POVERTY ALLEVIATION IN NIGERIA: THE ROLE OF INFORMATION COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION SECTOR
The impact and potential of ICTs have not been fully exploited in the Nigerian context. While the formal Government sector continues to play an important role, it is the growth of private participation in providing affordable computer education, especially to the socially and economically under-privileged that appear to have provided the impetus for growth in qualified professionals. Thus this paper argues that education and training in computer programme and packages is likely to increase the capabilities for job-seeking, which in turn would change the socio-economic structure of the households whose members have been the beneficiary of such programme. The data for this paper were drawn mainly from documentary sources. The results of this study points out that computer education appears to have tremendous scope and a major source of empowerment of people especially the socially and economically backward in Nigeria.
Keywords:Information Communication Technology, Computer Education, Computer Training, Internet, Poverty Alleviation
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with an estimated population of about 140 million and more than one-fifth of the continent’s total population. It is also the second largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa with a gross domestic product (GDP) of about $133 billion in 2005. Potentially, Nigeria possesses the human and material resources to make it one of the richest states on the African continent and a major player in the global political economy. Nigeria (the world’s seventh oil producer) is a member of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and has highly valued sources of energy, especially its substantial reserves of petroleum and natural gas. Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa, producing about an average of 2.3 million barrels a day of crude oil. Despite the country’s vast oil wealth and abundant human resources, fluctuating oil prices, endemic corruption and mismanagement of the nation’s resources, have undermined Nigeria’s economic progress and resulted in about 60% of Nigerian population living in abysmal poverty. The Nigerian economy experienced almost two decades of poor economic performance after the collapse of oil prices in the early 80s, when a series of military dictatorships ignored prudent macroeconomic policies and state infrastructures. With the return of democratic rule in 1999, the then civilian administration launched a series of economic reforms designed to address the structural and institutional weaknesses of the Nigerian economy. The economic reform plan includes acceleration of privatization, deregulation and liberalization of key sectors of the economy, fiscal and monetary reforms, infrastructural development, greater transparency and accountability, and anti-corruption measures as key elements of good economic governance. In March 2004, these policies were encapsulated in an all-embracing home-grown economic program known as the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS). The federal government also seeks an effective economic coordination of and a close collaboration with the state and local governments by encouraging them to design and implement equivalent programs based on the NEEDS model with acronyms like (SEEDS) State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy and (LEEDS) Local Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy respectively. It is estimated that about 60 per cent of a total population of about 140 million live on less than one dollar a day in purchasing power parity terms. This gives Nigeria the third-largest number of poor people in the world after China and India. See World Bank, Country Partnership Strategy for the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2005-2009), Report No. 32412-NG, June 2005. 2
In a world where one out of every four Africans is a Nigerian; where in fact one out of every eight black persons globally is a Nigerian, it is worth saying that the answers which Nigeria goes around the world seeking from Europe to Asia are in the hands of Nigerians themselves, That we have more human resources than most developed nations, but have not started to harness what we have. And that since we have failed to define ourselves in the global community, others have stepped in to define us and the picture they are painting, is not pretty.
Aniebonam (2002) states that the global economy is highly segmented not everybody is included, but everybody is affected. For Nigeria, it has been more exclusion with heavy effect; and the time has come for us to participate starting from the lower level (starting with computer literacy).
A review of the new rules of engagement that directly impact today’s global reality include:
- The new economy is powered by the Internet – the equivalence of the electrical engine, of the Industrial Age, making possible the operation of the network enterprise, the historical equivalent of the industrial factory. Information technology – including information based transportation systems are the basis of connectivity and knowledge-based production.
- New rules for labor. Highly skilled labor is critical, flexible, adaptable, self-programmable, and able to innovate by working in flexible enterprises.
Today’s reality is one of networks of high skilled workers and entrepreneurs, moving back and forth between different nodes of production and innovation.
Definition and Conceptual framework
Poverty entails more than the lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. Poverty, Pa-say; is not just mien mentioned, but it’s a disease that kills from the mind, the Spirit being then to the physical.
Okojie (2003) stated that the World Social Summit identified poverty eradication as an ethical, social, political and economic imperative of mankind and called on governments to address the root causes of poverty, provide for basic needs for all and ensure that the poor have access to productive resources, including credit, education and training. Recognizing insufficient progress in poverty reduction, the 24th special session of the United Nations General Assembly devoted to the review of the Copenhagen commitments, decided to set up targets to reduce the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by one half by 2015. This target has been endorsed by the Millennium Summit as Millennium Development Goal.
