Digital Divide: Bridging the Gap through ICT in Nigerian Libraries
Nkanu, W. O., Okon, Henry Itohowo, Library Philosophy and Practice
The emergence of computers has revolutionized modern society. One wonders how life was conducted prior to computers and their peripherals. Like other fields of human endeavor, there is no aspect of library activities that digital processing is not applicable. Digital technology is of particular importance when information is to be gathered, store, retrieved and evaluated (Kennedy and Davis, 2006). The importance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Nigerian libraries is no longer an issue in contention. The issue in contention is how Nigerian libraries can ensure their continuous derivation of the benefits from new opportunities afforded by ICT. In order to bridge the gap that exists between traditional and modern methods of information storage, retrieval and provision in the digital age, the use of ICT in library operations must be seriously emphasized. Ideally, ICT is expected to have a major impact on the management, structure, and work activities of Nigerian libraries. As first step to bridging the gap, Nigerian librarians must accept one basic fact which is, ICTs are enablers of innovation in the managerial and operational processes in libraries. That is, the use of the technologies of modern computer-based information systems is a major force that has the capabilities of transforming the traditional methods used in cataloguing and classification, indexing, abstracting etc. It is expected that all technologies that process, store and communicate data and information in libraries should be managed as integrated systems and be used as access tools for the libraries resources.
Nigerian libraries with access and those without access to information technology is actually narrowing, as the "Information Age" continues to expand the horizon through which information services are provided in libraries. This is one of the many challenges confronting Nigerian libraries and librarians as Information Technology sweeps the world. Many Nigerian libraries are now converting the contents of their print resources into electronic databases thus, increasing their dependence on technology. Unlike in the past, today, technology has provided opportunity for librarians in Nigeria to know how they can combine computer and communication technologies in the performance of library tasks. This confirms Williams and Sawyer (2003), assertion that, in the era of information technology, "we will have everything connected to everything", which are internet-based remote control devices to regulate our libraries. Technology has brought about a completely different way of providing library services resulting to the development of new services (Gbaje, 2007). The Internet is now the dominant mode of information exchange in libraries in the digital age, then, it is no longer a luxury but, a necessity which Nigerian libraries must accept and adopt to close the digital gap.
The concept of digital divide refers to the widening imbalances of access to ICTs in Nigerian libraries and, is perceived in the light of the following postulations:
* There is a gap that exists between traditional and modern methods of processing, storing, analyzing, retrieving, providing and using information in Nigerian libraries.
* There is inequitable access to ICTs and other Internet-related technologies associated with the provision and use of information services in Nigerian libraries.
* There are imbalances of access to ICT among Nigerian libraries. And, these imbalances have implications for equitable access to quality information service delivering in Nigerian libraries.
* Digital divide is a phenomenon that limits the numerous uses, benefits and advantages that ICT brings to Nigerian libraries that are ICT compliant, this shows clearly the distinction between libraries without walls and those with walls, and the degree of effectiveness and efficiency, when ICT is used in the provision of information services and performance of library tasks. …