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ICT and Youth Empowerment Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by GOVERNOR, Nigeria Jan 18, 2006
Child & Youth Rights , Education , Technology   Opinions
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The acronym ICT (Information and Communications Technology) is fast becoming a popular one in the country today. In fact, one of the greatest achievements of the present government which has been repeatedly touted at many a symposium, press conference and party convention is the remarkable in-road made in the telecommunications sector in form of the Global System of Mobile (GSM) communication revolution.

Recently the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) announced that it would commission its Mobile Internet Units (MIUs) for greater access to the Internet by Nigerians on the 10th of February 2003. All these I must say are very commendable but much still needs to be done in terms of meaningful ICT growth in our country.

A while ago the president talked about the Computer-In-Schools-Initiative (CISI) which was a programme that was also very commendable as it was meant to serve as a platform for leapfrogging Nigerian youth into the ICT age but now either nothing worthwhile is being done by the government concerning the programme, or the press does not find the programme newsworthy enough to monitor the happenings of the programme and intimate the Nigerian populace.

Rather what we see everyday in our newspapers, save for a few ICT-friendly papers like the Guardian (Tuesdays), the Punch (Tuesdays), This Day (Thursdays), the Comet (Mondays) and Financial Standard (Mondays), is the continual celebration of rogues and their ill-gotten wealth or reports on the political misadventures of one jobber or the other.

Considering the role of the media as an information-dissemination tool in the society, I must say, from my observations that the media has failed us in the area of ICT growth. At this point in time when more and more nations are reverting to economic development through mental exertions, it is disheartening to discover that Nigerians are still unrepentantly stuck to the misconception that we can achieve outstanding economic growth solely through the exploitation of our oil resources.

To borrow a statement from Professor Pat Utomi, "the wealth in our heads is more than the oil in our lands". With the plethora of brilliant people who have come out of this country; the likes of Professor Bart Nnaji, Wole Soyinka, Emeagwali and Utomi just to mention a few and those that still abound in our country, it is indeed quite a shame to discover that Nigeria is still finding it hard to tap into the enormous potentials for economic growth that ICT has to offer.

We have all heard the histories of India and Ireland concerning their tremendous growth through the use of ICT. We are all living witnesses to their status' today and how much income is being generated through ICT by way of export of both finished products and personnel and foreign investment by other technologically advanced countries not for the purpose of opening sales outlets as is the case with our country but for actual manufacture of both software and hardware. Even the school fees of Indian schools for ICT courses have risen astronomically as a result of the great importance attached to ICT!
(Source: Delhi Institute of Technology, India fees review for the years 1999 and 2002).

ICT holds a lot of potential for economic growth and Nigeria being the "giant" of Africa needs to wake up and take the initiative of empowering her youths for the challenges ahead; more investment has to be made in the ICT sector, subsidies have to introduced to reduce the exorbitant cost of acquisition of ICT education in our country today; a state of emergency should be declared in the ICT sector of the economy and incentives provided to encourage more youths to pursue careers in the ICT industry.

We should stop paying lip service to ICT development and consolidate the efforts of individuals like Leo Stan Ekeh who in his capacity as the "Nigerian IT Identity" initiated the "Computerize Nigeria" project and also signed deals with Microsoft and Hewlett Packard to provide cheaper Personal Computers (PCs), software and printers to the Nigerian populace. Cheaper PCs mean more PCs in circulation, which translates to greater access by a greater portion of the populace, which unmistakably are the youth.
In the opening speech of Vigdis Finnbogadottir, Chairperson of the UNESCO-organized INFO ethics 2000 Conference, he said, "We do not want our children to be info-poor or info-depraved. We surely want them to be info-rich…in a word, we want them to be info-empowered."

In order for the youths of Nigeria to be info-empowered, there has to be greater access to ICT tools, there has to be an unobstructed free flow of information. This unfortunately is not the case as at the present in Nigeria. Public Internet access, especially in schools is an important public good deserving political and financial support, if not the status of a universal service (Levine, 2000). I am yet to see the public school -nursery, primary and secondary-where the government at any level has provided Internet access. Whatever happened to the theory of catch-them-young in Nigeria? Recently, there was a referendum on whether the government has a deliberate policy of sidelining the youths of this country in decision-making processes, even those decisions that have to do with the youth themselves.

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Well I am a lover of poems. I do them when I am in a bad and good mood of life. I am a student here in Nigeria studying computer education.

Can we not...
Akinbo, Adebunmi Adeola | Oct 25th, 2006
...see Nigeria written on it.

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