- Information and Communication Technology in Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges for Development
Since the early 1980s, information and communication technology (ICT) has permitted people to participate in a world in which school, work, and other activities have been increasingly enhanced by access to varied and developing technologies. ICT tools have helped people find, explore, analyze, exchange, and present information—most importantly, without discrimination. When efficiently used, ICT can provide quick access to ideas and experiences from a wide range of people, communities, and cultures.
It is this aspect of modern society that Patience Akpan-Obong's book presents in a useful report on her native country, Nigeria—a book in which she carefully presents Nigeria's efforts to use ICT to drive socioeconomic growth. Readers might wonder how ICT has been integrated into Nigerian life and how it could be used to alleviate poverty. Akpan-Obong covers Aso Rock (the Nigerian White House) and shows how ICT has permeated the seat of government. She mentions how a fringe sector of the Nigerian community has used ICT in criminal activities—what has globally been referred to as "419."
To help readers understand the problems in ICT in Nigeria, she analyzes the evolution of Nigerian economic development by addressing the [End Page 95] economic plans of previous colonial governing entities and successive governments since the achievement of independence. Though the book was published in 2009, she does not mention how "Vision 2010," a plan proposed by the Abacha regime in 1996, has been realized; its impact on ICT is not heavily discussed. We are made aware that the colonial government improved communication to "facilitate the administration of the colony," and governments of independent Nigeria improved ICT "to be in line with the modernization zeitgeist." However, a whole chapter is devoted to Nigeria's National Policy on Telecommunications and other matters that have dogged Nigerian telecommunication. It brings to the fore issues pertinent to the question of how ICT is being used in national development. This is broken down into the number of telephones, fax machines, computers, printers, photocopiers, and internet usage (dial up or VSAT). This pattern of usage helps readers grasp how the government and private sectors have applied ICT.
With 66 percent of Nigerians reported to be living in poverty, coupled with a literacy rate of 69.1 percent as of 2003, it would have been interesting for Akpan-Obong to have addressed how ICT has been used in Asia, particularly in India, to create job opportunities through outsourcing. Several books addressing the global phenomenon of outsourcing only mention in passing the capabilities of African countries. Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat (2005) does not mention the potential that ICT can have in elevating poverty in Africa. In addition, ICT is present in interesting ways; for example, a small number of Nigerians and other Africans use it for fraudulent purposes. It is hoped that a future edition of the book will emphasize more strongly critical business opportunities in the ICT industry and the educational options for rural education via ICT. In fact, as Bonk (2009) has argued, "It is the opening up of education that ultimately makes a fatter or more robust economic world possible. In the twenty-first century, education trumps economy as key card to participation in the world" (2008:26).
Though some chapters of Akpan-Obong's book point out how approaches in ICT do affect the Nigerian economy and serve larger political and educational purposes, there is a wish for more. Of course, there is a limit to what a book can do, especially this book, a foundational publication for anyone interested in the history of ICT in Nigeria. [End Page 96]