By Adekunle Adekoya
ON the heels of CTO 2010 which held in Lagos and addressed the nationâ€™s identity management crisis, the e-Nigeria 2010 Conference held in Abuja last week with the theme, National ICT4D: Implications for Vision 20-2020 at the Shehu Musa YarÃdua Centre in Abuja.
By the time the two plenary sessions of the first day were concluded, it had become clear that the nation needed a lot of policies targeted at youths, urgently, if Vision 20-2020 is to be realised since they will be the drivers of the economy a few years hence.
The three-day summit, declared open by President Goodluck Jonathan (represented by Science & Technology Minister, Professor M.K. Abubakar) featured an opening ceremony, after which there were17 presentations at five plenary sessions, an exhibition, and a closing ceremony.
At the end of the summit on Thursday, it was clear to most participants that a lot needs to be done if Vision 20-2020 is to be realised, though there was consensus that government needs to demonstrate the necessary political will at the highest levels for implementation of the ICT4D Plan.
After the opening ceremony, the conference went into plenary, with the first session presided over by Professor Clement Dzidonu, President, Accra Institute of technology, Ghana, and UNECA Co-ordinator of the Nigerian ICT4D Plan. Dzidonu had earlier delivered a keynote address during the opening ceremony.
Appropriately, the lead paper at this first plenary was delivered by the Managing Director of Alteq.ict, Dr Armstrong Takang, who was chairman of the ICT4D Plan Committee. He set the ball rolling by urging that for Vision 20-2020 to happen, there must be â€œinstitutionalization of the ICT4D Initiative and provision of appropriate political sponsorship and leadership.â€
He added that there should also be a â€œdirect link between ICT4D and National Social/Economic Programmes â€“ Vision 20-2020 and 7-Point Agenda and better co-ordination of programmes and projects,â€while there should be â€œfocus on sectors that will help create job opportunities for Nigerians while building indigenous production capacity in software development and local assembly and manufacturing for instance, and designing and implementing â€œinitiatives that will drive up demand â€“ technology adoption programs, government policies and directives that force demand for ICT related products and services.â€
Professor Charles Akinyokun of the Federal University of Science & Technology, Akure presented a paper on â€œRe-engineering Teaching & leaning in Nigeria Using ICTâ€, in which he said the nationâ€™s educational system should have as its main objective the development of â€œNigerian home made experts and professionals who would have native/indigenous and global knowledge and saleable in both national and international exhibitions and competitions.â€
Mr Jim Ovia, Managing Director of Zenith Bank also delivered a paper titled ICT and Youth Empowerment in Nigeria. He urged the nation to empower its youths because the worldâ€™s richest men today broke into that league as youths because their government provided the necessary environment, and mentioned the examples of Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and others who were youths and still are in their prime.
Other speakers include Engr. Adeolu Odusote of Dee-Iy Ltd, Professor Charles Uwadia of the Nigeria Computer Society, who spoke on ICT Research and Development for Sustainable National Development, and Dr Chris Uwaje, President of ISPON who spoke on ICT as a tool for Developing the Niger Delta Region.
Uwaje, like he had done at other fora, warned that Nigeria risks becoming a digital colony if action is not taken to firmly put the nation in the e-knowledge arena. Holding up his cell phone, he said: â€œThe white man found us with the compass. Thatâ€™s how we got colonised. Now, the world has become a global village, and anybody can be located with this device.â€
Dr Chris Uwaje in his presentation, ICT as a tool for Developing the Niger Delta Area had noted that if the youths of the Niger Delta, and in fact, all Nigerian youths have been pointed in the direction of ICT, the crisis in the region might have been averted, saying however that with the right ICT training, the youths of the area can help the nation properly determine how much oil is really extracted, something nobody knows with certainty for now.
Mr. Demiola Aladekomo, Managing Director of Chams Ltd in his own presentation harped on the nationâ€™s identity management crisis which he noted is slowing down implementation of the e-payment system.
â€œYou simply cannot do business with somebody you donâ€™t know,â€he said, urging development of a data centre that will merge and co-ordinate various databases existing in the country.
At the last plenary session, presided over by Chief Leo Stan Ekeh, Chairman/CEO of Zinox Technologies, both industry and government were enjoined to begin using Nigerian ICT products, since that is one of the ways by which Nigerian youths can be productively engaged and employment generated.
Urging all and sundry to buy Nigerian, Chief Ekeh noted that continued preference for foreign ICT products will only result in more capital flight and underdevelopment of the nation to the advantage of those we are buying from.
In his own contribution, Dr. Ekuwem noted that we have to equip our youths.
â€œBehind juvenile delinquency there is adult delinquency. We must equip our youths for tomorrow.â€
He added that in reality, there is nothing like globalization, and urged the federal Government to protect local industry, especially since the much-touted technology transfer is a mirage.
At the end, the summit recommended, among others, that â€œ government should provide the enabling environment for the implementation of the ICT4D Plan in the country especially through legislation and Private-People-Public-Partnership;
â€œTo empower youths, government and the private sector should establish ICT centres in the rural and urban areas as well as difficult terrains, particularly the Niger Delta region,â€ and â€œprovide legislative framework for the e-payment system in the country with robust lobby by the professional associations and the private sector.
Female members of the NITDA Governing Board, on the sidelines of the summit also urged action to empower women with ICT. Mrs Toyin Salau and Princess Ethel Eweka, speaking during a break, urged government to execute policies that will extend ICT infrastructure to the rural areas to empower womenfolk there.
This, they said, should be done through NIPOST whose post offices can be found in many villages and towns, and will help in stemming the rural-urban migration which in turn helps generate anti-social behaviour in the cities.
The conference closed with a ceremony at which Professor Cleopas Angaye, NITDAâ€™s D-G delivered the welcome address, while the vote of thanks was given by Acting chairman of NITDA board, Mallam Mohammed Bulama.