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Bidi Bala and the creation of Zittnet, Nigeria Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Heather Girling, Canada Feb 1, 2008
Education , Technology , Globalization   Interviews
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Bidi Bala and the creation of Zittnet, Nigeria Bidi Bala first realized his passion in life for social change and entrepreneurship when he graduated from University and went to a village with his father to pay condolences to a friend. There were so many people on the un-tarred streets and paths. He asked his father if there was a festival going on and to his surprise his father told him that it was just a normal day and all these people lived like this and were going about their everyday business. Bidi Bala was awestruck by the sheer number of people living in these rural parts with no opportunity or access to information. He felt they were hindered by the lack of access to things as basic as clean water, let alone the internet. These daily difficulties faced by the people of Nigeria have prevented them from developing sustainably, and sheltered them from an awareness of certain common place components of our daily lives. Thus, the direction in which the world is, and has been, progressing was not apparent and therefore made it increasingly difficult for the people in this region to participate, or even know how to participate within the global community.

As a result of this experience, Bidi Bala found himself needing to do all he could to provide new opportunities for anyone finding themselves in poverty. These new opportunities should give Nigerians a chance to lift themselves out of such hardships, focusing on issues of unemployment and nurturing a stronger educational system. With the tie of these ideologies and general educational background in Economics and Development studies, Bidi Bala developed the Zittnet project in 1996.

Zittnet mainly addresses employment and education issues. Employment is important because it provides income and gives dignity, education equips people with the knowledge and skills to find good jobs and become a productive component to the development of the work force. What is unique about Bidi Bala’s approach is that he brings education and high tech job opportunities to rural Nigeria. Initiatives such as this have never been done before and with innovative methods Zittnet hopes to ensure sustainability within the region.

Zittnet is built and managed by Fantsuam Foundation, a local non-governmental organization that has been working together with the community of Kafanchan since 1996 to fight poverty and disadvantage through integrated development programs. The project focuses on micro finance, ICT services and social development in rural communities of Nigeria.

Some of the most recent accomplishments as a result of the creation of Zittnet are:

-An increase in the number of users of the internet and their awareness of how the net is used as a tool for connectivity, information and development.
-An increase in the number of students attending the academy supported by Bidi Bala’s project.
-An increase in the number of online courses available at this academy.
-The decrease in academic costs, thus bringing individuals back to villages to get world-class ICT education.
-An increase in the number of graduates of this academy working in and running businesses and ICT centres in nearby towns and villages.
-An increase in the demand of connectivity within the small business sector.
-Tertiary institutions such as, faith-based and traditional organizations have adequate access to the internet.

When we asked Bidi Bala what challenges he faced during the development and growth process of Zittnet; he said:
“Funding has been a challenge, but we got a break when the IDRC accepted a proposal from us. The funds have been used accordingly and have solved a lot of other issues including provision of a stable power supply for the operations center and a building to house offices and a Network Operation Center (NOC).”

Other challenges have been to build a local technical team to run these services and market them. Bidi Bala overcame this by sending some of these team members to training seminars outside the country. When they returned, they were able to train others within the team and the desired knowledge spread throughout the group.

Word of advice to potential fellow social entrepreneurs:
“You have to start working on your idea and have something substantial that is tangible, to show if you hope to gain any support and encouragement from those around you and even those outside the country.” He also says that he tries to constantly remind himself that life goes on with or without him so he needs to make a difference.

Starting and maintaining your own enterprise will of course bring learning experiences. Bidi Bala says that if he could have done one thing differently, he would have done a lot more research to cut down on costly mistakes he feels could have been avoidable. However, with this said, Bidi Bala’s enterprise is continually changing the lives of individuals of all ages within Nigeria.

He has future plans to develop new social enterprises and has already started to research various components, learning from previous experiences. If you would like to learn more about Bidi Bala or his organization visit his profile.

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Heather Girling

I have been fortunate to have experienced a variety of excellent opportunities such as, working at EMI Music Canada, a recording studio, djing in night clubs in Toronto and Tokyo and participating in photography festivals in Tokyo; but, nothing has been as rewarding as working with youth.
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