A Turning Point for me…

The car, back on its 4 feet...

When I was invited to speak at the Turning Point session holding at the Oduduwa Hall of the Obafemi Awolowo University, I thought it was a great honour — and it is! But as the days would go by, the motivational “interlude” I was to speak at was transformed into a major part of the program, when Victor Oladokun (and he needs no introduction) asked that I should join the distinguished panel — which included Prof. Kunle Kehinde (my lecturer, final year supervisor, and OAU’s present Deputy Vice Chancellor) and Mrs. Ify Emmanuel (of the Ipfy Music and Wisdom for Singles fame).

I went back for the laptop, and other important items...

The 28th of October was going to be a busy day for me, and I set out with a great plan of how to combine the numerous tasks without keeping anyone off. After the Turning Point session, I was to be at my office’s annual awards’ dinner — and then proceed to the Strategy Meeting (to plan for the next financial year). But that was changed by an accident…

The car on its way to a temporary home...

A few minutes from Ife, the car grew a mind of its own, and my very good friend tried his best to get the car back on the road… a loud noise, and for a moment that seemed to last for just one second, the car went off the road, somersaulted a few times (my mind told me 4, but others said 3) and lay on a side in the ditch between the two lanes of the expansive road. I asked if everyone was okay and found my way out of the car… and out came Edward, Sade and Deolu. We came out and checked to see if everyone was OK. It was a funny experience when some policemen stopped to ask why we were taking pictures — only to be told that we were getting shots of the car we were driving a few minutes ago. Well, the doctors have since confirmed that we can continue living out the dream of the New Nigeria 😉

I'm glal it flew out...

After getting the car to its temporary home (before repairs, which commenced today) and dealing with the issue of corrupt policemen and a greedy bus owner who wanted to milk my purse dry, we proceeded to the Turning Point session where I was already introduced (as seen on the VCD, which I checked yesternight). Appreciative of God’s intervention, I agreed the more with the theme of the session, “Turning Point”. It was indeed a turning point, and as I sat there between the two other panelists and answered questions from Victor Oladokun, I could only think of God sparing my life so I can complete the assignment I have here on earth…

How did the bumper get inside?

This turning point in my life speaks of my appreciation to God for his mercies, and of my renewed zeal to do all I can to make the world a better place. I owe Nigeria, Africa and the world a lot… and I’m glad that I’m still here to offer my services. I see a New Nigeria emerging… and believe that I have been spared to continue with the task of connecting individuals, people-groups, organisations, communities, nations, regions and other speaces with the powerful possibilities that ICTs can contribute to their development. Its a turning point, for the next phase of the work… 😉

Back in the Days…

Back in the days...

“Keep quiet! What do young men know beyond music and girls?” That was the response an innocent young man got when he sought to air his views during an early IT Policy meeting in Lagos. But he wouldn’t be held down. He expressed himself and got some amazing support on the need to involve youth in policy processes to ensure sustainability and efficacy of planned efforts.

That was then – back in the days. The story is very much different now, in Nigeria and other countries. Almost every stakeholder has now come to see the need to include young people in processes that must endure the test of time and energy. Young people do not only ensure sustainability, they energize processes and are the major drivers of technology – extending the perimeters of innovation.

The year was 2000; and the place, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The event was a small meeting of young men and women meeting under the banner of the Electronic Club, and the topic of the day was centred on how young people can latch on to emerging technologies and ride on the wings of such to participate actively in the New Economy. Mr. Kanmi Adewara spoke extensively on the topic, and introduced participants to Philip Emeagwali – someone he described as a phenomenon.

Ripples of the discussions went on to drive that year’s annual departmental week of the Electronic and Electrical Engineering Students’ Society at the Obafemi Awolowo University, with then controversial theme, “The Future of Nigeria”. Justice was done to the theme by Dr. Chris Uwaje, who had been introduced to the leader of the group by none other than Philip Emeagwali – after he was contacted by the young chairman of the Electronic Club.

Following these strings of opportunities, a group of young people moved online to float a mailing list then known as “Black Pioneers”, and enjoyed dynamic Internet opportunities that were available on campus. During the holidays, young men and women would stay back on campus in holy romance with their new-found love – the Internet! It was a series of innocent efforts and expressions, but the events of that year – along with many other parallel efforts from various quarters (and some even dating back to earlier times) – gave birth to a dynamic youth movement around ICT issues in Nigeria.

