Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

ICT Provision to Disadvantaged Urban Communities: A Study in South Africa and Nigeria

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

ICT Provision to Disadvantaged Urban Communities: A Study in South Africa and Nigeria

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The focus of this research was to develop a sustainable Information and Communication Technology (ICT) model in a Nigerian community, by evaluating ICT provision in South Africa's disadvantaged communities and comparing it with the Nigerian situation; to identify applicable models and service mechanisms; and, to identify pitfalls and risks. This research was conducted by analyzing the problem from four points of view: ICT infrastructure, management, influencing factors and the risks of ICT provision in disadvantaged communities. A literature review was undertaken to discuss those issues. Four ICT centres were involved in the case study. This study aims to evolve a commercially sustainable provision of ICT in the rural communities of Nigeria.

The authors argue that bridging the digital divide in disadvantaged communities requires adequate knowledge of the underlying causes of the divide, a favourable Government policy, a focus on the benefits of providing ICT, the provision of suitable infrastructure, and a committed management that is prepared to get round the various barriers or risks found in disadvantaged communities.

Keywords: Nigeria, South Africa, Rural communities, ICT provision, ICT infrastructure, ICT management.

INTRODUCTION

Nigeria, a country on the West Coast of Africa, with an estimated population of 120 million (Common Country Assessment, 2001), is the most populous nation in sub-Saharan Africa. It occupies a landmass of about 923 768 square kilometers, and is generally known to have over 274 ethnic groups in the Federation. The Government's desire to move closer to the people has progressively led to the division of the three major regions into 36 states grouped under sixgeopolitical zones with a total of 774 local government areas (LGAs). A breakdown of the statistics available on Nigeria shows the following: More than 55% of the people are female; the poverty rate is about 67,8%, the majority of the people (70%) lives in the rural areas, and over sixty per cent of the young (0-15) are under the age of 15. These statistics indicate that the majority of Nigerians fits the main focus of the Global Forum, which is to reach those who are yet to be reached (the class of the poor, the illiterate, women, the marginalized, and those living in remote areas) through one form of education or the other (whether formal or informal education). In particular, women and minority communities, such as nomads, fishermen, and unemployed youths are examples of these hitherto neglected communities in Nigeria (Jegede, 2002:1).

In terms of its economy, Jegede (2002:1) points out that about 90 per cent of Nigeria's annual revenue comes from petroleum - it exports two million barrels of oil a day - and that it ranks as the country with the seventh largest oil reserves in the world. The country's less-than-desirable economic growth makes it almost impossible to cope with the resources needed by the huge and fast-growing population to develop the country and upgrade the welfare of ordinary persons, especially in the rural areas. Jegede (2002:1) mentions that only five per cent of the Nigerian population can access online Internet-based material. This group lives in the urban areas and are the people described by Herselman (2002:270) as the "Resource Advantageous (RA)". The majority of the population - about 70 per cent - live in the rural areas, and this group, according to Jegede (2002:1), has no access to telephone, facsimile, computer or Internet-based services.

Herselman (2002: 271) points out that this group of people has fewer opportunities to take part in our new information-based economy, in which more and more jobs and services are related to computers.

The Federal Government of Nigeria realized that the country was lagging behind in the race to become a digital society, and saw the potential of information and communication technology (ICT) to empower people - particularly, people with disabilities, women, youth and rural communities. …

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