Tomorrow is a very important day in my life, and that of Nigeria’s journey towards the appropriate use of ICTs for development — especially for the rural population. A few kilometres away from the city of Jos, about forty telecentre leaders and industry stakeholders will meet to discuss the emergence of a network that can serve as the platform for taking telecentres to the next level in Nigeria. In a recent study of Telecentres in Nigeria, I shared thoughts on what I found out as the cross-cutting issues among telecentres in Nigeria (especially the energy/power, access and manpower challenges). In that research report, I agreed with the Wikipedia definition of telecentres:
“A telecentre is a public place where people can access computers, the Internet and other technologies that help them gather information and communicate with others at the same time as they develop digital skills. While each telecentre is different, the common focus is to support community and social development â€” reducing isolation, bridging the digital divide, promoting health issues, creating economic opportunities, reaching out to youths etc. utilizing appropriate technologies. Telecentres exist in almost every country on the planet, although they sometimes go by different names (e.g. Pallitathya Kendra, Rural Information Centre, village knowledge centres, infocentres, community technology centres, community multimedia centres or schoolbased telecentres). You can learn more about telecentres on the telecentre.org web site.” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecentre)
The NTN Summit is supported by Telecentre.org, and will feature the participation of Microsoft and UNESCO. It is being co-organised by Lagos Digital Village, Fantsuam Foundation and Coseo Limited. While the major focus on the meeting is to develop strategies on the operationalsation of the network, there will be focused post-meetings with partners and potential collaborators who can share the dream and enhance the process. If you ask me, I would easily state that Nigeria should, by now, have at least 774 telecentres across the country (in each local government) to meet the needs of the rural population. Through these telecentres, they can connect with ICT opportunities; meet their information needs (e.g. market information, farming facts, etc); promote their communities and involvements (by uploading data — possibly to fuel toursim interest or seed eCommerce relations); connect with education/learning opportunities and more.
The recent launching of the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) and other activities across the nation (may I mention those that have been in the news a lot of late — i.e. efforts spearheaded by Zinox’s Leo Stan Ekeh and AfriHub’s Manny Aniebonam) provide the opportunity to harness prevalent energies to facilitate a nation-wide rollout of telecentres. After the 27th of January — and follow-up meetings — it would be great to know if my long-term dream of Naija 774 (not an airliner but the existence of at least one telecentre in all of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas) will come to pass. I can’t deny the influence of my December 2005 visit to India (during which I was able to learn more about the Mission 2007 project) on this dream, but I am excited about the fact that after various months of discussions, et al, the NTN Summit will hold from tomorrow!