Womboh and Abba (2008) described Information and Communication Technology (ICT), as a composite term, which embodies three important concepts. To understand ICT, one must understand all three concepts.
“Information” means many things to many people, depending on the context. Scientifically, information is processed data. Information can also be loosely defined as that which aids decision making. Information, though abstract, could also be visualized as a commodity, which could be bought or sold. Other writers have defined information as: Any potentially useful fact, quantity or value that can be expressed uniquely with exactness. Information is whatever is capable of causing a human mind to change its opinion about the current state of the real world (deWatteville and Gilbert 2000)
Communication refers to the transfer or exchange of information from person to person or from one place to another. Other writers in the field of communication studies have defined communication as:
a. Process: a transfer of information, ideas, thoughts and messages. It involves a sender, a receiver, a code and, a language that is understood by both the sender and the receiver.
b. Process involving the passing of messages through the use of symbols which all parties in the communication encounter understand. It involves the exchange of ideas, facts, opinions, attitudes and beliefs between people. It is not a one-way affair. There must be a sender to transmit the message, and receiver to make appropriate decisions on how the rest of the exchange should continue. (James, et al., 2004)
Technology refers to the use of scientific knowledge to invent tools that assist human beings in their efforts to overcome environmental hazards and impediments to comfort. In this regard, technology refers to the things like the computer, telephone, cell phone, GSM handsets, television, radio, etc.
Put together, therefore, ICT has been defined as: The acquisition, analysis, manipulation, storage and distribution of information; and the design and provision of equipment and software for these purposes. (deWatteville and Gilbert 2000)
ICT and Information Technology (IT) are similar concepts that can be used interchangeably. IT implies communication and therefore it becomes obvious that the two terms are synonymous.
Aina (2004) defined ICT as “the technology used in handling, acquiring, processing, storing and disseminating information”.
When one looked around, one tend to wonder if indeed poverty can be eradicated in the Nigerian context going by the level of failed government policies and corruption which can best be describe as “pandemic”.
The ultimate eradication of poverty is one of the most urgent and compelling goals for the world community, and, consequently, for the Nigerian government. Raising the standard of living of the world’s most impoverished peoples is of paramount priority, and it is no mere coincidence that the first goal among the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is stated as “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger”. The challenge of poverty eradication entails systemic and structural components that know no geographical or topical boundaries, and which require similarly pervasive reforms and initiatives. For those afflicted by poverty, at best it is a matter of transcending present circumstances by way of assistance and opportunity, and, at worst it is a matter of life and death. ICT can play a pivotal role by helping to fill gaps in local access to vital resources, and enabling individuals to elevate themselves out of the cycle of poverty.
The conditions which perpetuate poverty are further compounded and entrenched by the current global financial crisis. As the flow of assistance and capital are abridged, those with the fewest resources and the least power suffer the most. Although the financial crisis is pervasive and impacts almost everyone, those who are most in need of assistance — to survive day to day — are the least able to satisfy their essential needs through alternative means. The financial crisis thus poses enhanced risks of debilitating consequences that are only beginning to take their toll, and which heighten the need for fast, effective solutions. Here, too, ICT can play a major role in cushioning-the-blow-from-the-financial-crisis.
This Day (2008) mentioned that a society that shirks its constitutional and primary responsibility of building its strategic human capital base stands the high risk of breeding deviant and rebellious citizenry. What we have in our hands, armed robbery, cultism, cyber-crime, political thuggery, hostage taking, etc. is a direct negative effect of the failure of the state in her duty to the citizens.
Sesan (2001) stated that the continuity of any technological innovation is dependent on its sustenance by the upcoming generation and this automatically puts the youths under the spotlight when it comes to maximizing the development opportunities opened up by ICT, particularly for developing nations. The looming digital divide and a widening of the economic gap between developed and developing nations will definitely evolve if the opportunities created by ICT are not maximized by the developing nations and it is obvious that the youths have a role to play in this venture.
Cognisant of the reality that the 21st century belongs to Information Technology, the government can turn the tide through a deliberate effort towards giving the youth a sense of belonging by engaging them in various IT programs as it relate to them while also providing the enabling environment for them to be empowered.
