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Nigeria’s digital economy gets boost as UK signs literacy agreement for northern rural clusters

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As part of Nigeria’s National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020-2030) Vision to transform the country into a leading digital economy providing a better quality of life for all Nigerians in 10 years, the UK Government, through its Prosperity Fund Digital Access Programme, has signed a resilience training agreement with Tech4dev, to carry out Basic Digital Literacy for Rural Clusters in Northern Nigeria to Enhance Pandemic Resilience.

Signed on the 5th of October 2020, by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and the Nigerian nonprofit organisation Technology for Social Change and Development Initiative (Tech4dev), the agreement which will be implemented across 10 rural clusters in 10 States across Northern Nigeria will demonstrate a scalable, sustainable model for digital skills development in underserved communities in Nigeria, a statement from the UK high commission in Lagos said.

The programme, according to the UK commission will run from October 2020 to February 2021, during which 1,000 beneficiaries who have had little or no prior digital knowledge will undergo a rigorous 12 weeks training required to navigate today’s digital world.

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The programme is aimed at sparking their interest in gaining advanced digital skills or even pursuing a career in technology. The Curriculum would include a computing device and internet usage, digital information handling, online communication, online safety, virtual collaboration and exchanges, etc.

The target audience for the training would be reached by Tech4dev through advocacy and outreach; community engagement, local community stakeholders, community town criers, local community influencers and the traditional media in these communities.

“Nigeria’s Economic Sustainability Plan, as well as Nigeria’s Digital Economy Strategy, have identified the development of digital skills as key to unlocking economic prosperity for all Nigerians. With social distancing and lockdowns to curtail the spread of COVID-19, digital literacy has become a must-have. But for millions of people who are unable to use technology, the offline world is economically and socially isolating,” Ben Llewellyn-jones OBE, the Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos said.

According to Llewellyn-jones digital literacy helps vulnerable populations to develop the capabilities needed to leverage technology for business, education and communication. “Improving digital literacy helps builds a more prosperous future for all Nigerians. The UK Government is pleased to be able to support this programme to support Nigeria’s economic development and help make more people more resilient in tackling the shared challenge of COVID-19.”

For the digitally-excluded or underserved groups in Nigeria, this project will help close the digital divide, enable inclusive digital access for all and build communities’ resilience to current and future pandemics.

Commenting on the signed agreement from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London, the Head of Digital Development and global lead for the Digital Access Programme, Alessandra Lustrati, said: “The Basic Digital Literacy for Rural Clusters in Northern Nigeria Project aligns with Sustainable Development Goals related to education, reduction of poverty and inequality, and contributes to digital inclusion as a key enabler of local development processes. By investing in digital literacy for disadvantaged people living in rural clusters in Northern Nigeria, this project will contribute to reducing vulnerability by enabling access to vital information, increasing the employability of beneficiaries and reducing the gap in the digital skills needed during this pandemic”

Lustrati also explained that the project will target vulnerable groups from the perspective of gender, disability and socioeconomic status. “This pilot will directly benefit 1,000 people, and even more importantly, it will serve to demonstrate a scalable, sustainable model of digital skills development which public and private stakeholders can further invest in. The Digital Access Programme team is delighted to have supported the design and launch of this project, and we will be actively monitoring its impact and emerging lessons over time.”