Speech delivered By The Governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, as the Chief Guest of Honour at the National Information Technology Merit Award and Fellowship Conferment Ceremony organised by the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos State, On Friday December 14, 2012
ENHANCING DEVELOPMENT THROUGH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
I consider it a privilege and an honour to be part of this all-important, year-ending event. I find this privilege of my invitation as the Chief Special Guest of Honour coming from this body of enlightened minds a rare honour indeed. I must commend the leadership of this prestigious professional organisation for your commitment to the cause of digital inclusion and penetration in Nigeria.
I have watched with keen interest how, over the years, this body has been led by great professionals who have consistently driven it on the path of national recognition and progress. Though working in an innovation-driven industry comes with its challenges, one can, however, confidently declare that Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) has lived up to its billing as one of the best professional bodies in Nigeria.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has become the cornerstone of development in our time.
It is not for nothing that our age has been aptly dubbed the Information Age. Technology has revolutionised the way we do things. It has helped in creating a world that is now truly a global village. It is an indispensable tool for growth and development at all levels of human engagement – personal and corporate, national and global. Today’s generation can only wonder what our world would look like without the ubiquitous presence of technology. Even at that, there still exists an unpardonable degree of digital divide between the developed and developing worlds.
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), by 2011, one third of the world’s seven billion people used the Internet. With respect to ICT access, of 1.8 billion households worldwide, one third had Internet access. In developing countries, 25 per cent of homes had a computer and 20 per cent had Internet access. As regards available Internet bandwidth per Internet user, there exist great disparities between Europe, which has almost 90,000 bit/s of bandwidth per user, and Africa, which has the lowest – 2,000 bit/s per user. The world’s top broadband economies are from Europe and Asia and the Pacific. In the Republic of Korea (South Korea) mobile-broadband penetration exceeds 90 per cent.
The ICT industry is one of the highly promising and rapidly growing sectors of the Nigerian economy. It has contributed significantly in the areas of job creation, economic growth and transparency of governance. According to ITU, between 2005 and 2010, telecommunications revenue grew from 3.1 per cent to 3.3 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP while telecommunications investment as a percentage of revenue improved significantly from 0.4 per cent to 11.1 per cent. Within the same period, mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions (per 100 people) increased from 13.3 to 55.1. As we speak, I am sure, the figures would have gone up.
It is my conviction that in matters having to do with ICT – especially in a world where ICT literacy is fast becoming a fundamental right – policy, rather than politics, should define the direction. We all have to remember that technology, just like time, waits for nobody. NOW is the time to get our acts together. Tomorrow may be too late. More so that Nigeria aspires to become one of the top 20 economies in the 2020, which is just about seven years away.
It is the aspiration of our government to make the State of Osun the hub of ICT in Nigeria. In our own modest way, much of our effort towards building a knowledge-driven economy is focused on massive investment in e-youth strategies. We believe that an investment in today’s children and youth would yield the best returns in the not-too-distant future. This is the sure path that we have resolved to follow. That is why we have invested in the Opon Imo (e-learning tablets), which is a self-study aid and a robust electronic device with uniform learning content designed for use in Senior Secondary Schools in our state.
The electronic tablet comes pre-loaded with students’ prescribed textbooks, tutorials and past questions in the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), the National Examinations Council (NECO) and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). This kind of learning aid is traditionally known to be beyond the reach of the majority of our students. It has an in-built feedback mechanism for monitoring students’ performance. These tablets are to be made available to all the senior secondary students for free. Through this initiative, the state government seeks to expose pupils of its senior secondary schools to information technology at an early age.
The Opon Imo initiative, which is expected to deliver jobs and transfer new skills to the citizens of the state, promises to be a new, revolutionary learning experience for Osun secondary school pupils. This is one of the significant steps in our journey to a new beginning in the State of Osun.
Our investment in computer for secondary school pupils was born out of our conviction that the future belongs to the digital age and it will be disastrous if our people are not prepared for this. The computer has become the centre of the universe whether it is mainframe, desktop, laptop, handheld (as telephone) or palmtop. It is interesting now that even artisans and motor mechanics need the computer to diagnose problems with cars and provide solutions to them. Architects and draughtsmen now use the computer to design houses.
Even farmers need the computer for soil testing and analysis, planning, operating certain machineries, tracking farm animals, diagnosing diseases in plants and animals, confirming bank balances, requisitioning farm inputs such as seedlings, fertilisers and agro-chemicals and forecasting harvest. The use of the computer is virtually limitless, depending on the imaginative capacity of the user.
