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



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

The Huawei Global ICT competition started from the national level, proceeded to regional and then ended at global level, which was the final in a series of competitions spanning over a period of one year (May 2018 to May 2019).  Winners at the national level qualified to participate in the regional level and the winners at regional levels obtained tickets for the final competition at the global level. Thus, from the national competition, the winners advance to the regional finals. The winners of the regional finals are then invited to join the global finals in China.

For the purpose of Huawei competition, Africa is divided into two regions; Maghreb region (a major region of North Africa that consists primarily of the countries Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania and other African Arab) and sub-Sahara Africa where Nigeria belongs. In Sub-Saharan region alone, about 28,000 students from universities and colleges across took part in the Huawei ICT competition.

As discussed in the first part of this article last week, six overall best students emerged winners of both categories of the Huawei competition at the national level. Surprisingly, all the six overall winners 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 similar vein, Team B came first in the second category to represent Africa Cloud Services track. The outcomes of the Huawei ICT African Regional competition made the teams from Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and Angola winners of Sub-Saharan Africa to represent the region at the final competition in China. The teams joint 22 teams from across the world to compete for the global champion.The Nigerian Teams deserve unreserved commendation for their sagacity in exhibiting their talents and innovative capacities despite their environmental challenges.

The Huawei ICT Competition is an extension of the Huawei ICT Academy, which establishes mutual cooperation between Huawei and universities across the world. The cooperation aims to improve the ICT education at the university through training of teachers, learning material, curriculum development, and advancement of ICT to address myriad of challenges to global development. While all universities are welcome to participate in the ICT Competition, only the universities that participate in the ICT Academy program, or agree to enroll into the program, can advance to the finals.

The 2019 ICT Competition Global Finals took place on 25 and 26 May at the new Huawei campus in Dongguan, close to the Huawei HQ in Shenzhen. 49 teams from 39 universities and polytechnics in 30 countries traveled to Dongguan where the competition took place. Understandably, out of the 39 Institutions of higher learning, 12 represented China. Each team consists of 4 members either from different universities or all from the same university. On Saturday the teams were giving 8 hours to work on challenging tasks by demonstrating their ICT skills. The tasks were divided into three; cloud computing, networking or innovative track. Based on their preferences, each competitor chooses one of the three tasks; either the Cloud Computing, Networking or Innovation track.

The 2019 competition was reported to be the most challenging as testified by one of the invited Global ICT experts, Hank Stokbroekx, who wrote in his blog “This year the tasks were particularly challenging as could be seen from the occasional expression of frustration from the participants. There was certainly significant pressure for the students (competitors) to complete the tasks on time, and they had to dig deep in order to make it” (https://blog.huawei.com/2019/05/31/students-hone-their-skills-at-huawei-ict-competition/).

He further said “The next day was the award ceremony, but before the students would find out who the 2019 winners were, there were encouraging speeches and a panel discussion with experts from around the world” perhaps to alleviate the tension. After the “formalities” were done it was time for the competitors to find out how well they performed the previous day. “While the enthusiasm and excitement in the room continued to increase, the winners of the 3rd, 2nd and 1st prizes were invited to the stage to receive their awards”.

Cheers and applause escorted each winner from everyone in the room, making it a true celebration of global happiness. It was an exciting event, with so many enthusiastic students from across the world simultaneously competing with each other and supporting each other. This was in addition to exchange of contacts among the competitors for future personal engagements.

The results of the final competition covered the three tasks: Cloud Computing, Networking and Innovation tracks. The result for the Networking Track indicated that teams from Malaysia and Algeria took the first position while teams from Spain, Pakistan and China took the second position. The third position went to Teams from Nigeria and Iraq. The first position for cloud computing went to teams from Peru and China Gullin University while the second position in this category went to teams from Singapore, Egypt and China Nanjing Institute. In the same category of cloud computing, the third position went to four teams from Bolivia, United Kingdom, Russia and Bahrain.

On innovation track, the first position went to one team from China Shanghai University II while the second position went to teams from China Tianjin and China Shanghai University I. The third position on the same category of innovation track went to teams from China SASTECH and China Beijing University. 

The Huawei ICT competition, a global event is certainly generating so much interest among the youths, the leaders of tomorrow. The competition exploresand exploits their innovative potential in using ICT to increase system efficiency through effective and result oriented communication. No wonder, since 2015 when the competition started, the number of participating countries, universities and students has increased exponentially. In 2015, there were less than ten participating countries in the competition, which exponentially increased to sixty-one countries in 2018. Again, within the same period, the number of participating universities and colleges increased from 300 to over 1,600 in 2018 with corresponding increase of more than 100,000 participating students.

Before ending this piece, it is important to answer the last question I posed in the first part of the article: what are the implications of Nigerian participation and performance in the ICT competition? First, the competition provides hundreds of Nigerian students opportunity to enhance their ICT skill, which is very significant for the development and industrialization of Nigeria and indeed the African continent. Today, ICT is a sine qua non and essential ingredient for the industrialization and advancement of all developed and developing countries.

What does this success means to ABU?

Professor Bashir Muazu, the director of Iya Abubakar ICT center who, all through diligently led other ICT gurus to prepare the teams for the competition said, “The competition brought out ABU as a veritable source of world class talents in IT and 21st century network technology. This is very important considering that recently Huawei overtook Ericsson as number one telecommunications solution provider in the world.”

He further said, “the performance of the ABU students and their instructors brought global recognition to the nation and placed Nigeria in a higher pedestal of ICT innovations”. Based on this performance, Huawei facilitated partnership between ABU, Chinese Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) and UNESCO–ICHE (International Centre for Higher Education Innovation) in China, which led to the signing of tripartite MoU. Indeed, the nation will be the highest beneficiary of this partnership.

Nigeria needs to celebrate ABU and other participating universities by providing special grants for acquiring the necessary infrastructure, facilities and capacity building for the development of ICT in the country. Bravo ABU Team and keep it up.

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

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