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Bridging the Digital Divide with IT Training & Certification
- We live in the age of E. E-business, E-commerce, E-banking, E-technology, E-this, E-that. The evolution of technology has been a major factor in the swift development of electronic ways of getting things done, especially with the advent of the Internet. In all these developments, Information Technology (IT) is geared to address the barriers that affect any business – barriers of time, cost and distance.
- The Digital divide! How does it come in? IT in the right hands aims to eliminate the barriers of time, cost, and distance in any business for its full benefit to be derived. In Nigeria, this is not the case, as the usage of IT is not as effective and efficient as it should be. The overwhelming difference in the optimal usage of IT in Nigeria compared to that of the advanced countries leads to the digital divide.
- Nigerians can maximize the benefits associated with the E-age by bridging the digital gap. An important tool in this respect is the usage of computer education through IT training. Nigerians need to acquire the right IT knowledge, skills and attitude for effective utilization of IT.
- The focus of most computer literacy programs, especially in developing countries like Nigeria have been the users, i.e. for basic computer appreciation skills in areas such as word processing and spreadsheet analysis.
- Today, IT education is not for the user only. The evolving scenario is one of a growing complexity of computer systems and business dependence on them. Qualified and competent IT professionals are needed to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of computers.
- To enjoy optimal IT services, organizations require the services of skilled technical IT personnel. IT Certification serves as a tool that can be utilized by individuals and organizations to improve technical IT skills. It provides globally accepted standards to confirm the skill level and experience of technical IT experts.
- Reasons why professional certification has become a phenomenon in
the computer industry include among others:
1. All sections of the economy require the services of skilled technical IT personnel.
2. Current IT skills shortage worldwide is enormous. IT skills demand outstrips supply.
3. Expanding gap between traditional education and market needs
- New entrants, employees and employers cannot afford to ignore IT certification for what it has to offer in this E-age. Our effectiveness as a society in training and preparing to employ technology will have a direct impact on our ability to close the digital divide and drive growth and development. Certification is a highly effective weapon being employed worldwide to deal with the global IT skills deficiency.
- Certification has been in the IT training industry for some time, but it is only over the past few years that the concept has gained ground. Currently MSCE, A+, Java2, Oracle, CCNA are some of the most popular at the moment. There are currently more than 400 technical certifications your can earn.
- Certification can be divided into two categories: vendor-sponsored
Vendor-sponsored: Here, vendors offer certification related to their products e.g. Microsoft (MSCE Windows 2000) Cisco (CCNA)
Vendor-independent: Here, certifications are not tied to a particular product, but instead identify with specified areas of IT. Majorly sponsored by professional groups e.g. CompTIA (A+, N+).
BENEFITS & OPPORTUNITIES:
- For new entrants into the IT industry: Certification is a great way to enter a profession that has a high current and foreseeable employment needs. Learn a new area and obtain a credential at the same time.
- For the IT Professional, we have: Increased income; recognized proof of professional achievement; improved professional credibility; enhanced job opportunities; Opportunity for advancement; enhanced individual marketability; career advancement; More effective job performance; self-satisfaction, Sponsor benefits.
- For the Employers: Certification offers a method of bringing employees up to standard with the latest technologies; providing continuing education for staff; customer satisfaction: security in recruitment.
- For clients or customers: Certification gives customers additional evidence of your qualifications and suitability for the task at hand.
PRACTICAL CERTIFICATION: MAKING CERTIFICATION EFFECTIVE:
- Certification can be used properly or improperly. Wrong decisions can lead to waste of precious money and time; resulting in disappointment. You need to know how to differentiate between the certification options, how to select and obtain one, which mistakes to avoid and how to get the most out of a certification once you’ve earned it.
- It certification is not cure-all. IT education is more than the acquisition of technical skills and knowledge. IT education is incomplete without the right professional attitude. Moreover, your certification will have no value if you can’t perform on the job.
- We de-emphasize on paper certification as certification in its real sense is meant to demonstrate ones expertise in a particular area or areas and a reputable, recognized organization is willing to attest to it. The credibility of a Certification is ultimately affected by the reputation, real or perceived of the organization backing and administering it.
- Certification must be seen as a continuous process. You would continually set new goals and update yourself. To stay ahead, you have to keep on learning.
FUTURE OF CERTIFICATION
- Certification will continue to grow as long as employers see the proven connection between accepted work experience and certification.
- As awareness of the benefits of certification increases, more professionals will become certified. Employers will also begin to place greater reliance on certification as an answer to the educational gap and increasingly use it when recruiting and when providing an-in-house career growth.
- “Working in a field and not getting the certification to go with it is like going to university for four years and not graduating. If you have the knowledge, certification is not hard to get”, according to Wayne Smith.
- While vendor-specific certification continues to grow, growth is expected to be faster in vendor-neutral certification especially those for foundation capabilities.
OTHER ISSUES TO BE ADDRESSED:
Individuals and organization must approach certification with their “eyes open”. It is not a cure-all. And it makes no sense to simply jump on the bandwagon. Avoid having unrealistic expectations. Do your homework by identifying your training needs objectively. It has to be practical. There needs to be a massive refocusing of the educational sector with respect to Information Technology. Students at all levels need to be computer literate in a practical sense.
In conclusion, while it is evident that the future of IT certification is very promising, the digital divide cannot be bridged with IT training and certification alone. Addressing government policies as they affect IT and state of the national Infrastructure are critical to bridging the digital gap.
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