United Nations Development Program “UNDP” (2005) stated that ICT has become an indispensable tool in the fight against world poverty. ICT provides developing nations with an unprecedented opportunity to meet vital development goals such as poverty reduction, basic healthcare, and education, far more effectively than before. Those nations that succeed in harnessing the potential of ICT can look forward to greatly expand economic growth, dramatically improved human welfare and stronger forms of democratic governance.
“Recent developments in the fields of communications and information technology are indeed revolutionary in nature. Information and knowledge are expanding in quantity and accessibility. In many fields future decision-makers will be presented with unprecedented new tools for development. In such fields as agriculture, health, education, human resources and environmental management, or transport and business development, the consequences could be really quite revolutionary. Communications and information technology have enormous potential, especially for developing countries, and in furthering sustainable development.”
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (1997:1)
UNDP (2005) also maintain that many developing countries, businesses and citizens’ groups are touting ICT as a means to transcend structural and historical weaknesses of developing nations in the economic, political, and social spheres. They argue that ICTs offer the developing world the opportunity to ‘leapfrog’ several stages of their development and join the industrialized nations in the information age. The term ‘leapfrogging’ essentially implies a quantum leap from the traditional stages and cycles of progress to the information society.
ICTs and the public sector
The United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development “UNGAID” (2009) stated that it is also important in this context to examine the historical relationship of the public sector to the ICT sector of the economy. Till the 80s, the telecom sector in most countries – developing and developed, was a public sector monopoly. It was chiefly seen as strategic infrastructure requiring close control. In any case laying landlines across large areas had the elements of a natural monopoly; it was seen wasteful to have multiple players lay such infrastructure in parallel, when the only service to offer voice telephony was relatively an undifferentiated one, with little to build comparative market advantages on. As IT possibilities exploded along with advent of wireless telecom infrastructure, the nature of the game changed fundamentally. The rest, the rapid liberalization of the telecom sector, and its unprecedented expansion is now history. It set the context of the current information society revolution along with the new IT sector which was born out of global entrepreneurship, so much so as to redefine the limits of micro-entrepreneurship.
A social approach to poverty eradication
Economic aspects are only one, albeit a central, part of the condition of poverty. Even in terms of the economic aspects of poverty, developing underdeveloped markets among the poverty-ridden could just be one approach to poverty eradication. While being ‘developed’ and ‘exploited’ commercially these ‘bottom of pyramid’ markets need the same kind of careful treatment that, for instance, developing countries as a whole seek at the WTO table. If anything, these markets are much more vulnerable to high degree of exploitation than any other, and therefore need to be developed with due regulatory care and with other required support from the public sector. Unfortunately, a certain unbridled rhetoric of ICTs opening up ‘bottom of pyramid’ markets and thus ensuring poverty eradication for all, or at least for all those who are wiling to take responsibility for themselves, has become the sole chant of much of what may pass for ICT in many quarters today.
Dealing with economic aspects of poverty requires a much larger and well-rounded strategy of many kinds of livelihood support, skill development on a public goods model, free access to information and a basic enabling public infrastructure available to all.
It requires what has been called as a social approach to poverty eradication. It is important to clearly identify and claim the ‘public goods’ aspects of the required approach to poverty eradication, as separate from merely supporting market expansion.
Pyramid Of Poverty
Fig. 1 Owner’s own
The pyramid has three levels as indicated in Fig. 1 above: The low level poverty (LLP) are those who are employed either self or by the government but do not have enough to maintain a progression in their livelihood. Other factors such as education and tax are of primary concern.
The middle level poverty (MLP) are those whose main concern is food, they may be housed one way or the other also, other factors such as education and tax are of primary concern.
Poverty, as suffered by those at “the bottom of the pyramid”, poses myriad challenges, each of which demands attention. It is not simply a matter of income or wealth, and the solutions do not wholly reside in economic development. Thus, both the problems and the solutions must be viewed in a holistic manner, addressing interdependent elements.
