Information and Communication Technology: Development Opportunities and the role of Youth
SESAN, O. O. Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.
Published in This Day Newspaper; Vol. 7, No 2265, Page 25. Thursday, July 5, 2001.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the convergence of microelectronics, computing and telecommunications. It has become a global phenomenon of great importance and concern in all spheres of human endeavour, spanning across education, governance, business, market share, labour, productivity, agriculture, trade, commerce and others. It thus poses an automatic challenge to everyone, particularly the youths. For example, graduating students moving into an Information Technology dominated work place must acquire necessary skills to avoid being victims of the digital divide.
Diverse development opportunities have opened up due to the influence of ICT and developing nations now have the opportunity of leapfrogging into the information age by employing the powers of Information and Communication Technology. Areas such as Software development and Satellite Communications can provide opportunities for youths of developing nations. Nigeria, for example, has reacted to the global challenge by indicating its interest in the mass production of ICT experts in the tune of almost a million young people.
Job creation is also an opportunity provided by ICT. Presently, the whole global village is experiencing a shortage of ICT skills and tackling the challenge would obviously promote development. The United Kingdom’s interest in being the best place to do eCommerce by 2002 is fast changing the face of their education, industrial applications and research opportunities. Wealth creation and economic growth opportunities are also offshoots of the impact of ICT on developing nations, among others. Forester Research says that B2C and B2B eCommerce will generate US$ 108 billion and US$ 1.3 trillion respectively by 2002. The view2.com website also reveals that ICT-related sales captured have risen from $3.5 billion to $25 billion between 1997 and 2000.
ICT also poses a challenge to the creative abilities of individuals, people groups and governments. Philip Emeagwali’s response to the American government’s challenge on the impact of ICT on meteorology, the Malaysian Vision 2020, the Japanese technological hijack and India’s IT revolution are examples of ICT’s challenge to innovation and creativity.
The continuity of any technological innovation is dependent on its sustenance by the upcoming generation and this automatically puts the youths under the spotlight when it comes to maximizing the development opportunities opened up by ICT, particularly for developing nations. The looming digital divide and a widening of the economic gap between developed and developing nations will definitely evolve if the opportunities created by ICT are not maximized by the developing nations and it is obvious tat the youths have a role to play in this venture.
The present curriculum in Nigerian Universities (for example), which has since gone out of phase with global trends, is subject to review. This leaves the youths with the challenge of self-improvement beyond the formal academic system. A shift from the certificate-oriented system to a certification and knowledge-based system must be encouraged to avoid the introduction of half-baked graduates within the national productivity cycle. A re-orientation and paradigm shift is necessary in developing nations, where the technology importation mindset is prevalent. The role of youths, in ICT development opportunities¸ also includes a deliberate synergism of efforts for greater efficiency and impact.
REFERENCES:http://www.view2.com/articles/ec_stats.htm; AJAYI, G. O., "ICT development in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities to the Academic community"; EMEAGWALI, P., "Can Nigeria vault into the Information Age?"; KEHINDE, L. O., "The present demand of Information Technology on Nigerian students"; SESAN, O. O., "eCommerce, Nigeria and the Next Generation"; UWAJE, C., "Information Technology and the Future of Nigeria".