Senior Vice President and Global Innovation Officer at Cisco, Dr. Guy Diedrich, in this interview with Emma Okonji, speaks about the recent launch of Cisco’s EDGE Centre in Nigeria and how it will enhance digital transformation and provide access to digital job opportunities in Nigeria and Africa
What are some of the benefits of the recently launched Cisco EDGE Centre in Nigeria, and how will Nigeria benefit from it?
The Cisco EDGE Centre was launched in Nigeria last week and it is located inside TD Africa’s Tech Experience Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos. The Cisco EDGE hub will function as an incubator, providing Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) with access to state-of-the-art Cisco communication and collaboration technology, alongside training and enablement programmes. In addition, SMMEs will be able to connect with global Cisco experts, who can support them develop business ideas and concepts in a digital world.
EDGE stands for ‘Experience, Design, GTM (Go to Market) and Earn’ and has the objective to share business knowledge to stimulate innovation, help develop small and medium businesses in the digital age, speed up their entry to market and as a result create new jobs for the local economy. The centre hosts three key functions under one roof: It provides a space where local partners can showcase technologies and host client events; it brings resources and tools to local innovators and entrepreneurs to help them develop more secure, intelligent, and connected solutions; and offers training programmes and education in the most advanced digital technologies.
With its vibrant economy and young population, Nigeria stands to benefit from the promise of an inclusive digital future. Cisco is here to help Nigeria with digital skills development, innovation and incubation as well as cutting edge technologies. Cisco welcomes Nigeria to the Cisco Country Digital Acceleration program and look forward to working with businesses, government, and academia, enabling them to take the lead in shaping the future and driving social and economic inclusion.
How will Cisco collaborate with the federal government to further drive digital transformation in Nigeria?
On May 16, 2023, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), signed MoU with Cisco to help promote digital transformation and bridge digital skills gap in Nigeria. NITDA is also in talks with Cisco on how Cisco can collaborate with government to build public digital infrastructure in Nigeria in order to digitise some key sectors like agriculture and healthcare. Through our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme, Cisco will be investing in Nigeria to transform her digital transformation agenda.
How will such collaboration help Nigeria to achieve its planned 95% attainment of digital literacy by 2030?
The Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, had said that NITDA developed several initiatives that would help drive digital transformation in the country and that NITDA had gone ahead to sign the National Digital Literacy Framework that would help identify competency areas. Cisco is already in collaboration with NITDA though the Cisco Network Academy that is designed to develop digital skills among Nigerians. With such collaboration, Cisco can help Nigeria to achieve its planned 95 per cent digital literacy attainment by 2030.
A lot of Nigerian youths are migrating to other countries in search of jobs and better living condition. How will Cisco accelerator programme help Nigeria address the mass movement of youths?
Again the Director General of NITDA had said that the agency drafted the National Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) strategy that would allow companies outsource their non-core businesses to other companies, a development that will enable Nigerians with the required skills, to handle such outsourced jobs. The Director General of NITDA also said such strategy would help in engaging the youths and make them remain in Nigeria and work from Nigeria, for companies located outside of Nigeria.
On the part of Cisco, we will deliver Nigerians the opportunity to acquire digital skills that will enable them live and work anywhere from Nigeria. With technology evolution, people can work from their homes without going to the office, and this way, Nigerians can work for any company in the world, while living in Nigeria, provided they have the digital skills, which Cisco is offering through our various training initiatives.
How will Cisco Edge help address the dearth of digital skills in Nigeria?
The Cisco Edge centre is designed to provide comprehensive approach in building a sustainable innovation ecosystem here in Nigeria. The idea is to train people on critical digital skills like networking, cybersecurity, programming and management skills. The skills training will come in the form of entrepreneurship, where they will have access to mentorship. So Cisco recognises the potentials in Nigeria and through our Edge centre, will train more Nigerians on critical digital skills that will help address the dearth of digital skills in the country. The Cisco Edge centre will offer them the opportunities to start their own business and create job opportunities. Cisco is working with the United States of America in some forms of partnerships to offer entrepreneurship education to communities in Bauchi State and other states in Nigeria.
What is the duration of training at the Cisco EDGE Centre and what courses are available to Nigerians?
The duration of the training depends on the particular course that the student is interested in because different courses have different duration periods. For example, basic cybersecurity training for cybersecuriy technicians can be done in few weeks, but training in a more advanced cybersecurity course to get certification, like the top level security architecture, takes years. The CCNA and the CCNP courses could take months. The Cisco EDGE Centre allows candidates to continue in their education to get different categories of digital skills that will enable them get digital jobs.
We have different cohorts that can take between 20 to 25 persons for a training of 90 days duration, depending on the course.
How does Cisco intend to address gender balance among its instructors, giving the instance where Cisco currently has 336 instructors in the Cisco Networking Academy and only 10% is female?