Information communication technology for poverty reduction is quite necessary but Insufficient, although, some of the elements of poverty are also within the realm of other focus areas, namely education, health, gender equity, etc. Nonetheless, in light of the complex nature of poverty eradication, the following (non-exhaustive) list includes elements of poverty that are relevant such as:
• basic education for youth and young adults;
• job skills training for youth, young adults, and re-trainees seeking sustainable, better wage employment;
• information about local employment opportunities;
• micro-enterprise loans and other forms of capital for small scale entrepreneurship;
• markets (local, regional, and global), market pricing information, and business training and support for small scale entrepreneurs;
• information about government assistance and support;
ICT for Development
One of the difficulties faced by the ICTs and development community is that it has failed to identify precisely the relationship between information technologies and poverty alleviation. The whole issue is to examine whether, ICTs contribute to poverty eradication. Current evidence would indicate that ICTs influence income disparities. Thus, in rapid economic growth situations, the level of inequality is cushioned by expansion.
This Luddite view, however, ignores the real relationships between ICTs and poverty. From a policy point of view it might be useful to start by postulating that:
(a) ICTs have expanded markets and generated greater levels of competition;
(b) Both innovation and productivity are critical to face the challenges brought about by this new competitive environment;
(c) Enterprises that do not adopt modern technologies (including ICTs) will not be able to innovate or increase their productivity; and
(d) In the absence of competitive enterprises there will be no “formal” employment and, therefore incomes will not grow. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine income growth (a fall in poverty) without the increase of quality jobs which ICT has provided.
Against this backdrop of ICT-enabled social and economic opportunity are some sobering statistics: one-third of the world’s population has yet to make a phone call, fewer than one-fifth has experienced the Internet, and most of the information exchanged over the Internet is in English, the language of some 10% of the world’s population (UNDP et. al., 2001). These statistics illustrate one aspect of what is sometimes called “the Digital Divide” – the inability of a large portion of the world’s population to access and effectively use ICTs and the potential benefits they enable. In fact, the Digital Divide – the disparities between the “connected” and the “unplugged” — is really a reflection of the age-old divides of poverty, education, and restricted human choices. Uneven access to ICT tools and networks – within countries and between countries — both reflects and threatens to exacerbate, existing inequalities.
Stockholm challenge (2008) uses ICT to improve incomes of rural farmers “the Rural Information System (RIS)”, the Rural Information System project empowers small-scale rural farmers to access timely markets and marketing information using ICT, make informed enterprise selection and selling decisions, and to subsequently earn more competitive incomes as a result of using ICT for decision-making.
The concept of the RIS project is such that ICT is applied to facilitate a two-way information flow system where ‘markets’ information e.g. price, required quality etc. flows from the market to the farmer groups on the one hand, and ‘marketing’ information e.g. available volumes, variety and quality flows from the farmer groups to the market on the other. Among what it is set to achieve include: supporting the development of capacity of farmers’ institutions (groups and associations) to access market information and organized access to markets through farmer mobilization, farmer organization for marketing and their development into a higher level institution, to provide reliable production and market information to enable farmers to access markets, improving farmers’ bargaining power in the market place for better prices, and making informed choices on when to sell thus increasing household incomes.
With this process, the dissemination of current market information (on demand trends, current prices, price trends etc.) to the farmers for them to make informed production planning and pricing decisions is most critical. The most efficient way in the globalizing world of today to make this happen is by use of ICT.
Sachs (2006) confirms that in Bangladesh, Grameen Bank, set up a Grameen telecom’s village pay phones in Bangladesh to give succor to the poor by giving the poor credit without collateral through the Grameen bank to set up their own pay phone businesses. This initiative led to an increase in household income by as much as 40 per cent. The mobile telephony business in that country’s emerging technological landscape has helped in no small way to ameliorate poverty.
The Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) and United Nations Industrial Development Organization “UNIDO” (2006) highlights measures that can be initiated to enhance the competitive edge of SMEs. For instance, Singapore subsidizes computer training for SMEs employees and provides the foundation for developing secure e-payment services.
Republic of Korea provides a web forum for SMEs to showcase their products to an international market; Philippines is working to reduce the cost of international phone calls by deregulating Voice-over-Internet Protocol; Japan provides tax rebates for SMEs using ICTs ; Chiles state purchase policies foster transparency and encourage SMEs to use ICT by advertising and processing government procurement opportunities online.
In Malaysia, the delivery of IT services and locally relevant knowledge in rural areas allows farmers to increase their yield and productivity. This, coupled with better access to pricing information, allows them to be more self-reliant and entrepreneurial. ICT can consolidate and integrate the supply chains so that higher efficiencies are attained.
