I strayed into ICTs (2)

Wole Soyinka defied the chaos in Lagos -- at that time -- to present me with the IT Youth Ambassador plaque... thanks!

Looking around me, and studying the nation’s young people – including those who were enrolled in computer science programs – I knew that Nigeria needed to bridge the digital divide in order to benefit from the global Information Society. And I was ready to do my bit – at least to ensure that I contributed my quota to the community by connecting others with the thrill of ICTs and empower them to use the same for personal development, nation building and secure a platform for global participation. That explains why I keep spending most of my weekends speaking to young people in various campuses across Nigeria. I was in over 30 of such meetings between 2001 and 2003 but the passion is only getting stronger – and I love it when I see that same glow on the faces of these young people. “Maybe I’m impacting my generation”, comes the thought each time I speak with youths on using ICTs for development. From speaking with young people, I had the opportunity of moving on to help my nation and continent around the same issues of bridging the digital divide and using ICTs for accelerated development. Each time I consider what Nigeria and Africa keep losing while we hold on to our natural resources at the expense of rising benefits of the Information Society, I take another step towards helping the situation in my own little way.

And in appreciation of the efficacy of teamwork, I invited a group of friends together and started the “Paradigm Initiative Nigeria” (PIN, www.pin.itgo.com) team, which has since become an icon of youth involvement in the use ICTs for development in Nigeria. An online network that has six core volunteers who work for different organisations, PIN has been recognized at two different events as one of the leading organisations in Africa that seek to use ICTs for development and empower others to do the same. We have engaged in projects ranging from seminar presentations to collaboration with international agencies such as the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Taking IT Global, and others – to deliver the Youth Creating Digital Opportunities project (www.ycdo.net). Only recently, PIN helped coordinate Nigerian and African youth involvement in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and facilitated meetings that climaxed in the production of the “Nigerian Youth Declaration on the WSIS” and its African equivalent. Our mailing list has over 450 young ICT enthusiasts and keeps growing as they are fed with global ICT opportunities, engagements and platforms through the electronic medium – along with my personal website, www.gbengasesan.com

While inching closer to my dream of the new generation of young Nigerians (who will use ICTs for personal development, nation building, regional cooperation and global participation), I was involved in a national competition on Information Technology. The requirements were to design a website from “a pile of junk data” and to face an high level interview where the participant would be required to share his/her idea of how ICTs can help Nigeria, and how he’s a right candidate to champion that cause among Nigeria’s largest population – the youth. I emerged the winner in that contest and was awarded the “Nigeria’s Information Technology Youth Ambassador” award, which received a lot of international and local media attention. And like the British Broadcasting Corporation put it, “Nigeria … appointed a youth as an information technology ambassador … and while he has no personal computer himself, he holds the dream of helping over 4,000 young people learn new ICT skills within his two year tenure”.

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