From Words to Action…

Get ready... for something bigger than a revolution!

There are two laptops on the table, two minds at work, and probably two blogs… Edward is sitting directly opposite me, and he’s probably blogging on this same topic.

“Measuring the Impact!” That was the last of the hopefully catchy chapter titles we needed to come up with for the upcoming book on Nigerian youth engagement with the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process. And as soon as we came up with the last of the titles, the idea of blogging about the book dawned on me. Its not only exciting writing the book and putting final touches to its content and layout… its a whole new experience trying to imagine how much of our work in the last few years have been compressed into this work.

Through the WSIS process, numerous documents have been produced by various members of the Nigerian WSIS Youth Caucus, and various meetings produced feedback from other young people through administered questionnaires. These results (from the questionnaire, campaign reports, meeting reports and articles) will remain as definite proof of the action taken by young Nigerians in their bid to move from words to action. Chronicling these results in the form of a book will place the inestimable information pack in the hands of a variety of beneficiaries – including researchers, development workers, international organisations, United Nations’ summit participants, young Nigerians, civil society, and many more.

In a book titled, Global Process, Local Reality — with a little less than a hundred pages, and amazing contributions from the people that can best tell the story of Nigerian youth’s inclusion in the WSIS process — one can only say at this point that you should keep your fingers crossed. Are you interested in knowing more about The Policy Train? Curious about how Nigeria’s youth were Extending the Perimeter? Would you be glad to know how we also did the work of Measuring the Impact? How about the opportunity of Reconnecting in Berlin or the popular journey From Bamako to Accra? We are also going to share with you on the task of Exporting the Influence and announce The Birth of N.Y.I.N. You would enjoy our story of The Road to Geneva and join us in answering The Quo Vadis Question. The book itself is History in the Making, and already, People are Talking! Not to worry, we’ll leave you with some Notes on Contributors.

The next few days will see myself and other team members finalising work on the book, and we are excited about Heinrich Boll Foundation’s amazing support! Get ready… what is about to hit the book stands is more than just a book, its an expression of the committment of young Nigerians to the responsibility of moving from words to action!

The Next Generation…

The Next Generation... bearers of hope and passionate delivery!

It was an interesting week, and with so many events that will remain with me for a while. From the online discussions on whether Nigerians should stay back to develop their country (and you can bet what my leaning was) to the reality of a strong need to start equipping the next generation of ICT champions for Nigeria, there was enough to occupy the mind and get the fingers going — on the keyboard. How about the past-midnight writings, which was just about to end when another writing challenge (opportunity, actually) reared its beautiful head.

But of all these, the need to start considering the place of younger people in ICT leadership races ahead in my mind. As I look into the mirror each day, I catch myself wondering where that innocent young face is fast disappearing to… and suddenly find myself travelling back in time, to the days when I used to look into the mirror and say things like, “I will one day stand to share my thoughts with audiences”, even though the only audience at that time were just two people — my humble self and my reflection in the mirror.

But are there also some young people today who are considering the place of nation building alongside their personal development and cash rewards? The economy of the country, the harsh realities of the labour market, the not-too-nice attittude of “what-can-I-do-to-fix-a-failed-system”, and more, do not help. Each young person grows up admiring “role models” who literally have no enviable character in their blood! Quo Vadis Nigeria? All hope is not lost… sure not.

In the last few months, I’ve been meeting some young (actually, younger would be the operative word there) people who will make better leaders for Nigeria’s Information Society. The challenge, now, is to identify, equip and motivate thesm. They are the next generation, they are the bridge between failing visions and hopeful action. And maybe they will do to many people what Prof. Wole Soyinka said about a passionate young man a few months ago… “youths like you rejuvenate us and whip up our flagging energies”… I see a New Nigeria!

The Digital Face of a Nation

Nigeria's Digital Face

As part of the research on Peace and ICTs, I am joining efforts with 12 other young people to produce a book that will showcase the outcomes of our research efforts. In one of the sections, I will reporting on the Digital Face of Nigeria. Enjoy:

Nigeria is presently one of the fastest growing telecommunication markets globally and the nation has recently shown a great leaning towards establishing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as a national priority. Nigeria’s telecommunications industry is now over 100 year old, but it was only in 1999 that the National Policy on Telecommunications was launched. A National Policy on Information Technology followed in 2001, along with the establishment of the National Information Technology Development Agency under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (Dada and Sesan, 2003).

