By Adekunle Adekoya
PRINCESS Ethel Eweka and Mrs Titi Salau are both members of the governing board of the National Information Development Agency (NITDA). On the sidelines of last month’s e-Nigeria summit which held in Abuja, they opined that the nation’s womenfolk must play a role in the National ICT4D plan if we are to achieve Vision 20-2020.
For this to happen however,Â they must first of all be empowered to get on the ICT super highway, and the only way to do this, they said, was to deliver ICT knowledge to women in the rural areas in our local languages. Excerpts:
How do you think women can be empowered?
Mrs Titi Salau: Before you can talk of taking IT to the rural areas, you have to find the means through the local governments. The government is in three tiers: the local governments are closer to the rural areas. I want to believe that the local governments have departments through which we can reach the people and pull them out.
In doing this, you have to first of all pull them out to a central area so that the children and youths can partake in the information. Then again, the issue of funding will come in because of the problem of light and other infrastructural needs which are not constant, without which one cannot achieve much in the rural areas. I think that once that aspect is achieved,Â we will be making progress in the area of promotingÂ IT with the womenfolk, majority of whom are in the rural areas..
What are your ideas on this?
Princess Eweka: I think it still has to be the Federal Government that will do most of the job, because going through the various levels of government is a lot of time and red tape involved because when you go to a state, it may not be the same political party that is running in that state. Chances are that the effort will be frustrated at the state level,
let alone getting to the local government level. One thing that comes to my mind is the possibility of going back to the olden days, the time of rediffussion when they had radio in all the villages, and also the post office. Let the Federal Government use the post office system to achieve this. Before, people used the post office for their mails, telegrams and other things, but this time around, we have the internet. Thus, anybody can come from the village to access his/her e-mail.
By doing this, we provide employment for the people in the local areas. We also provide information and education as well. By the time we get these things done, we will actually be solving a lot of problems because somebody that graduates in the local area will not run to Lagos or the capital city of the state to look for employment. So, let the internet access be financed by the Federal Government through the post office now.
Though, during the olden days, people do go to the nearby post office to collect their letters, but now is going to be e-mail. The way to go about it is bringing people who are educated in that line at the internet centres because it is no longer going to be a post office as we knew it. I maintain that it still has to be the Federal Government that will execute it because electricity is the source of energy for it.
Now, about the funding issue. Women are generally known to be more financially prudent than men. But how can we help men more to generate resources so that they can be able to empower themselves and their children so that their families can grow?
Princess Eweka: It is not a hidden fact that women are the best managers because women manage the home, the man and manage the children. They are good managers and are able to do this because they manage to save. They can make few amount of money to gain more mileage than men do. In terms of empowering the women, I think we need to move away from the tradition of allowing the man only to keep account only for the woman to ask for money when it is needed. I think the women should be able to keep the accounts but unfortunately, that is not very popular today.
We are praying and hoping that one day, we will get there. For now, we have proved ourselves that we are good managers in almost everything. Therefore, they should empower the women, giving them key positions of authority that they will be accountable for monies that have specific needs. That way, the women themselves will have a sense of belonging to be part of the system.
Can you envisage a woman in the village using her handset to browse the web the way urban women do?
Mrs Titi Salau: That is where I said education comes in. If we educate them in the local languages. Go to any village now, you would not find many of them who can write in English but in their languages, they will be able to write and read. We also have to empower women by providing employment for them in the rural areas. Using the post office again, we need to revive that system.
It is almost dead now, but if we revive it, many women will be able to find jobs there. Besides, it is women that will sell food to the people who work there, and generally provide services through which they can earn their keep. That way, we will be ensuring that more women get jobs in the rural areas of the country..
What is your take on this?.
Princess Eweka: My view on this issue is that we must educate women on how to use their handsets to browse the internet in the near future in the rural areas and educate them also on the language that they can understand and have some of the IT programmes and software in the language that they can understand. Even when you live in the remote area, if you do not speak English that should not be a hindrance to IT information.
So, it still boils down on these things being broken down into understandable local languages. In China for instance, you cannot do anything without an interpreter. First of all, you are going to hire an interpreter to take you around and also to negotiate your business transaction for you. I just recently came back from China and I discovered that when you want to go there, you must make arrangement for an interpreter, that is part of your business. All these you must build into whatever business you are going to do in China. That gives your interpreter an edge over you, and forces you to spend more in the Chinese economy. So, everything boils down on our government breaking some of these information to our local dialects.
In other words, if you want to empower the rural women, you need to take IT to them in their local language?
Exactly, that is what we need to do. In Italy, they do not bother about speaking English. It is now that they are trying to speak little English. They do not care. You must understand their language. How many Russians can speak English? They do not even want to speak it.
Even in planes, information are written in both English and French. So, when they produce these equipment in their country, they use the local language. Why canâ€™t we do the same thing?
To achieve the 20 2020 Vision, what do we do?
I want to see Nigeria in the direction of inculcating IT knowledge in the local language so that these children will know their languages, speak it and write it, our multiplicity of languages not withstanding.