I canâ€™t hide it when Iâ€™m impressed with peopleâ€™s actions â€“ 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 â€“ 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 organizationâ€™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 nationâ€™s IT and telecommunications policies have impacted positively on their work â€“ even though only 40% know about the nationâ€™s IT Policy, only 40% know about the Telecommunications Act, only 30% are actually aware of the IT Policyâ€™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. Legwork.com.ng) 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] â€“ 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 www.pin.org.ng/old/downloads/glocal.pdf 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 (www.pin.org.ng/old/global_process.php)