while he served at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) shortly before he joined Uzodinma’s administration in Owerri. With his experience from the NCC, Amadi has boldly claimed that he is going to Imo to make a difference. We await time’s judgment as we anticipate his success.

The Skill Up Imo programme, a pet project initiated by Amadi and endorsed by Uzodinma, holds the potential to transform the lives of thousands of young people in Imo State. This programme is calculated to take many youths off the streets, away from crime and criminal gangs. It aims to provide these young people with skills that will make them valuable to themselves and society. The SKILLUPIMO programme, one of the primary pillars of the Digital Imo agenda, plans to train and equip 300,000 individuals with digital skills and knowledge over three years, transforming their lives and positioning them as a valuable workforce, both locally and internationally.

Through this initiative, young people are trained in various digital fields, including computer appreciation, data analytics, UI/UX, web design, digital marketing, content creation, phone repairs, video editing, and programming, among others. These skills are not only intended to benefit the state but also to make the graduates employable worldwide. Graduates of this programme are expected to bring transformation and progress to their own lives, their families and society at large. Thus, Uzodinma seeks to clothe them with the garment of knowledge that is likely to translate them from underprivileged backgrounds to productive members of society.

The government has created an enabling environment for tech startups, accelerators and innovation hubs in the state. These initiatives have attracted talent and investment, leading to beneficial partnerships between the public and private sectors in the tech ecosystem of Imo State. The Skill Up Imo programme is also forging partnerships with global tech companies like Cisco, Huawei and Microsoft, working alongside their local counterparts. The National Examining Board for Technical Education (NABTEB) is overseeing the programme’s certification and value optimisation.

Imo State has established new learning centres at Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Imo Polytechnic Omuma, University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Umuagwo and K. O Mbadiwe University Ideato. These centres complement existing facilities at the Ministry of Digital Economy and E-Government headquarters, Imo State University, Alvan Ikoku College of Education and Claretian University, all aimed at enhancing access to digital skills learning for Imo youths.

The newly reconstructed 3R digital learning edifice at the Ministry of Digital Economy and E-Government, funded by Uzodinma, is now home to thousands of learners. This development is expected to provide the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the growing number of tech enthusiasts in Imo.

Imo State has also witnessed an increase in tech-related initiatives and investments, leading to the deployment of technology to address critical issues in healthcare, education and infrastructure. Tech-driven solutions have streamlined administrative processes, making government services more accessible to Imolites. The state’s Skill Up Imo programme aligns with the Federal Government’s National Digital Economy Policy & Strategy (NDEPS), aiming to position Imo State as a digital skills hub of Africa while tackling youth unemployment, insecurity and diversifying the state’s digital economy.

In conclusion, while these initiatives offer great potential, only time will tell whether they can bring about the positive change that Imo State desperately needs. Uzodinma’s administration, Chimezie Amadi’s leadership and the Skill Up Imo programme hold the promise of transforming the lives of countless young people, providing them with opportunities for personal growth and societal contribution. Imo State could potentially become a significant player in the digital economy if these initiatives succeed and are replicated across Nigeria. The future is promising and the youth of Imo have reason to hope for a brighter tomorrow. Time, as Bob Marley reminded us, will indeed tell.

Sonny Aragba-Akpore
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