Progress & Challenges: Using ICTs in Nigeria

(c) The Women's Technology Empowerment Centre

I can’t hide it when I’m impressed with people’s actions – especially those that move us (as people-groups) towards becoming better. Ore Somolu’s decision to leave the private sector in pursuit of the social mission she holds dear by starting The Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre is praiseworthy. I posted my 2nd blog for the Networking for Success Project a few minutes ago and thought I should also share the same thoughts on this platform. The project, which aims to teach Nigerian women to use Web 2.0 tools and other ICTs effectively to develop and advance their work, is an initiative of The Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre.

I should start by thanking (and congratulating) W.TEC on the successful completion of this awesome experience. I started writing online (it wasn’t called blogging at the time) in 1999 because I was told that Africa had about 0.01% content on the internet. Though we’ve come a long way since then (thanks to FaceBook and Blogger), I believe that efforts like this exercise by W.TEC help make more (true) information about Nigeria in cyberspace. Maybe if we keep writing, less people will think that Africa is a country (in which case Nigeria would be a state/province) and that pregnant women climb banana trees in Africa 🙂

In 2006, I completed an assignment with a similar topic (Technology for Development: A Case Study on e-advocacy and Technology Use by Civil Society in Nigeria) and permit me to start by sharing some relevant thoughts from the 8th chapter (Status of Technology Use by Civil Society in Nigeria) of that voluminous report:

Some civil society organizations in Nigeria are increasingly taking advantage of the opportunities provided by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). It has enhanced productivity and increased efficiency – and majority of these civil society organizations are exposing themselves to better appreciation, acquisition and use of ICT tools. The research exercise for this case study revealed certain trends that are of interest concerning the use of ICT tools by civil society in Nigeria. All of the fifty-one organizations that responded to the questionnaire use mobile phones in their day to day operations, including those who are situated in very remote areas of the country…. 98% of respondents have eMail addresses but only 88% use eMail in their work; 58% of the organizations have websites…. The interviewed civil society organisations that have websites put these websites to various uses, including publicity, information sharing on advocacy issues, research, online interaction, and information dissemination on the organization’s activities. Even though 70% use mailing lists, only 39% of the civil society organizations have blogs, only 40% have internet access in their offices and only 40% use mobile applications (such as Short Message Service) available through their mobile phones for advocacy. 40% of the organizations have dedicated Information Technology (IT) staff and their annual budgets dedicate varying amounts to IT….

It was obvious, at the time, that much of the progress and challenges were very much related to the policy environment. See the following: “71% of respondents believe that Nigeria has a favourable atmosphere for the application of Information and Communication Technologies towards development, and an equal 71% believe that the nation’s IT and telecommunications policies have impacted positively on their work – even though only 40% know about the nation’s IT Policy, only 40% know about the Telecommunications Act, only 30% are actually aware of the IT Policy’s provision and an equal 30% are aware of the provisions of the Telecommunications Act. However, 60% of respondents know the agency responsible for IT (National Information Technology Development Agency) and 90% know about the work of the Nigerian Communications Commission, the telecommunications regulator.”

From the research exercise, I came face to face with the fact that actual ICT use in Nigeria far exceeds the impression that many reports give. We have made a lot of progress, and today’s young Nigerian even has more unique opportunities. A quick look at FaceBook reveals the huge number of people who list Nigeria as their primary network. That means we have a lot more than one may assume (noting that many people prefer to list their present location or place of work), and that is another pointer to the volume of ICT use among young Nigerians. I see many people online even at odd hours of the day: updating their profiles, announcing events, posting notes, blogging, and more! There are even people who have become celebrities thanks to online social networks. There are also Nigerian-run online social networks (e.g. which show a great trend. Other ICT tools — such as mobile phones — need no special mention before everyone stops to acknowledge the high rate of ICT use across the country.

Yet, there are challenges. Some are policy issues while others come with usage — such as cybercrime (one ICT’s of the most popular abuse issues). A key challenge that the telecommunication industry regulator (NCC) has taken up is the lack of identification of mobile phone users, which made it easy to date for many scammers to make calls from off-the-street SIMs. Meanwhile, I also believe that these challenges offer us the unique opportunity of growing the Nigerian ICT space better. In August, I will be sharing comprehensive thoughts about how to address the cybercrime menace at the National Conference on Cybersecurity in Abuja and I hope to post the full text on my blog since it relates directly with the issue of addressing the challenges that come with ICT usage.

