ActionAid wants FG to boost ICT among youths to cushion impact of COVID-19 pandemic

YDE calls for digital literacy for youths to access job opportunities, others

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

Following devastation caused by the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic across the world, which Nigeria remains one of the worst-hit nations, ActionAid Nigeria, Wednesday, wants Federal Government to boost Information Communication Technology, ICT, among youths to cushion the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in their lives.

In an address of welcome at the ActionAid Nigeria’s Youth Digital Engagement (YDE) Report Validation, the Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, urged the government to consider and take issues affecting young people seriously.

Speaking on the report, Obi who was represented by Director, Programmes, ActionAid Nigeria, Suwaiba Yakubu Jibrin, said the research was undertaken by the youths themselves, supported by a consultant, which also will help shape out and how the youths can recover through government’s ICT innovations.

Objectives of the report showed that the COVID-19 pandemic had adverse effect of livelihood the world over especially for the aged and young; For young persons, the pandemic led to more job losses and widened the social exclusion gap.

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Understanding how the COVID-19 affected young persons would therefore form a useful basis on how their welfare can be improved using digital engagement means.

The YDE project is a DANIDA funded project implemented by ActionAid Nigeria in collaboration with partners and subnational level. The project seeks to leverage on the use of digital tool to enable young people take charge in leading their communities.

The data was collected by Community Champions and ActionAid Activistas in collaboration with other partners in Abuja, Akwa Ibom and Gombe States.

She said: “This project is one of the projects that is very key to ActionAid Nigeria for education to grow and develop, the youth must be taken into consideration and taken seriously.

“The impact of COVID-19 can never be underestimated, and only those who are affected can testify because he who wears the shoes knows where it pinches.

“This research was undertaken by the youths themselves, supported by a consultant; they have done a great job by trying to understudy how the impact of COVID-19 has affected them.

“The research is also helping to shape out, how the youths can recover but recover more innovatively through ICT, using the ICT to turnaround. We are all aware COVID-19 has presented a dawn and we all have to abide, we cannot avoid it.”

Meanwhile, Presented by Youth Digital Engagement (YDE) Consultant for ActionAid Nigeria, Dr Terfa Abraham, where it was mentioned the need for government to innovatively up-scale digital literacy in order for youths to access job opportunities from government and other interventions.

Abraham also said the data was collected instantly and transparently, which make him confident about the data collection process

He explained that “Data collected for Nigeria were from three states: Abuja (FCT), Akwa Ibom State, and Gombe State.

“What we are doing through this YED is to show government o how to achieve its programmes better, and what we are saying is all government is doing is to take a little step further to where people see it and have access to it.

If development is not seen as inclusive process young people will continue to be excluded.

“We are also saying engagement and awareness campaign cannot stop so we must continue to push in that process. Let young people know what the government is doing, and also government should create awareness and change the approach to bringing young people to register for intervention programmes.

“The development paradigm in Nigeria is still top to bottom. The way you want to aggregate to have a national budget for instance is to do a horizontal summation of the needs of persons from Local governments to states and then from states and it goes to federal, and you do that you capture group representatives in this discourse. We also interacted with young people’s organizations and it was that inclusive.

“We used the change theory to engage and we believe that if you want an inclusive programme-include everybody across associations such that if you are speaking to one person you are speaking to10 different assemblage of association; if 10 people you cover 10, 000 people because they all belong to associations.”

However, he said that not every government ministries that have a website that is functional, but the Federal Ministry of Finance has a reliable and functional website where one of the vital information is on how COVID-19 funds were utilized.

According to him, there is information on the Federal Ministry of Finance’s website that makes it difficult to track budget implementation like job creation, but the one on roads for COVID-19 could be monitored and tracked.

He also called for inter-ministerial cooperation while they work with CSOs on effective implementation of government programmes, because most Nigerians still complain that they have not been benefiting from government programmes and interventions.

“Citizens supposed to receive direct text messages to their normal and must not be the sophisticated phones for information and opportunities that would benefit them and it should go beyond websites because many do not understand how a website works, which most at times demands data before they can be accessed.

“Let government’s innovation be on this way to reach out to those at the grassroots and the digital innovation needed to drive the economic and employment space, and that needs to go beyond websites”, he stated.

The report reads in part, “The priority area for the YDE project as determined from the data collected identifies employment as the major area requiring intervention and engagement.

“76% of PWDs also identified with employment as their priority area. Addressing the issues of exclusion of PWDs would therefore be a vital step in expanding their access to job opportunities.

“Young people yearn for employment creation and access public services to be more gender-responsive.

“Issues for Advocacy Campaign and Engagement; Digital literacy for Youths will expand their access to job opportunities.

“Government has several programmes targeted at empowering young people. They are not just in the areas that young people are looking to.

“Getting young people to be involved in the design and implementation of programmes that are meant for them would enhance awareness and expand access.

However, the report made it clear that “Government effort to enhance access to economic opportunities is constantly been limited as it does not fully address gender needs or the needs of PWDs.

“Empowering the young females is also vital in creating inclusive jobs and narrowing the economic exclusion gap.

“Budget information for effective tracking of expenditure lines for social intervention programmes is weak. It is provided on broader terms.”

Meanwhile, earlier in a goodwill message, the Social Mobilisation Manager, ActionAid Nigeria, Adewale Adeduntan, said: “The COVID-19 has drastically changed the lives of young people living in Nigeria owing to loss of income and job insecurity to stalled education and a lack of clean water, young people and their communities are being forced to explore new and innovative ways of coping.

“The pandemic led to more job losses and widened the social exclusion gap. Since many youths do not benefit significantly from government economic programmes that are targeted at them, not many benefited from government goods and services (COVID-19 palliatives) targeted at them during the very difficult times of the lock down. Understanding how the COVID-19 affected young persons would therefore form a useful basis on how their welfare can be improved using digital engagement means.

“Connected as never before young women and men are increasingly influencing the course of their communities and countries. Despite their capacity to shape social and economic innovations, they are increasingly left out in access to livelihood enhancement programmes put in place by governments. One place one is sure to find today’s youth is in the digital space.

“Addressing the factors hindering the young people’s access to programmes aimed at empowering young people, increase their inclusion in civil space and cope with the challenges of environment and climate change, would remain vital.”

He also added that, “A report by Reuters noted that youth unemployment in Nigeria has risen five consecutive times to about 14% in 2020. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has added more youths to the Youth unemployment number. With a youth underemployment rate of 28.6%, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics.”

Vanguard News Nigeria


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