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Lack of local partners’ raise issues on FG’s smart classroom deal with Chinese group

…Experts query NITDA’s role in approving scheme

Just as the federal government has announced the implementation of a partnership that will help establish digital education institute and provision of smart learning classrooms across the country in partnership with a Chinese firm, NetDragon Websoft Holdings Limited, industry experts have expressed worries on lack of local content in the entire process.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals and former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire had revealed in a statement that the Smart Classrooms and Digital Education initiative, will be implemented in partnership with the Chinese Digital Technology giant, NetDragon Websoft Holdings Limited is in line with the commitment of the government to continue to provide quality education to Nigerian children as stipulated in Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The statement also noted that the scheme is also designed to facilitate investment in the ICT industry by building IT Incubators, Digital Studios and Software Outsourcing and Training Hubs, towards to the creation of new jobs in the area of Technology and Innovation.

Already, an Agreement of Cooperation (AoC) is expected to be signed soon between the Federal Government and NetDragon, represented by its chairman, Dejian LIU.

Some indigenous IT investors who spoke with our correspondents on the matter queried why the government’s IT watchdog, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) could not enforce local content policy in the smart classroom deal with the Chinese firm.

According to them, it is only when government starts to take issues of local content serious in IT that the industry will get better.

They argued that designing and managing smart classrooms can be handled by some good Nigerian IT firms who has shown capability and integrity.

Efforts to reach NITDA media officer failed as her telephone were ringing not reachable as at press time.

However, explaining more, Orelope-Adefulire noted that in the pilot phase of the project, her office is collaborating with NetDragon to provide a smart classroom to the Pilot Science Nursery/Primary School in the Federal Capital Territory.

The project, which will be officially launched today by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo  will serve as a model technology-based classroom.

She added that “The Initiative of Digital Education in Africa otherwise known as “IDEA” was initiated by the Nigerian Government and NetDragon through the Public Private Partnership and direct Foreign Investment that will facilitate the setting up the National Education Resource Public Service Platform, National Education Community Network Platform, National Digital Talent Training Platform, and National Future Education Experience Centre.”

The SSAP-SDGs further added that with the initiative, the government aims to provide high-quality digital education resources and a new teaching and collaboration model for basic education in Nigeria, thereby promoting education equity and improving teaching quality. In terms of lifelong education, the Talent Training Platform will carry out lifelong skills training and intelligent management of talents in Nigeria to help Nigeria achieve talent upgrading and optimal allocation of social resources.

“With the initiative, our aim is to use technology to drive the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals 4, 8 and 9 regarding Quality Education, Economic Growth as well as Industry & Innovation, thereby creating jobs through the E-Learning Platforms, Educational Software and Apps as well as other innovations. By 2030, we want to ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.” Orelope-Adefulire stated.