Financial transactions are carried out in the comfort of our homes. Plane tickets are booked and paid for online while virtually limitless information on varying subjects are made available on the internet ranging from dating to how to commit suicide.
An officer in Washington controls by remote device a drone attack plane in any theatre of conflict which drops bombs with what Charles Krauthammer, an influential Washington Post columnist, describes as the ‘precision of a medieval archer’.
Such sophisticated operations like seismic monitoring, weather prediction and tracking of ocean currents are made easy with the computer. The whole world today would be in chaos if computers were to fail as some had predicted in a possible electromagnetic impulse attack.
Our investment in IT however goes beyond Opon Imo. We have also set up the OYES’TECH. Through it, we are training and empowering, at the start, about 5,000 youths on information technology. They are being trained over six months on how to assemble and repair computers, telephones and other electronic devices. Our target is to have 20,000 youths benefit from this scheme.
In December last year, we entered into partnership with a private sector IT service provider on job creation. Under this partnership, the firm agreed to train and create employment by deploying a total of 5,000 Point of Sales/Point of Transactions Terminals (handheld machines) to 5,000 youths (OYES agents) as Equipment Loans. The firm will also train and identify various economic activities where the terminals can be used by the youths to generate income.
Under the scheme, access will be provided for various economic activities such as National Identity Data Capturing, Sale of Airtime of telecommunication companies, Central Bank of Nigeria cashless and money transfer programme.
Each of the 5,000 OYES agents (under the initiative) will be given a terminal (POS/POT machine) and its accessories, which will be financed upfront by the partnering firm. The project cost of providing the terminal, communication and associated working capital will be treated as equipment loans to the OYES agents and each agent is expected to repay the loan from his or her monthly income after which, the equipment (terminal) becomes that of the agent. The terminal will be used with skills acquired to earn a minimum monthly income of N40,000 under the firm’s mentoring and training.
There has also been an increase in awareness and application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) techniques in various sectors of government, including agriculture. We have embarked on an aerial mapping of the entire state and the establishment of Geo-Spatial Land Information Systems. This project has reached an advanced stage.
GIS application in the agriculture programme was initially adopted in the land validation project carried out on farm settlements in the state. At the end of the exercise, farm holdings are now easily validated, records updated and geo-referenced using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) devices and the data sets were then imported into a GIS environment to allow for storage, retrieval and analysis of the spatial datasets.
With the Agricultural Land Parcelling Information Systems (A-LPIS), the state is therefore in a position to conduct: traceability, plan and track input supply, offer effective support and monitoring, predict yields, precision farming etc, on its farm settlements. The goal is the development of A-LPIS for the state, thus enabling information relating to agricultural lands in the state being available, real time, on the web and at the touch of a button.
Another area where technology has been deployed is tax administration. We have stopped the old practice of tax collection by travelling clerks. Rather, all taxes, rates and levies payable in the state are now done through the banks and paid directly into the accounts of the government. With this technological innovation alone, we have blocked loopholes and have been able to double the internally generated revenue of the government from N300 million to N600 million.
Our payroll system is now automated, eliminating the possibility of ghost workers and other fraudulent practices.
NCS’s well-reasoned goal of acknowledging, celebrating and rewarding outstanding individuals and corporate organisations will play a major role in the development and growth of IT in Nigeria will go a long way in raising the bar in industry standards and help improve the quality of manpower available in the industry.
Of special mention are this year’s very distinguished Honorary Fellows: Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR – Former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria; Senator Liyel Imoke – Executive Governor of Cross Rivers State; and Mr. Jim Ovia – Former MD/CEO, Zenith Bank Plc. These men are truly iconic national leaders who have played significant and pioneering roles in our nation’s journey digital greatness.
I want to urge all the awardees and the new Fellows to see this not only as an acknowledgement of your modest achievements and contributions to the deepening of the digital inclusion in Nigeria but as a clarion call from all stakeholders to do more for the nation and our people.
I want to once again commend the Governing Council of NCS under the able leadership of my brother, Sir Demola Aladekomo (FNCS) and the management of the NITMA for putting together this historic event. It is my hope and prayer that this initiative will serve as an impetus that will help drive our nation on the path of development, progress and greatness.
I thank you all for your kind attention.