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WSIS, ICT4D and the future

By Adekunle Adekoya

Last week, the World Summit on Information Society held in Geneva, and for the whole of last week, technocrats and other specialists in information technology gathered to further brainstorm on the sole objective of making life better for man.

The summit, hosted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), was jointly organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNCTAD and UNDP. By way of further information, the summit attracted more than 1150 WSIS Stakeholders from more than 140 countries, more than 20 ministers and deputies, ambassadors, chief executives and other delegates.

As will be seen elsewhere on these pages, many Nigerians of varying accreditation attended the event, and participated in the various sessions of the summit.

Between you and me, the reason why Nigerian officials attend international fora of various descriptions is well known, and is far from the altruistic. Before going on with that, it is pertinent to refresh memories about the Geneva Plan of Action of the WSIS. For us in developing economies, and Nigeria in particular, key objectives of that plan of action include connecting villages with ICTs and establish community access points; connecting universities, colleges, secondary schools and primary schools with ICTs; connecting scientific and research centres with ICTs; connecting public libraries, cultural centres, museums, post offices and archives with ICTs; connecting health centres and hospitals with ICTs; and to connect all local and central government departments and establish websites and email addresses.

Other objectives of the Plan of Action include adapting all primary and secondary school curricula to meet the challenges of the Information Society, taking into account national circumstances; ensuring that all of the world’s population have access to television and radio services; and to to ensure that more than half the world’s inhabitants have access to ICTs within their reach.

The above laudable objectives fit nicely into our National ICT4D Strategic Plan, which first four-year plan ends this year. The question resonates: How have we fared with the ICT4D plan?

In a previous outing of this column, I reminded us that it will soon be May 27, another occasion to celebrate Children’s Day here, but sadly, for most of us, it is going to be another day our leaders will spew forth the same rhetoric we heard in 1954, 1966, 1979, 2000, and last year.

Given the overbearing presence of IT in every profession nowadays, when wil the national education curriculum be re-worked to make sure IT has its right of place in the teaching-learning process? When shall we start to consciously equip our primary and secondary schools with computers? In short, when will the motherboard replace the blackboard and the chalkboard?

As we speak, many institutions are partnering with various IT firms for the acquisition of relevant know-how for their students. Can’t we see the danger in that? Shouldn’t there be a uniform course of instruction for Nigerian children in information technology? Many of the IT transnationals are virtually dictating what Nigerian children should learn, and they are dictating based on their own cultures!

Let those Nigerians who attended WSIS do their duty and sensitise our leaders who approved money for them to attend the summit on the urgency of the situation at hand. There is no more time to waste.


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