KADUNA, Nigeria – Poverty amid plenty is the greatest challenge facing Africa, or more specifically, Nigeria as shown through a recent scale which states that unemployment, income inequality, polygamy, business failure, sickness and environmental degradation are among the main causes of poverty in Nigeria. Furthermore, sustainable poverty eradication is unlikely to be achieved without the proper use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
In order to catch up with more evolved economies, Nigeria undertook several bold initiatives over the last decade, mainly to enhance ICT diffusion in the country. In 1999, the total private investment was more than $50 million while it climbed to $12,500 million in 2008 which contributed 2.90% to the total gross domestic product that year.
In Nigeria, investment in the telecommunication sector ranks second only to the oil industry. Furthermore, of all the applications of ICTs, the use of mobile phones is on the increase while internet usage is considered to rank next to phone usage. Specifically, ICT has successfully aided the following sectors of the Nigerian economy: the Industrial/Manufacturing, Education, Transportation, Tourism, Health, Banking, Commerce, Agriculture, Government Services, Defence, Sports and Rural Development.
Moreover, ICTs played vital roles in the enumeration of the 2006 population census in Nigeria, and the successful hosting of the 15th National Sports Festival in 2006. According to Akwani (2005), the fastest growing employer of labour in Nigeria is the telecom industry, specifically, the wireless telephone sector that provides services to individual customers using mobile phones.
ICTs have repeatedly demonstrated its potential for eradicating poverty in developing countries. In many instances, poor people have experienced benefits in the form of increased income, better health care, improved education and training, access to job opportunities, engagement with government services, contacts with family and friends, enterprise development opportunities increased agricultural productivity and so on as this list will illustrate:
Information Access and Dissemination
Through the use of ICT the Nigerians have ready access to information and knowledge, phone calls, text messages, e-mails and the internet have greatly increased the way communication is done today. Cable and satellite television, radio stations have equally tapped into this trend to make dissemination of news and information livelier and are thus also able to reach more people at far cheaper costs on either end of the spectrum.
ICT, as a sector, has created some employment opportunities directly to the poor both in the manufacturing of hardware and software.
In the interest of direct poverty reduction, this sector plays a major role in enhancing the activities of the poor and increasing their productivity by increasing their access to market information or lowering the transaction costs of poor farmers and traders.
Knowledge and Skill Enhancement
Learning and skill and acquisition has become more interesting, enjoyable and much more effective. Multimedia applications in education has improved the learning capabilities of school children as well as enable hitherto neglected sectors of the masses to gain access to various skills/wealth acquisition programs and schemes.
The overall implementation of ICT also largely contributes to high increased GDP for the nation. With a more mobile, highly-skilled and well informed workforce, Nigeria is poised to achieve its vision 20:20 20 goals.
ICT implementation automatically leads to job creation/employment opportunities. For instance, with the advent of the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) technology, many hitherto unemployed citizens quickly became self employed entrepreneurs and dealers just as the industry is continuing to flourish and boom. The application of computer technology in day to day business and economic activities has invariably led to demand for skilled labor in the industry, departments and units in nearly every organization and business interest across the nation. The higher the value of ICT indicators, the lower the poverty rate in every economy.
Improved Health Care
A healthy nation is a wealthy nation. With the mass exploitation of ICT, the now better informed masses are healthier as they are readily exposed to health care routines, counsel and popular ethics.
ICT aids Nigerian entertainment which has allowed positive ideas to spring up especially among the youth. Using ICTs to support poverty reduction is found to be possible, practical and affordable.
In order for Nigeria to be more economically competitive, politically stable, and socially secure, there is the need to utilize technology in making advances in health, politics, education, business, agriculture, consumer goods, national security and poverty reduction. The country needs to focus its attention on the development, access and implementation of ICTs both in the rural area where majority of the poor resides and in the urban centers.
– Adama Dickson Salami