Advent of ICT in Nigeria: ABU Zaria’s Excellent Performance at Global Competitions (I), by Professor MK Othman

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Prof Ibrahim Garba, VC ABU Zaria.

BreakThrough

Nigeria is a complex country with stupendous endowments in all spheres of human endeavors, yet the ‘experts’ predicted that the country would become the headquarters of “World poverty” by 2050. In my article, titled “World Food Day: Goalkeepers Report and Food Security in Nigeria” published on 8th December 2018, I quoted the Bill and Melinda Foundation report that stated “by 2050, Nigeria would have 152 million people in extreme poverty out of a projected total population of 429 million people living in extreme poverty in the world”.

Going by this figure, the report added that Nigeria will represent about 36% of the total number of people in “extreme poverty” Worldwide. By the same year, 2050, Nigerian population is expected to overshoot to 450 million people, as the third most populous country in the World after India and China.  This means that one out of three people in Nigeria will be among the people in the class of “extreme poverty” in the world. This article can be accessed via https://breakthroughwithmkothman.blogspot.com/2018/12/world-food-day-goalkeepers-report-and_80.html

As the doomsayers were beating their drums on Nigeria situation causing worries, unhappiness and serious concern, a gleam of hope emerges to reinforce our faith in Nigerian prosperous future, Nigerian potential of becoming a great nation. Yes, brighter future awaits Nigeria on the condition of using our political will to transform our massive human resources to human capital. To do this, we simply add ‘skill and education’ to human resources for the magic transformation to human capital. 

Back to ‘a gleam of hope’, the week of 27th May 2019, local and international media were awash with the excellent performance of Ahmadu Bello University Team in an ICT global competition organized by Huawei in far away China.  Newspapers, both hardcopies and online publications were outdoing each other with cheering headings; “ABU students shine at Global ICT Competition” – Punch edition of 4th June 2019 (https://punchng.com/abu-students-shine-at-global-ict-competition/) “Huawei ICT Competition 2019 Global Final: ABU Zaria Team Emerges Third” – Mobilitaria edition of 31st May 2019 (https://www.mobilitaria.com/huawei-ict-competition) “3 ABU Students Win Huawei ICT Prize” – Leadership edition of 31st May 2019 (https://leadership.ng/2019/05/31/3-abu-students-win-huawei-ict-prize/) among several other news outlets. Yes, the news was certainly heartwarming considering the poor state of Nigerian educational system. There are inadequate ICT infrastructure, inadequate high skill manpower, crowded lecture theatres inadequate teaching consumables and poorly motivated tutors, which constitute major challenges to teaching and learning.

These challenges were aptly captured by the vice chancellor of ABU, Professor Ibrahim Garba, who led the team to China for the competition. Newspapers quoted him on arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe “I pity my boys because they went with very limited preparation, from the environment that is limited with resources and infrastructure and we were able to compete with the best of the best in the world”. Yet, these students of ABU Zaria out performed others to emerge the winners of African regional competition and then competed against other students from different continents/regions and took a third position. What could have been, were these students provided with the needed infrastructure and facilities to prepare for the competition? Your conjecture is as good as mine. What does Huawei ICT competition means? What are the implications of Nigerian performance in the competition?

Huawei is one of the leading global Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions providers. As a leader and innovator of ICT technologies, Huawei has developed an ICT industry recognized global Certification program and talent ecosystem. The ‘Huawei ICT Academy’ Program is aimed at addressing the global ‘Digital Skills Crisis’ and ICT skills gap. This is done by actively working with academia in developing multi-skilled engineers with employable skills to help fill the skills gap within the ICT industry sector.

The 2018 – 2019 Huawei ICT competition was the fourth in series with a theme “Connection, Glory, Future”. It aims at providing a platform for students to compete and exchange ideas in order to enhance their ICT knowledge, practical and application skills, and raise their innovation awareness. The competition is also a platform that facilitates connections between international talent as well as the collaboration between governmental organizations, higher educational institutions, training agencies, and enterprises, thus promoting the education, growth, and employment of ICT talent.

However, the 2019 Huawei ICT was an improvement over the previous ones as it consisted of two components; “Practice Competition and Innovation Competition”. The Practice Competition for both a Network Track and a Cloud Track is intended for Huawei ICT Academies worldwide and higher educational institutions that are interested in becoming Huawei ICT Academies. The Innovation Competition uses an invitation-based registration system and is oriented to colleges and universities participating in Huawei ICT Academy’s Innovation Talent Center program. The 2019 competition started in 2018 and as at June 2018, the competition had attracted more than 100,000 students from over 1,600 colleges and universities in 61 countries. The 2018-19 final competition had a total of 49 teams from 30 countries.

As part of the improvement, the 2019 competition received more participants from a larger number of countries, was more inclusive and innovative. As part of the competition, Huawei offers free online access of courses and learning materials as well as opportunities for exchanges, learning and preparation to all the participants. By doing so, Huawei hopes to achieve the goal of an equal opportunity for quality education and that more people can benefit from the digital economy. The overall goal for Huawei is to transfer a cumulative of more than 700,000 ICT professionals to the industry by 2023, to bridge the ICT talent gap, advance the digital transformation of industries, and bring digital services to every person, home and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world.

This will certainly increase the global economic productivity and enhanced livelihood. The Vice President of Huawei Technologies capped it all when he was quoted saying “Huawei understands the value of a good talent ecosystem which is the foundation for a smart future. This ICT Competition is part of our innovative initiatives to support that and promote ICT skills. We believe that this event will inspire more students’ interest in ICT learning in Africa; it provides them with a world-class stage to showcase themselves and consolidate the vital ICT needed for Africa’s development,” said Mr. Xue Man.

In Nigeria, the competition was organized at national level where thousands of students from several universities participated. The final national competition was held on 26th of October 2018 at Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja. Among other important dignitaries, the NUC Executive Secretary, Minister of Communication, Dr Adebayo Shitu, the Vice Chancellors of ABU Zaria, FUT Minna, UNN, AUN Yola and Lead City University Ibadan witnessed the event.

At the end of the national competition, six students emerged as the overall best winners to represent the country at African Regional competition in South Africa. Coincidentally and surprisingly, the six overall best students came from the same university, the famous Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Three of the six students; Muhammad Mustafa Maihaja (400 level computer engineering student), Shuaibu Usman Abbas (400 computer science education student and Abdulkadir Babagana Musa (500 level electrical engineering student), each scored 100 percent (1000/1000 points). The other three students; Kamaludeen Umar (500 level electrical engineering), Abdulqudus Adebayo Temi (400 level communication engineering) and Fahad Danladi (500 level computer engineering) scored 98.5 percent, 93.5 percent and 91 percent respectively.

The selected students were divided into two groups; Team A and Team B for effective representation. Team A and B represented the country at the Huawei African Regional Competition that took place in Johannesburg, South Africa. The event was held from 8th to 11th March 2019. Team A from Nigeria won overall African Regional ICT competition in South Africa and qualified as the best team to represent Africa at the Global Final in China in the Network Services track. In a similar vein, Team B came first in the second category to represent Africa Cloud Services track.

From the outcomes of the Huawei ICT African Regional competition, all were set for the Nigerian Teams to globally exhibit their talents and innovative capacity despite their environmental challenges.

Read also: Advent of ICT in Nigeria: ABU’s Excellent Global Performance (II), by Professor MK Othman

Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.

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