If a country with millions of people does not embrace and employ technology to its maximum in many vital areas, the country will forever remain a developing and ‘third world’ nation. With Nigeria in perspective, there are quite a number of things that need urgent and critical technology intervention and five amongst them include:
1. National Records
It is pitiable, dismal and regrettably lugubrious (borrowing some grammar from our dear honorable), that a country that is the giant of Africa (at least in population) barely has records and public information on the internet. I needed to get the curriculum for secondary and primary schools online and I searched and searched and the best I could get was nothing. On a better note I admire what the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) are doing with the new driver’s license.
I started the process of renewing my license online and though I am yet to get my photo captured I have papers proving it. A police man stopped me a while back while driving and told me my license papers where fake. I simply pulled out my phone logged on to the renewal portal and showed him the status of my license and had that ‘in your face moment’ I was lucky not to get arrested for making a police man look bad. I think if other parastatals emulate FRSC, this country will be a much better place for everyone (except for corrupt people).
I think it is a general consensus that education in Nigeria is scarce and relatively substandard. For higher education, there are over five million people jostling for admission to universities that can barely take one million. In the words of the music legend- Fela, you can call it “double wahala”. Tackling the problem of unavailability and low quality education is a promise we’ve heard so many times. Talk is cheap.
Good news is that Information technology blended with learning (blended learning) can do a lot in solving at least one of the problems of education in Nigeria, and that problem is availability. Imagine a scenario where the bulk of learning is done online with the aid of digital devices and only critical assessment like exams is done in physical locations. That opens up more space and increases the availability of education. Concerns for the quality of education may be raised. I personally believe the quality of education will get better because lectures and notes are in a more public domain and are therefore available for better scrutiny.
Lecturers will also have to update their notes and put in a little more effort in developing their courseware. They will not just churn out outdated and obsolete notes used generations before now. Interaction between students and lecturers also stands to be improved, bearing in mind our lecturers are almost unavailable for in and out of class interactions in the current system.
I heard the story of Chris Hughes- ‘The Kid Who Made Obama President’. Obama’s first campaign into office was driven by a powerful online volunteer system. It was a viral hit and gave him penetration as far deep as the internet, which fortunately is almost the entirety of America. Nigeria might not enjoy an equally high internet penetration but if combined with SMS it could do wonders here.
4. Small businesses
It is getting harder for small businesses to compete with big businesses these days and what makes it worse is the big businesses are coming to play in the waters of the small ones. It is nothing personal though as they say, it’s just business. Staying lean is key in maintaining profitability in any organization and the adoption of pay-as-you-use service models really helps in staying lean. A small business does not always need to buy off the shelf or build from ground up. A lot of great tools from accounting to project management to client management are available as services with very affordable monthly pricing so before you think of buying that expensive piece of accounting software you could try one of the available web based services preferably one with a trial period.
Well corruption is like darkness- it’s the absence of light. The question however is what light is in this case. Light is doing what is right or being compelled into doing what is right. Being compelled could stem of the fact that there are people watching. Technology gives information and transparency, information is power. A good case is my experience with the police. Imagine if we do not have to queue with someone sitting on our files asking for five thousand naira to open them.
In all there are a lot of other areas that need critical intervention and in some cases surgery but like they say Rome wasn’t built in a day. The prayer we should make in Nigeria though is that our Rome should not be under construction forever.