This week, Lolo’s Thoughts features guest writer, Adedapo Adeniruju who examines the huge potential that the internet has to drive socio-economic change. Dapo is a mechanical engineering graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He has a lifelong thirst for personal development, youth capacity enhancement and social integration. He writes for The Reflector Team and tweets via @TreasureNGA
The online community is growing very fast and might someday outnumber the world’s population – with over a billion websites now online. This has positioned it as the fifth estate of a society rather than the outranked entity it used to be. As the gospel of change reaches its climax across the globe, developed nations are fast to employ the strengths of the digital age in fast-tracking social integration. Consequently, developing nations like Nigeria are beginning to lay hold of this indisputable reality – the role of the internet in improving the social, economic and political standing of a society.
Consider this: the one-click wonder of today was obviously not a thought so easy to come by in the 1990’s when the world was awed by the magic of the internet. Surprisingly, by 2006, upon the birth of the fourth generation (4G), internet had become a part of daily life and could be considered a major contributor to the nation’s economic fortune or woes. Ease of internet access had become the eight wonder of the world.
It’s noteworthy, however, that present-day Nigeria has the highest number of internet users in Africa, and tenth in the world chat -ranking above UK and France. With over 70 million internet users and over 3.9% penetration rate, Nigeria has a potential that can be awakened by investing in the future of internet. The nation must therefore channel huge investment into key areas that relate internet with its socio-economic and political relevance such as;
Job Creation and Entrepreneurial Development: Among the numerous crises militating against Nigeria, unemployment seems to pose the greatest threat. Conversely, with internet accessible to over 38 percent of the country’s population, the unemployed can pursue careers as online editors, content creators, digital media curators etc. Through the internet, platforms like OLX, Jumia and Konga have recorded immense success. If issues of growing terrorism and economic retardation must become history, Nigeria must engage her numerous able hands.
E- Commerce: If terms like “Our server is down,” “System currently inoperative,” and “End Usage Delay” will become history in Nigeria’s commercial sector, better and swifter access to internet connection must be a national priority. In other words, internet is capable of easing e-banking and e-commerce users of the provoking burdens of connectivity. The testimony of Bangladesh continues to validate the magical contribution of mobile money to national development, In just about four years after the Central Bank of Bangladesh introduced mobile financial services, 19 banks have registered over 18 percent of the country’s population.
Education: The impact of an enlightened people in a society cannot be overemphasized. In Nigeria however, many academic institutions are devoid of ultramodern standards capable of stirring young people’s entrepreneurial acumen. This is evident in many dimensions; chief among them being the stale academic curriculum which has little or no relevance in the 21st century work environment. To reduce this menace and the social threat posed by the millions of uneducated and physically challenged, Nigeria must shift its gaze towards correspondence studies and distance learning institutes.
Health Services: Taking a short stroll along the street of history, one would recall that Nigeria became a reference point of excellence when the spotlight of the WHO brought the country to the envy of other Ebola-infiltrated nations. October 20, 2015 goes into the annals of Nigeria’s history as the day when the nation was declared free of the deadly disease that has claimed thousands of lives worldwide in recent years. The contribution of platforms like www.ebolafacts.com were invaluable to the achievement of such a great feat. Internet can also aid health care delivery as a result of its growing need in tele-medical applications including connecting remote super computers to lasers for precision, focusing, transmission of digitized X-ray photograph.
Advocacy and Citizens Engagement: Until recently, Nigeria’s concept of democracy since 1999 proved to be a betrayal of what it should stand for. The representation of the people’s opinion which was supposed to determine the product of the nation’s leadership suffered terrible neglect. Nevertheless, internet penetration is rapidly rescuing the drowning voices of advocacy. From Europe to the Middle-East to Africa, the success of online advocacy is fast becoming evident. The internet, especially through social media has greatly helped in driving Nigeria’s democracy. The irresistible force of limitless opportunities has immensely improved citizens’ engagement in societal affairs ranging from politics to economy to sports to education. During the 2014 national conference for instance, the website www.nigeriannationalconference2014.com and the #NationalConfab were created to engage citizens’ opinions. Perhaps, no other has ever gained such international momentum as the #BringBackOurGirls and #OccupyNigeria movements.
Agriculture: The success of this sector in any society is a function of the cooperation and mechanism exemplified by the various stakeholders, chief among them being the farmers. Beyond planting, farmers need to commercialize their produce and this will require a fluid flow of information, social interaction and practical understanding of the market status quo. They will need information on fertilizers, seeds, prices, weather condition, agricultural innovations and outbreak of diseases.
In all, it will be unfair to pretend as though there are no challenges besetting the proliferation and impact of internet usage in Nigeria. Some of these systemic barriers which have grown unabated over the years include epileptic power supply, cost of purchasing internet gadgets and accessories, poor ICT education among others. If this gospel of change must transform the lives of Nigerians, we must see it from Saint Internet’s perspective.
Just as electricity was vital to the industrial age, the internet poses as the lifeline of the information age. And like many other developing countries, Nigeria is yet to fully embrace the influence internet access has proven to have on economic and socio-political affairs.