Mrs Yetunde Johnson, Managing Director of Slingshot Technologies, has told Technology Times that government incentives should be given local tech companies fixing identified skill gaps among students produced by Nigerian schools.
Johnson believes that the government support will complement the efforts of information technology (IT) firms that spend their time and resources to equip students with needed skills for today’s workplace.
The MD of Slingshot who made the call in an exclusive interview with Technology Times says that amid the poor state of information and communication technology (ICT) in the educational sector, Nigeria still needs to groom a tech savvy generation.
Technology firms like hers are left with the huge task of bringing students into their IT departments as IT attachments and equipping them with hands on experience with updated technologies using their private funds without any support whatsoever, which Johnson says has been discouraging.
“We need to be incentivised because right now, we are using our own private funds which we earn and we get no feedback from anybody. Soon, I will get tired and say, you know what, hold on, when I have made some more money, come back”, she says.
Even if they give us, like for instance, energy is a problem, give us tax breaks on providing 24/7 light and a place for them to browse. Give me a tax break and I will do it. But you are not even doing that. You are saying do it, do it, do it and you are not incentivising me”, Johnson adds.
The Slingshot Technologies MD wants government to “think out of the box” and develop innovate ways of supporting efforts of local tech players, which will serve as an encouragement to them and also enable them accommodate more IT attachment students. “I have been driving for I don’t know whether it’s a bill or a requirement or a tax deductible aspect whereby firms are given a tax break for every student they give IT to in their IT Departments.
According to her, “I think if you have something innovative like that going on, a lot of these young people will find attachments and a lot of firms would see it as a business incentive to actually provide them, because when you bring in an IT attachment and I do it all the time, you find that you are spending money and it takes you away from your business. So there is really no incentive for a business person to want to bring in an IT attachment.”
But the Slingshot Technologies MD believes that government could support with some palliatives for local players carrying the burden of retraining students on latest technology skills. “If the Local Government, with all the tax that is going on, if they say to a company, for every intern you bring in, I will give you a tax break and really every firm that has 20 to 30 people has an IT room, that basic hands-on experience will make a whole generation different. There needs to be more out of the box thinking.”
[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”left” arrow=”yes”]The Slingshot Technologies MD wants government to “think out of the box” and develop innovate ways of supporting efforts of local tech players, which will serve as an encouragement to them and also enable them accommodate more IT attachment students. “I have been driving for I don’t know whether it’s a bill or a requirement or a tax deductible aspect whereby firms are given a tax break for every student they give IT to in their IT Departments.[/quote]Johnson tells Technology Times that Nigerian tech companies like hers that have to train students “save the government a lot by doing such things. So all they need to do is show that encouragement by doing little things like tax breaks as tax is the main issue right now.” She says that IT firms are required to pay VAT and the likes without tax breaks. “We don’t have to all be in an innovation park to get that tax break.”
The Slingshot Technologies MD is worried that the method of learning in many Nigerian institutions, which she says is more of theory than practical caused by lack of the “enabling factors” that in turn results in the poor state of ICT in the nation’s educational sector.
According to her, under-investment or inappropriate investment or not managed well investment and lack of skilled teachers as a possible cause of the poor state of ICT both in our public and private educational sectors. “Government probably does not have enough funds to equip every school. It’s unfortunate and until that becomes the case, we will always be slightly behind, number two, even if they had such funds to invest in every school, teachers do not have the skill set to be able to teach those children current technology.”
The Slingshot Technologies MD observes that “even in developed world, there is a gap in skill set to deal with programming among teachers yet, less basic IT and then you look at your teachers. The fear is you invest in them, they will now go to the private sector but that means you are not paying them to make it attractive to stay in the public sector.
“On top of that, the kind of curriculum that exists is outdated and I am wondering whether we wouldn’t be better having a dual or hybrid model which involves online training as well as in-school training”, she adds.
She underscores the need for public-private partnership saying that “ICT is one of those subjects that don’t need a very traditional format and I think there are a lot of times the NYSC students are being used in schools and they are young. They should be given maybe three months training on ICT and put them into schools to cater but when you have no equipment with no light, most schools operate with no light, so how do you expect them to handle technology. That is where it comes down to public private participation.”
Johnson also called on women to take up ICT-related careers when she says that “it’s the most self-employed career you can be in. You can work from home. You can work from the tree. You can work from anywhere. But I think their perception of it is, and it’s because of employers, is that they must always be in the office.”
She further advocates that for women to really move into technology, they must love what they do and be confident and urges Nigerian businesses to make their policies such that “it’s flexible enough for women.”
“I think women lack that confidence and sometimes they lack confidence maybe because they are really not sure that they know what they know. So one thing I would advise any woman who is already in ICT: please believe in yourselves, one. Number two, we are in Nigeria, we are in a traditionally African country and there is nothing wrong with that MD of Slingshot Technologies says.
[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”left” arrow=”yes”]According to her, “what it means is that by 20, 25, most parents are looking for their daughter to marry, which is expected. But one thing I would say is, can women look at ICT in a slightly different point of view? It’s the best thing to have if you know you don’t want to be employed and I don’t think they see that opportunity.”[/quote]According to her, “what it means is that by 20, 25, most parents are looking for their daughter to marry, which is expected. But one thing I would say is, can women look at ICT in a slightly different point of view? It’s the best thing to have if you know you don’t want to be employed and I don’t think they see that opportunity.”
Johnson tells Technology Times that “what I find in a lot of women is when we go to a gathering, the woman is the last person to talk and no one can force you to talk. There is nothing wrong with you putting your opinion forward. Sometimes, when a guy talks and he is giving you an opinion, he might be wrong but he is confident enough to say well, let me put it.
Johnson says that “women need to have that same confidence in what they know, to stand and say ‘I have an opinion and this is what I think.’ Right or wrong, express it and until we start doing that, guys are going to continue to feel that we are not up to it.”
The Slinshot Technologies MD also looks into the cyber security landscape ans says that “government now is charged with the responsibility of setting the rules in that playing field that in the event that there is a breach or something negative, what happens and then to set a standard, to say that well, if you are a company that operate at this level, you are expected, at minimum to have X, Y, Z in terms of security.”
According to her, “CBN has set out rules in terms of security within transactions. Likewise, at every level, each body is going to have some set of rules to safeguard people’s data, to safeguard people’s networks as a condition for working in that environment.”
Johnson says that that brands also need to help themselves by either buying into the right technology and/or also training their staff because “security is also the issue of training staff not to open emails that they are not expecting or that looks strange. It’s as simple as telling people ‘don’t put a USB drive in a stranger’s computer and then in yours.’ It’s as simple as telling somebody ‘do not give a stranger your password.’ It’s as simple as making sure your IT staff are trained.”
According to Johnson, “you find out that the last people a company wants to train is their IT staff and they are like security guards. You need to train them so that they will be able to keep your network and your computer system and your data secured.”