All said and done, it is the responsibility of each young Nigerians to make sure that they take advantage of the many opportunities that ICTs provide so they can compete favourably in the New Economy. I should probably close this with a modification of my advice in a published article titled “Workplace 2.0: An Early Warning for Nigerian Corporations”: By the time the history of Workplace 2.0 is being written, there will be only two kinds of [young Nigerians] – those who were prepared and were able to ride the tides, and those who will be on the died-while-trying-to-survive category list. It is instructive for [young] Nigerians to note that … there is an urgent need to transform [themselves] into New Economy Intrapreneurs [through the appropriate use of ICT tools].”

And for those who may be interested, a detailed report of the various roles played by young Nigerians taking advantage of ICT opportunities can be downloaded from but please note that it’s a very large file and it may be easier to download through the link at the end of the book summary page (

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply The Journey Continues

Thanks to the support of our partners, the project is still delivering value and changing lives! We have added twenty-five new graduates during the first half of the year while we have also had to improve on our selection procedure in order to ensure that we select the young people who need help most – and who will in turn be able to pass on the baton of positive change to their colleagues and community. The training curriculum was also reviewed to include additional training on the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools while the Entrepreneurship module has also been revisited with an increased focus on helping the graduates reduce the limitations on their path towards progress. Our program faculty has also expanded as Ugo Nwosu (the program manager) was able to add more volunteers the project: thanks Oluwakorede Asuni, Obinna Ajuruchi, Nnenna Paul and Victor Gotevbe!

Our focus on relay training is producing results. We recorded a success rate of 84.8% when our first set of graduates trained a total of 106 second-level trainees and by September 2008, we expect a similar – or greater – percentage from the recent graduates. With eight (8) new corporations signing up to support the internship scheme, we now have eight interns completing between 2- and 6-month internships at Afrinvest West Africa, DHL Nigeria, London Metropolitan University (Nigeria Office) and Lornamead Africa. We are also proud to announce that one of our interns (Famous) resumed work as a member of staff at the Visa Section of the British High Commission in Abuja after he recently completed his internship at Trade & Investment, UK Deputy High Commission, Lagos (UKTI). His story, which has earned its own title (“From Ajegunle to Abuja”), continues to tell the story we shared with partners from the beginning: that positive peer pressure will help transform underserved communities, one young person at a time. We appreciate the role played by our Foundation Partner, UKTI, in ensuring that Famous’ story becomes a model for others to emulate.

The monthly reports we receive from our graduates are enlightening, ranging from those who threaten to withdraw from work after the first week of their internships (but have since learnt that the world of work is demanding for those who must climb the ladder of success) to those who have shown consistent growth in the income earned from their small businesses. Funke runs a small business that started with only N2000 and has now grown into a little above N50,000. Meanwhile, continues to enjoy recognition in both local and international events, and media mention. We recently hosted Lourival Santana, a foreign correspondent for Estado de Paolo (one of Brazil’s major dailies) who visited for the purpose of documenting the project alongside global best practices helping to change rural communities across the world. We were also visted by a representative of Ashoka (the international organization that supports leading social entrepreneurs) following the nomination of our Executive Director as a potential Ashoka Fellow. Between July 19 and August 24, 2008, the Korean Agency for Digital Opportunity and Promotion (KADO) will again send four Korean Internet Volunteers (KIVs) to visit PIN’s projects in Nigeria. Last year, one of the KIVs wrote to say she scored an “A” for the school report in which she documented the story of her contribution to the project!

As a social enterprise, we believe that complete dependence on external support may limit innovation; hence our quest to reach out to sustainability partners while also building in-house programs that can support our growing work; hence we look forward to the possibility of earned income through partnerships and service offerings. As part of their support for the project, Lornamead Africa has asked us to manage their On-The-Go (OTG) project. The project involves the provision of a credit line of the Tura beauty range products to young people from underserved communities that have been identified by PIN. Proceeds from the sales will be used to pay the young participants and to also support our training activities in Ajegunle. Building on requests from other non-profits, we are also glad to have trained a number of organizations through what has now become the Non-Profit Employee Motivation Program (NEMP – We are aware of the need for proper record-keeping, especially as we expand our work, and have reached out to KPMG Professional Services towards their support for the publication of our Annual (Audited) Report. Their positive response comes at a time when we are bringing additional support to the organizational structure.