The nation’s telecommunications sector has shown leadership in digital growth. In December 2000, Nigeria had 450,000 connected fixed lines, no connected digital mobile line, 1 national career, 18 operating Internet Service Providers, 9 active licensed fixed-line operators, and 1 licensed mobile line operator (Ndukwe, 2005). In the same period, Nigeria had 200,000 internet users (Internet World Statistics, 2005) , even though many experts agree that the figures are contestable. For example, a computer system in an average cyber-café in Lagos is known to be used by as many as 15 people daily.

In March 2004, the earlier figures grew to become 888,854 connected fixed lines, 3.8 million connected digital mobile lines, 2 national careers, 35 operating Internet Service Providers, 30 active licensed fixed-line operators, and 4 licensed mobile line operators. In December 2004, Nigeria had 1.5 million internet users, penetration rate of 1.3% and constitutes about 5.6% of the total number of African internet users. Africa itself only boasts of 1.5% of global internet users while it has 14% of the world’s inhabitants. Private investment in ICTs also rose from an almost zero value to about $4 billion between 1999 and 2003 (Ndukwe, 2005; Internet World Statistics, 2005).

Summarily, Nigeria’s digital face has improved significantly from 400,000 lines in 1996 to over 14 million lines in 2005 owing to independent regulation through the Nigerian Communications Commission, private sector participation, and broadened competition. Teledensity improved from 0.4% in 1996 to 3.92% in March 2004, several towns and cities estimated at 48% of the population and 18% of the land mass have potential access, grown from one player (monopoly) to hundreds of active players, and exceeded minimum ITU recommended teledensity of 1%. Information Technology has also shown marked improvement with number of personal computers rising from 4.8 to 6.8 per 1,000 inhabitants from 1999 to 2001 (World Bank, 2003), cost of internet access driven below the $1 per hour line, and software development given tremendous policy and infrastructural support.

(1) Dada, J. and Sesan O. (2003), Watch IT, the Nigerians are coming! Retrieved October 12, 2005, from the World Wide Web: http://www.gbengsesan.com/papers/withjohn.doc.
(2) Ndukwe, E. (2005), “ICT Infrastructure: An Essential Foundation for Implementing The WSIS Process in Nigeria”, eNigeria Annual National Conference, 28-30 June, Abuja, Nigeria.
(3) Internet World Statistics (2005), Internet Usage Statistics for Africa, Retrieved October 12, 2005, from the World Wide Web: http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm.
(4) World Bank (2003), ICT at a glance: Nigeria. Retrieved October 13, 2005, from the World Wide Web: http://www.

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The Stockholm Challenge

A 2004 Winner of The Stockholm Challenge Prize   Participate in the Stockholm Challenge  The Stockholm Challenge Trophy

It’s not my first year of knowing about the Stockholm Challenge, but this year marks a difference. For maybe the first time, I took the time to look at the history of the challenge earlier in 2005 — and wondered why Nigerian and African projects were not popular in the “winners’ circle” or the entire project’s database.

According to the project website, “The Stockholm Challenge is a networking programme for organisations and individuals who are involved in development work, using information and communication technology, ICT, to improve people´s living conditions and their communities. A main feature in the programme is the international ICT competition, the Stockholm Challenge Award. Prizes in different categories were handed out for the first time in 1997 and the program has run for almost ten years”. Beyond that, it speaks about winning entries: “To be a finalist in the Stockholm Challenge Award is victory in itself – the best projects get international recognition and promotion by being showcased both at the Awards Event, in the Challenge newsletter and on the website. The jury, a group of highly respected international experts evaluate all competing projects and select the finalist in each category. These projects are considered of such excellence that they qualify for the final round; the selection of the winners.”

While I was considering how to get the news out to ma people (here in Nigeria and across Africa), I got an email from the Stockholm Challenge office. The message was simple, “would you like to be our champion, helping get the news to other projects within your networks”. Your guess on my answer can’t be wrong… and that explains why I’ve joined forces with other projects and individuals as a Stockholm Challenge Champion for the 2006 competition — with six categories (Public Administration, Culture, Health, Education, Economic Development, and Environment).

Please Mentor Me!

Please mentor me!

“Please, mentor me!” I can’t help but remember a very dear friend making that phrase a passionate plea — not to me, or anyone in particular, but as an expression of his desire to be influenced by only the right people.

