Published on: May 6, 2008
Type: Opinions

The global development lesson for the survival of societies and nations of the future has been boldly written and documented within the development context of the 19th century. In the 21st century, the greatest challenge facing most African nations is the digital divide. Lessons from 19th century global development have shown that science and technology formed the bedrock of classification for the growth and development stations of Africa- this created the industrial divide.

In other words, we all lived at a similar level on this planet before the Agricultural Revolution was transformed into Industrial Revolution, which consequently led to mass production of goods and services. But while some nations became conscious of the consequences and the future impact of these development phases, others were as it were, asleep and unaware. The consequences - as we all know and witness today- are that suddenly the world became classified into “industrialized” (or developed) and “non-industrialized” (or non-developed) nations.

This classification further led to what we now know as “first world”, “second world”, “third world” and so on, ie rich and poor nations. This century will therefore create a “digital divide”. Just as the industrial divide created “rich nations” and “poor nations”, so will the digital divide create the “super rich nations” and “super poor nations” of the future. The equation will remain the same, ie the competition between creative production and docile consumption.

That this digital divide will occur within the next three decades is indeed crystal clear. What is not clear is how it will impact nations that are now not consciously aware of the advantages of the momentum. The digital divide, therefore, will be determined by the efforts of each nation to address the national informatics development policy- both in its framework design and implementation- in a timely and effective manner.

The engine room of information societies is the information infrastructure. Software is the heart of this informatics infrastructure and will be the main determinant of future global development competition. Nigeria, with a population of more than 120 million people, representing the largest single concentration of the black race, has a great responsibility to mankind within the context of strongly positioning herself within the informatics technology equation of the future. The time to start is now.

If Africa lags behind in the global IT equation, that may represent the gradual erasure of our people from the face of this planet! This is because the digital renovation holds the promise to change all things on the face of the planet earth and beyond- ie the way we think, live and play. It is capable of refocusing the mindset. Therefore it is a duty not only to us and to future generations, but also indeed to mankind that we should contribute meaningfully to the development of global informatics technology.

Time is running out. It is therefore, recommended that a National Informatics Development Policy Framework for Africa be established and implemented without further delay. Indeed, because the core feature of IT is its “speed”, it becomes imperative to act fast and decisively to save Africa from the negative impact that would befall the “non-digital” societies of the future.

There is a very urgent need for a concerted drive to generate info-tech awareness across Africa. IT diffusion should be multi-pronged with extensive media coverage, the sharing of the costs of training programs for the public and for industry, and access to necessary tools. The implementation of demonstration and pilot projects to increase the visibility of IT will improve the quality of services and public utilities, bringing technology usage closer to the people. Ii is my hope that this forum will set the stage in the digital drive for developing and underdeveloped nations.

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