It is always a feeling of joy when Dr Chimezie Amadi gets in touch. A feeling that something can really go well in the country if there is somebody to push a vision, somebody to make a sacrifice in order to make a difference. Amadi comes with a freshness which nourishes a wearied life in our dear nation.
When we introduced him on this page in October last year, Amadi who just joined the Imo State government on secondment from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), was nursing the Digital Imo idea and was kind enough to share it with us for dispassionate assessment. The project which is targeted at introducing the unemployed young people of Imo State to the world of technology and also help depopulate the sordid world of unemployment, has gained traction and is receiving generous commendations.
Dr Chimezie Amadi, who is the Commissioner for Digital Economy and E-Government, went to Imo State with a concrete vision and measurable work plan and, his state which used to be known for a number of things far from good news, is enjoying the zenith by ranking agencies.
Our recent conversation ignited some fire in me and I don’t want to call it fury. My mind went to the NITDA Bill at the National Assembly with which the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, and a few desperate cohorts, want to supplant the telecoms regulatory agency, the Nigerian Communicatioms Commmission (NCC). All of a sudden, a small development agency wants to grow wings and swallow up the biggest regulatory agency in Africa and people fail to see the making of evil.
Do they know what it takes to build a regulatory agency like the NCC? They should get across to Engr Ernest Ndukwe for answers and if their power for necromancy hasn’t failed them, they should also reach out to late Alhaji Ahmed Joda. Building an NCC, for instance, demands a lot of investment in the right human capital, that was before politics assumed the power of employment at the Commission, lots of training – local and international; the NCC worker is trained for the present and future of work, and can function in whatever ecosystem he is placed. Amadi is paradigmatic of the knowledge capital available at the NCC and it is fitting that the Governor of the state, Senator Hope Uzodinma, looked beyond politics to pick those to work with him.
Amadi’s SkillUpImo, which has become a cardinal programme of the Uzodinma government has given a vista of opportunity for the young people in the state to acquire digital skills and be given start up equipment or seed funding to start their businesses.
With training centres at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), Imo State University, KO Mbadiwe University, Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, College of Health Management Services, Alvan Ikoku College of Education, University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Claristian University, Imo State Polytechnic, and Ministry of Digital Economy and E-Government, the state has been able to democratise technology adoption trainings for the majority and make it available in the nook and cranny of the state.
The result, according to Amadi, is that “We have been able to position Imo as a leading digital skills hub in the country. We graduated 5000 students in Cohort 1 who were trained in various digital and tech skills. The governor has equipped them in their various startup endeavours. He gave out almost 3000 laptops, car tracking kits and smart phones for some of the graduates, while some others with visual and hearing challenges were given a hundred thousand Naira each.”
Amadi pointed out that what has happened in Imo State is that the government has “engineered a startup economy” where the young graduates have quickly embedded themselves into providing government with tech services and also providing needed digital services for other businesses in the state.
“People can see there is an economy beyond agriculture, building of roads, and buying and selling. They have come to realise that there is an economy fuelled by the Internet,” he said.
Could Amadi just be staying on the rooftop and blowing his trumpet to draw attention to non existent achievements or call it even a wave of developments in the state? The testimonies of other people provide the answer.
A recent report by FATE Institute of the famed FATE Foundation titled, State of Entrepreneurship Index for Nigeria, puts Imo State well ahead of other states of the federation. Which is a little surprising, just like South Korea being put above Sweden, USA, China and the United Kingdom among others in tech development and connectivity index some years ago. Over time it has become very obvious that such development depends on genuine actions taken to uplift an environment, organisation or a country.
For instance, the FATE Institute based its ranking on five major pillars, which include: Business Performance, Skills Acquisition, Innovation and Technology, Perception of Opportunities, and Enabling Business Environment. Some of these pillars were directly addressed by Amadi in his SkillUpImmo document. There is every indication that Cohort 2 which is targeting 15,000 trainees will bring even more visibility to the activities of the Imo State government.
Another testimony. Dr Pantami who was Special Guest of Honour at the graduation of the first 5000 trainees described the “Imo State programme as a shift from creating job employees to producing job creators.”
Such is the power of tech knowledge acquisition, transforming very little fellas into big guys overnight, ready to rule the world.
Speaking to this writer in October last year, Amadi explained, “The Digital IMO project aims to train 100,000 youth, women and people living with disabilities in core 21st century skills in software development, blockchain, game development and other technical vocational skills.”
This was our position then. “The easiest verdict to give here is that Amadi is fully prepared for his new job as the Commissioner for Digital Economy and e-Governance. But that is not the way it works in government, especially at the state level, where petty jealousy and frivolous gossip are credentials for daily governance, where urgent files would go on circumlocutory journeys and may never return. It is the responsibility of Senator Uzodinma to empower his new Ministry and support it to use technology to straighten administrative processes , and make governance, businesses and investment appealing and attractive. In fact, be the first to run a state on technology.”
From all indications, the governor has empowered Amadi who is working towards achieving his dream for Imo State as the stats have demonstrated. We wish him well.
But my little fascination with the Imo project is its demonstration that development is not rocket science. In a country where youth unemployment is well over 53 per cent, the state has done well in trying to take its youths off the streets and wean them of frustration through digital tech training.
If this model is working, and there is the need to do more inquisition, it will not be a bad idea for other states to look at what works for them too, more than building roads and bridges and giving poverty tokens to undocumented population, and initiate development projects that rests more in building capacity in the people to ensure the future of work. The way to the future is technology, obviously.