By Hadiza Umar
Kofi Anan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, defined the information society as that through which â€œhuman capacity is expanded, built up, nourished and liberated, by giving people access to the tools and technologies they need, with the education and training to use them effectively.â€
This is the kind of society that the WSIS set about to create. Multiple initiatives have been, and continue to be, implemented across the world to address the major obstacles to bridging the digital divide.
For example, many developing countries have poor communications infrastructure, which prevents connectivity, particularly in rural areas. The issue of infrastructure is a major issue as this requires global, long-term investment, and support from a variety of sources including governments, private sector, multilateral institutions (United Nations), financial institutions (World Bank) and the civil sector (NGOs). There are a number of global initiatives, such as the UN ICT Task Force and G8 Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force), that are working to address these vital areas.
To begin overcoming digital divide in Nigeria, The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) collaborated with the Intel World Ahead Programme and Microsoft to develop the Computers for All Nigerians Initiative (CANI). CANI is a comprehensive programme to enhance economic and social opportunity by improving access to affordable, high quality PCs and the internet, the digital inclusion programme is helping tens of thousands of Nigerians purchase their first PC.
Nigerian Companies like Zenox, Omatek, Beta and Brian PCs are among the ones that were made available to employees of participating public and private sector organisations at affordable prices and at a two- year low interest loan.
Another initiative by NITDA in bridging the digital divide is the internet penetration to rural and underdeveloped areas- the Rural Information Technology Centres (RITCs).
This project started in 2007 with ten (10) centres, and by 2009, there are 40 centres scattered all over the country. These centres are equipped with computers that have e-learning facilities where beneficiaries can take courses on Microsoft Office, Oracle, Cisco, Hewlett Packard etc. Echoing the statement made in Ethics in the Internet, â€œThe Internet can make an enormously valuable contribution to human life. It can foster prosperity and peace, intellectual and aesthetic growth, mutual understanding among peoples and nations on a global scale.â€
To participate actively in and benefit fully from the information society and the knowledge economy, each person should have the necessary skills and knowledge in order to understand and participate. In this regards, Capacity building on Information Technology know – how was also carried out by NITDA, where 6100 graduate were trained in IT related fields. One thousand graduates from each of the six geo-political zones and one hundred from the Federal Capital Territory.
Now that the Internet is becoming an increasingly vital tool in our information society. The Nation is rapidly going on line, with an ever higher share of Nigerians regularly using computers and the internet in their daily lives.
More Nigerians are going online to conduct such day-to-day activities as education, business transactions, personal correspondence, research and information-gathering, and job searches. Each year, being digitally connected becomes ever more critical to economic and educational advancement and community participation.
Now that a large number of Nigerians regularly use the Internet to conduct daily activities, people who lack access to these tools are at a growing disadvantage. Therefore, raising the level of digital inclusion by increasing the number of Nigerians using the technology tools of the digital age is a vitally important national goal.
For Nigeria and her people to compete globally and participate meaningfully in the information age, the Federal Government implemented some socio-economic development programmes which require the development of information and knowledge based Nigerian economy.
Some of these socio-economic development programmes and initiatives are National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy(NEEDS), State Economic Empowerment Strategy(SEEDS), Millennium Development Goals(MDGs), National Poverty Eradication Programme( NAPEP), and World summit on Information Society (WSIS) Plan of Action.
On the other hand, NITDA will continue to work vigorously to better maintain, understand and promote goal of full digital inclusion for all Nigerians thereby achieving President YarÃ¡duaâ€™s 7 point Agenda and placing the country among the top 20 economies of the world come year 2020.