Since ICT has become one of the most important channels through which a nation can impact on its citizens, there is no doubt that it can be used to drive sustainable development and eradicate poverty. The Mobile phone for example, which is the most common example of Information Communications Technology deployment, can be effectively used to tackle poverty. Already, the deployment of the mobile phone in Nigeria has impacted greatly on the lives of the people.
Most Nigerians can hardly afford three square meals a day and can hardly make ends meet. Most Nigerians in spite of the technological advancements recorded globally are still largely uneducated and uninformed and are miles apart from accessing the basic necessities that make life meaningful. A survey by the World Bank disclosed that most Africans live on less than a dollar a day. Africa ravaged by conflict and poverty, has become the abode of the world’s poorest. One hallmark of this poverty is characterized by the dearth of infrastructure, which is one of the major constraints of development. In spite of efforts by the government and stakeholders to alleviate the scourge of poverty over the years through various intervention schemes, poverty is still a reality. Aljazeera (2009) reported that Nigeria is ranked 155 out of 177 countries, world poverty index ranking while 92% of Nigerians are trying to make ends meet.
Sachs (2006) confirms that the usage of the mobile phone by poorer countries can translate to improved development .A study recently found out that an extra 10 phones per 100 people raises the GDP growth by 0.6 percent. Farmers and fishermen market vendors etc deploy it to make enquiries on cost, new trends, availability etc.
In Nigeria, the scourge of poverty is a given reality. It has been said that on the average most people live on less than a dollar wage per day. This is quite frightening. Nigeria, the most populous country in black Africa with an estimated population of about 140 million people is not exempted from the menace of poverty.
According to Aiyenigba (2008) who gave a brief analysis of the youth structure in Nigeria said that going by statistics from National Manpower Board and the Federal Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria has a youth population of about 80 million, representing 60 per cent of the total population of the country. Out of this figure, 64 million youth are unemployed, while about 1.6 million are under-employed. This means they are not productively employed. All over Nigeria, we have a disenchanted array of young people between the ages of 15 and 35 that are unemployed, under-developed, despondent, alienated and restless with its attendant social problems.
Aiyenigba further state that there are over seven million children of school age that are not in school. This is evidently a wastage and inhibition of potentials for national development and economic growth. The foregoing is no doubt a grim statistics and a picture of our poor human development index.
Sachs (2006) stressed that ICT has the tremendous potential to help in achieving the MDGs and is vital for the process of scaling up investments to reach the masses. He added that there was no doubt that it can be used to improve the quality of life of the people at the local level. For Nigeria to achieve a sustainable socio economic growth, it must deploy ICT to tackle poverty. Currently, the indicators of poverty in the nation are joblessness, inability to sustain self and dependants, lack of access to basic amenities like food, shelter, lack of material well being, lack of choice and opportunities etc. It is a fact that the unemployment level of the nation is currently at its highest with many able bodied men and women in the unemployment market. Stakeholders and governments are evolving policies to fight poverty and make life meaningful across borders with the help of ICT.
Direct and Indirect Employments
ICT has opened up business opportunities and become a veritable revenue generating tool for most disadvantaged folks in Nigeria. Most poor people use the mobile phone to conduct business as a pay phone and make money by charging customers for the use of the phone, thus generating income for the owner.
In Nigeria, telecom service providers since the introduction of the GSM have enabled the poor to some extent by reducing cost of access to their networks and providing various incentives in the form of reduced tariffs for those who use their mobile phones as a money generating tool. For most poor folks, the mobile phone has become a lifeline and a bridge to jump out of the scourge of poverty. In Nigeria, the federal government is working to boost telecom infrastructure through its national telephony project in all the 343 local government areas in the federation to drive the penetration of ICT and eradicate poverty.
ICT has provided so many opportunities to create wealth especially since GSM began. The CEO’s of GSM companies last year stated that in five years since the advent of GSM, thousands of Nigerians either directly or indirectly have benefited from the technology through increase in income brought about by the provision of sundry services that aid the smooth deployment of the technology. Many have set up small and medium scale companies that sell recharge cards, mobile phones and other paraphernalia that makes for the smooth deployment of ICT, creating millions of income opportunities and revenue for participants.
Aside this is the common sight of kiosks and small canopies used by most people who now run their own call centers to create income. For example, MTN, a telecommunications service provider in the nation through its foundation has empowered several unemployed persons especially women to own their own franchises where they operate a phone kiosk, sell recharge cards and render call services to generate income for their households. The penchant for ICT usage in ameliorating poverty can not be overemphasized and government in partnership with concerned stakeholders should use every available opportunity to eradicate poverty through the deployment of ICTs and the provision of the right infrastructures to fight the unending scourge of poverty.
