Ekeh at Imo Youth Summit, advocates knowledge economy
The Chairman of the Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, has advocated the establishment of an Action Plan on ICT Youth Empowerment and Knowledge Economy for Imo State. Speaking at the just-concluded Imo Youth Summit, the Zinox boss said that the global recession of 2008/2009 revealed that youth unemployment was a major threat to economic growth and political stability. He mentioned the Arab Spring as one uprising that proved that the unemployed youths of the world had become too restive. He also cited the instability in the oil producing Niger Delta, the religious riots of the North, the high crime rate and kidnapping in the South East as evidence that all is not well with the youths. Ekeh said that the greatest problem facing leaders today all over the world was how to find gainful employment for the teeming population of unemployed youth.
The Zinox Chairman, who has won many accolades for spearheading IT revolution in Nigeria, argued that Imo State should put in place a plan designed to build a generation of young Imo citizens empowered with ICTs to actively participate in the Information Society and consistently contribute to the development of the State. The plan would aim at exploiting the potentials of ICT, and to find effective and innovative ways to put this potential at the service of Imo youths. He recommended a number of activities that would achieve the set objectives – officially establish Imo Youths ICT4D Network and align it to other youth networks in the country and continent; establish youth training and information centres and support existing training centres for youth e-skill development; design and setup ICT Youth incubation centres in at least 10 LGA’s of the State; establish Youth Incubation Funds for the 10 centres and providing opportunity for youths in research and development; establishment of ICT Centres that guarantee a multi-media exposure , preferably in Igbo – digital centres, community radio, cinema houses, and information centres.
Lamenting the disconnect between today’s education and the real needs of the society and industry, Ekeh, honoured by former President Obasanjo as an Icon of Hope for the youths, called for the mainstreaming of ICTs in the education sector and reforming of the education system to produce job creators and not job seekers. He advised the promotion of ICTs for both formal and informal education. He stressed the need to raise special strategies to address the issue of school dropouts and target those youth with ICT equipment ownership and skills acquisition.
Mr. Ekeh laid emphasis on the need to build youth capacities, especially in entrepreneurship by giving incentives to youth to create small-scale enterprises: tax exemption, special ICT investment funds, micro-credit, subsidies, tax reduction on equipment and free software. He said that a good plan should aim at opening up parks and malls to ICT youth activities, i.e. converting Heroes Square and allied facilities to special ICT parks for youths. Every graduate of Imo State origin from a University, Polytechnic or College of Education should own a subsidized laptop. Finally, he recommended that within the next two years Imo State should set up a Ministry of Communications and Information Technology saddled with the responsibility of articulating policies and strategies that would use ICT to drive development and create hope for the youth.
The Zinox Boss who was represented by Mrs. Ronke Opara advised youths to be loyal to performing governments even if they are from opposing parties, adding that what is critical now is good government and not political party. Ekeh, who has donated hundreds of systems to tertiary institutions in different parts of Nigeria as digital centres or ICT labs, called on the private sector and well-meaning individuals to join hands with government to use ICT to radicalize the development of Imo State.