I had actually walked into the Lagos Business School class (on Tuesday) to ask the lecturer for his kind permission to skip the training and be listed for the next batch, because of a planned trip to Greece (in relation to the ICT/Peace research project), but I couldn’t resist the urge to wait. As I walked in, the brilliant and phenomenal Prof. Pat Utomi was the lecturer. He was analysing the Nigerian landscape in relation to businesses, and more. Did I have a change of mind? You can bet… Also considering the tons of requests coming from the embassy (and my choice of no stress travels), I was all the more encouraged to join this batch of the course, “Developing and Managing New Business Ventures”.

The average young Nigerian is today exposed to unworthy mentors who tempt him to keep his focus on “what he has” over the wise option of “who he is”. Each day, one is amazed at how the younger generation keep defining success by the size of ego, or shade of car windows. Because of this disturbing trend, my heart skips a joyful beat when the likes of Wole Soyinka, Philip Emeagwali, Bunmi Oni, Gamaliel Onosode, Pat Utomi, etc (to mention a few) stand in their rightful place as worthy mentors of the Nigerian youth! And there he was, standing like any other facilitator in that small lecture room on the first floor of Lagos Business School… I wouldn’t miss this mentorship opportunity for anything.

This will be a short one, but I hope it raises the question of worthy mentorship and celebrates the values that the likes of Pat Utomi add to the lives of today’s youth. When that young man shouted, “Please, mentor me!”, he was speaking the “inner” mind of many young Nigerians who desire value over vanity. And when you consider the fact that the worth of a life is not measured by duration, but donation, you join the league of those who stand for virtuous ideals in this great walk towards a New Nigeria!

One Citizen at a Time

Rosemary Ajayi's Design Agenda for Re-branding the Hearts and Minds of a Nation

I have just read a most inspiring piece that speaks directly to my passion for a New Nigeria! The cover page refers to 419Positive: A Design Agenda for Re-branding the Hearts and Minds of a Nation, as a postgraduate research proposal but I’m sure Rosemary Ajayi (the dynamic lady behind the concept) knows she’s started a revolution. 419Positive© is not just a fancy name, but a celebration of four hundred and nineteen (419) positive attributes of Nigerians and Nigeria — and more.

In the research proposal, she acknowledges the present state of the nation but didn’t stop at the usual analysis paralysis. She brilliantly states the case for internal branding. Hear her on the present situation:

The media and the many negative experiences that have confronted Nigerians at home and abroad have meant that the nature of the relationship between the Nigerian and Nigeria is rapidly changing. The current state of the Nigerian environment has created feelings of insecurity such that Nigerians see the national relationship as ‘short term’. This means that many are unprepared to put in the extra commitment associated with national development.

And on internal branding, she opines that:

This is a favourable period to re-brand the nation as the world’s focus is on Africa but whilst pursuing increased tourism and foreign investment, the primary target must be the hearts and minds of the Nigerian people… If branding is acknowledged to be the core of any organisation or nation, then internal branding lies at the very heart of the Nigerian brand. Why? First, brands are about people. Second, internal branding revolves around a nation’s cultures and values but most significantly how its citizens perceive themselves and their nation… The Nigerian Government is yet to realise that the Nigerian people are the Nigerian brand and that an internal branding strategy will equip Nigerians to sell ‘Brand Nigeria’ more effectively than a paid for international advertising campaign but first, the Nigerian people must be encouraged to buy into the new Nigeria; in other words, Nigerians must ‘live the brand’ in order to sell the brand.

With her approach of hosting 419positive© Perception Workshops, a 419Positive website and producing a television documentary from the first quarter of 2006, Rosemary has joined the horde of Nigerians working consciously towards the emergence of a New Nigeria. For her ongoing compilation of the 419 positive attributes, she has this to say:

You are invited to contribute to this compilation of 419 positive attributes of Nigerians and Nigeria. Your submission will be uploaded on to the 419positive© website, form part of the 419positive© perception workshops taking place in England & Nigeria in September and October 2005 and also feature in a television documentary which will commence production in 2006.

I hope one of the 419 positive attributes will talk about how great Nigerians could be at blogging… as I keep at this enjoyable exercise and read other blogs, I’m more convinced that there’s a place for blogging in the emergence of a New Nigeria — with the phrase, “Blogging for Development” readily coming to mind.