Ubaru (2009) stated that over 10,000 people are directly employed in Nigeria by the GSM operators alone while it is estimated that 1,000,000 indirect employment opportunities have been created through the operation of GSM (Recharge card hawkers, Resellers etc including the umbrella people). The registered ICT companies is put at about 2,000.
Reddy (2006) stated that today, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and wireless technologies makes it possible to provide instantaneous access to knowledge and information that was not possible 60 years ago. And the cost of information connectivity is less than 1% of the cost building a road to a village.
The most contributing aspect to poverty alleviation is training in computer provided by private computer schools. These private computer schools offer training in computer packages such as: Micro soft word, Micro soft excel, Micro soft power point, Micro soft Access, Corel-Draw, Page maker, AUTO CADD, SPSS, Internet operation, Computer hardware repairs, web design and hosting, programming and lost more. The training offered in most of these private computer training schools enable the students to be self reliant by running computer business centers that offer typesetting, printing, design and internet café. Others go into the business of computer repairs and maintenance while others go into the business of buying and selling computer accessories. Majority of the youths engaged in all sorts of computer businesses are products of private computer training schools. Another sizable portion of the youths find employment with the Government (federal, State or Local government level). With the skills they acquired, the youths in turn help change the socio-economic structure of the households whose members have been the beneficiary of such programme.
Conclusion and Recommendation
To address the scourge of poverty in Nigeria, Nkanga (2006) advocated the deployment of information communication technology ICT to address the menace. It includes the deployment of telephones, media, radio, television, computers and the Internet for information transmission. ICT has the potential to power development and eradicate poverty and is a veritable weapon for promoting human development and accelerating economic growth. UNDP (2005) stated that the socioeconomic impact of the knowledge and information revolution derived from Information and Communications Technology has been compared to the industrial revolution, providing nations and individuals alike an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate economic growth, promote human development and eradicate poverty. .
India and Ireland tremendous growth through the use of ICT are living witnesses to their status’ today and how much income is being generated through ICT by way of export of both finished products and personnel and foreign investment by other technologically advanced countries not for the purpose of opening sales outlets as is the case with our country but for actual manufacture of both software and hardware. Even the school fees of Indian schools for ICT courses have risen astronomically as a result of the great importance-attached-to-ICT. (Delhi Institute of Technology, India fees review for the years 1999 and 2002).
Osiname (2003) states that ICT holds a lot of potential for economic growth and Nigeria being the “giant” of Africa needs to wake up and take the initiative of empowering her youths for the challenges ahead; more investment has to be made in the ICT sector, subsidies have to introduced to reduce the exorbitant cost of acquisition of ICT education in our country today; a state of emergency should be declared in the ICT sector of the economy and incentives provided to encourage more youths to pursue careers in the ICT industry. Cheaper PCs mean more PCs in circulation, which translates to greater access by a greater portion of the populace, which unmistakably are the youth.
UNESCO (1998) observes that the Nigerian government has been liberalizing the communication sector and easing the flow of information. However, the cost of connectivity is still prohibitive. ICT products such as interactive radio and television, video conferencing, teletext, Internet based virtual communities, and web publishing are available to less than 2% of the population.
There are several necessary conditions for creating rural jobs. Most of rural youths do not continue beyond primary education or at most JSSI or II, especially girl child, primarily because of lack of convenient access to high school education, traditional practices of earl child marriage and low financial earnings by most rural families. There should be a holistic approach to rethink the nature of education for these educationally less privilege youths. Majority of the youths are not of low IQ – they just did not have the opportunity. They can be given “new” vocational computer training or GSM maintenance and repairs training which involves practical hands on training. The training would be synchronized with the work they are doing during the day.
The present curriculum in Nigerian Universities (for example), which has since gone out of phase with global trends, is subject to review. This leaves the youths with the challenge of self-improvement beyond the formal academic system. A shift from the certificate-oriented system to a certification and knowledge-based system must be encouraged to avoid the introduction of half-baked graduates within the national productivity cycle. A re-orientation and paradigm shift is necessary in developing nations, where the technology importation mindset is prevalent. The role of youths, in ICT development opportunities¸ also includes a deliberate synergism of efforts for greater efficiency and impact.