Cisco is gender sensitive, both in recruitment and in admitting candidates into its training programmes. Among the 400,000 students already trained in the Cisco Networking Academy since its inception in Nigeria, 44 per cent of the population is female. The females get access to the same technology education and training that Cisco offers.
Is Cisco going to merge the existing Cisco Networking Academy with the Cisco Edge Centre that has just been launched or one of them will be discontinued?
There is no plan for merger of Cisco Networking Academy and the Cisco Edge Centre because one is a sub-set of the other. The Networking Academy has been running for some time now, and we have trained close to 20 million students globally and currently, 3.6 million students enrolled in the academy, undergoing different trainings across the globe. So the Edge Centre is giving access to education to people who want to further advance the training already received at the Cisco Networking Academy. The Edge training will offer specialised and advanced training and offer access to Cisco mentorship and digital skilled job opportunities.
Tell us more about the Cisco Digital Accelerator Programme?
The Cisco Accelerator Programme provides access to connectivity, healthcare, education, among others, and connectivity is key to everyone. It is about connecting the unconnected and providing inclusive feature for all. What Cisco is doing with Accelerator Programme is consistent with what the Nigerian government is doing through NITDA. Countries are investing in the Cisco Accelerator Programme and Nigerian government is investing in it also. Access to connectivity will create next generation jobs, build a sustainable innovative ecosystem and contribute to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.
The EDGE Centre is part of Cisco’s Digital Accelerator (CDA) program in Nigeria. CDA was founded in 2015 and has since evolved into programs in 49 countries, and Nigeria making it 50 countries, with over 1,600 active or completed projects – encompassing over two-thirds of the world’s population and 75 per cent of global GDP. The focus areas for Cisco’s CDA programmes are in education, transportation, security, health, connectivity, among others. In May this year, under the scope of CDA, Cisco and NITDA signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the aim to support the nation’s digital transformation agenda and contribute towards digital skills training and development.
A key pillar of the CDA program in Nigeria is Cisco Networking Academy, which currently trains over 120,000 students at 228 academies across the country. Cisco Networking Academy, one of the longest-standing IT skills-to-jobs programs in the world, has over the past years, equipped over 400,000 people in Nigeria with digital and cybersecurity skills.
Tells us about the Cisco Social Justice Programme and how it aligns with the global awareness initiative on social justice?
The Cisco Social Justice Programme started as US Central Justice Programme in 2020 to address what is going on in US. It is about providing education to the people, offering economic empowerment and increasing number of SMEs for US and later we decided to take across the world. We encourage our team members to volunteer service offerings around the world and developing schools around the world. We focus on entrepreneurial development with the goal to uplift communities in the areas of education, empowerment and critical human needs and around climate.
With the Cisco Social Justice Programme, we ensure that every employee identifies his or her role to develop communities.
What are your views about the digitisation and digital transformation, in relation to perceived loss of jobs?
It is obvious that the ongoing digital transformation and digitisation of processes across globe will displace jobs by 2025. In fact digitisation will displace as much as 85 million traditional jobs, but it will also create as much as 97 million digital jobs by 2025.
New digital jobs will be created and companies should begin the process of retraining their workers that are trainable and place them on the jobs that have demand for digital skills and higher pay. Digitisation will create opportunities to train millions of workers with digital skills from now till 2025. In Nigeria, there are youths who are young and determined to learn. So the Cisco EDGE Centre will offer them access to training and education that will lead to digital transformation.
How will you describe Cisco’s training programme and its goals at the global level?
Since the inception of Cisco Networking Academy, we have trained millions students around the world, and we are inspired by the achievements of those trained by Cisco. We get reports how they are developing their economies and creating digital jobs across the world. I am proud about the technology innovation going on in Nigeria. With its youths population and determination to learn new skills, there is no question that Nigeria will grow to become one of the leaders in the global technology space.
Our goal at Cisco is to empower an inclusive future for all in order to bridge the existing digital divide by giving access to technology education, healthcare and connectivity. One of our basic commitments is to focus on the digital divide from the education perspective.
Another area that is key for Cisco, is the sustainability initiative of Cisco where we think of how to use our technology to develop and sustain development globally. Cisco has a $100 million grant to drive its sustainability programmes and to support startups to scale up in their sustainability projects. I see tremendous growth in Nigeria and Africa and in communities.
So Cisco is the worldwide technology leader that securely connects everything to make anything possible. Our purpose is to power an inclusive future for all by helping our customers re-imagine their applications, power hybrid work, secure their enterprise, transform their infrastructure, and meet their sustainability goals.
What are the building blocks for Cisco’s digital skills training initiative?
The building blocks are many and are centered on networking, cybersecurity, programming and management. The first is about inclusive infrastructure that is designed to connect several applications from libraries, systems, hospitals, homes and government entities, followed by education, security and resilient critical infrastructure where data is kept and stored.