Reddy (2006) stated that in order to permits access to tools and applications needed for creating rural employment, there is the need to provide instant access to knowledge and know how through the local language.
Reddy also suggested that exploring out-of-the-box solutions such as public-private partnership with Industries to quickly establish higher institutions of learning and revamp the curriculum so that it is more directly responsive to the needs of society and industry. Industry participation would also ensure immediate employment of the graduates.
Potential Solutions To Eradicating Poverty
ICT initiatives can advance solutions to many of the above elements of poverty, and to conditions which are compounded by the financial crisis. Their effective implementation would be best achieved by the combined resources and capabilities of all sectors: public, private, civil society, and others. A few of the many potential uses of ICT toward this objective include:
• communicating via the Internet, email, photos, and mobile phone SMS with NGOs and others serving impoverished communities to exchange updates on food and medical needs and the availability / delivery of supplies;
• using database management technologies to track distribution of food, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and disaster relief supplies;
• accessing Internet-based information to increase arable land and crop outputs, improve sanitation, nutrition, health maintenance, and disease prevention, and expand access to safe drinking water and power supplies;
• e-learning of basic educational and life skills for youth and young adults;
• e-learning of high-impact job skills training courses for young adults and re-trainees to enhance their employability and preparation for well paying jobs, both locally and remotely via the Internet;
• providing information about job opportunities and access to public transportation that will enable individuals to reach those worksites;
• enabling individuals, businesses, and NGOs via the Internet and mobile phone SMS to engage in banking, access micro-loans, and utilize other business and financial services;
• accessing real-time information about market prices for agricultural products, manufactured goods, services, and supplies;
• communicating with areas afflicted by natural disasters to assess needs and coordinate emergency response efforts;
• encouraging environmentally sustainable practices while mitigating risks to human health;
• communicating with government officials to notify them of community development needs, participate in governmental planning and decision making, and electronically obtain appropriate permits and licenses;
• sending electronic funds transfers to those serving impoverished communities for whom funds are allocated by foundations, governments, donors and others fo infrastructure projects, housing development, disaster relief, community development projects;
• facilitating citizen empowerment in governmental electoral processes; and
• developing businesses which provide low-cost access to ICTs for local residents so that they may utilize ICTs for all of the above and other purposes.
Nigerians should create their own solutions for rural wealth creation and not depend on charity. Charity is neither scalable nor sustainable. What is needed is not charity but rather a public-private partnership for creating well paying jobs round the year based on a sustainable business model.
Tzu (600 B.C.E.) once said “give fish to man you will feed him for a day, teach man to fish you will feed him for life”. With over 50% of the children born in rural areas not going beyond primary school, there are a large number of unemployed and unemployable youth in villages who do not have the knowledge and knowhow to create and run a business. This paper suggests that major fortunes will be made by those who harness the potential of the rural youth by creating more quality IT jobs and wealth in villages.
Aiyenigba (2008) state that a sure way of harnessing the potential of our youth and the only viable panacea to breaking the prevailing vicious cycle of unemployment and under-development is to build the capacity of our youths and equip them with life skills, support, training and mentoring for positive engagements on national development.
This paper suggest a way of channeling and galvanizing the potential of the youths and inspire them for positive living through the application of information technology. Since computer education appears to have tremendous scope and a major source of empowerment of people especially the socially and economically backward in Nigeria. Incentives like tax rebate (subsidy on roll out cost to rural areas) should be encouraged. There is need for government to come up with a policy that guarantees every Nigerian student, from the primary school to the University level, have access to the use of computer as well as access to the Internet. The cost of acquiring ICT tools should be subsidized to encourage its acquisition by the less privilege.
The zest and energies of the youth could be positively channeled through the information technology sector. There is also the need for a great deal of inspirational leadership, sensitisation and information to change the orientation of our youth from the present culture of rent-seeking thereby checkmating poverty and unemployment as the major causes of rural-urban drift.
In the overall context of the current global economic crisis, where economic and social stimuli are needed for infrastructure is seen as an important step. It is time to revisit our strategy. This will involve taking a hard long look at how we understand poverty and strategies for its eradication, as well as revisiting the respective roles of the public and private sectors in the telecom and IT sector.
Doing the forgoing will for sure give our youth a new sense as stakeholders and they will take ownership of the Nigerian project with a re-oriented sense of duty towards building the nation.
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