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Information and Communication Technologies for Agric Devt - The Role of Youths

Information and Communication Technologies for Agric Devt - The Role of Youths

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Taofeeq Agricultural Economics and Extension Department, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, PMB 4000, Ogbomoso and ALAKA, Fatai A. …. Department, Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo

Abstract The challenges facing agriculture in developing countries represent effects of globalisation on the enterprises. Digital divide between the developed and developing countries constitute the source of disparity in the performance of the sector among the countries; hence the need for adoption of ICTs in the developing countries. The study pursued the need to use youths in the implementation of ICT strategy for agricultural development in Nigeria stating their unique characteristics that make them qualify for the job. It highlighted the extent of availability of ICT infrastructures in Nigeria; propose way of using the facility for rural development; and suggest ways of including youths in the strategy to enable them participate in community development. The study recommended adequate basic education for the youths to make them ready for civic responsibilities. Key words: ICT, youths, agricultural and rural development, Nigeria

Introduction/Problem Statement In recent years, new sets of challenges are emerging for agricultural production and management activities in developing countries, which are manifested in form of the exponential increase in the demand for food and fibre, issues regarding the continuous introduction of new pests and diseases, issues of cost of farm and domestic energy requirements, value added concerns in exported agricultural products, the phytosanitary requirements for exported agricultural products, the realities of challenges inherent in World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s policy on trade in agricultural products among other issues. These issues constitute the burden of globalisation on the agricultural management and practices in these countries. Given the fact that information revolution brought about globalisation, information utilisation or application is believed to hold the solution to the challenges of globalisation in whatever form they are manifested. According to CTA (2000), efficient information dissemination remains the key to bridge the gap between the developed and underdeveloped countries. This is part of the challenge that confronts the development actors and stakeholders in developing countries. However, the development specialists are yet to adapt the appropriate agricultural and rural development strategies to accommodate the changes brought by globalisation (Antoine, 2000). According to UNDP (2001), the use of Information Communication Technologies in development programming is not new. In 2000 however, it assumed a new prominence, when the United Nations and G8 group of industrialised countries flagged off Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICTD) as a global development priority. Since then, the understanding of ICTD as a core development issue has been rapidly evolving. It has been argued that the problem of underdevelopment is attributable to the inability of a large portion of the world’s population to access and effectively use ICTs and the potential benefits they enable. In fact, “the Digital Divide, being the disparities between the ‘connected’ and the ‘unplugged’, is really a reflection of the age-old divides of poverty, education, and restricted human choices” (UNDP, 2001). 2

Objectives The general objective of this write up is to highlight the role of the youths in the implementation of ICT use for agricultural and rural development. It is also meant to mention the following sub-objectives

To highlight the extent of availability of ICT infrastructures and services in Nigeria


To propose ways of opportunity for rural communities to improve their capacity for decision-making on development issues by increasing their access to information through the use of new ICTs;


To suggest strategy to circumvent the rural people’s barrier of illiteracy to the use of new ICTs by using the youths as the human interface between them and the equipments.


To enable the youth to participate in community development;

ICT in Nigeria A major indicator of infrastructural requirement for digital ICT use is Teledensity. It is a measure of the penetration of telephone lines within a territory. Nigeria’s teledensity has grown from near zero at the turn of the millennium to about 8% in just four years. This shows a geometric increase in the availability of the facility to the extent that Nigeria is now officially the largest growth market for telecommunication in Africa and the Middle East (NCC, 2005). In the same vein, as shown in table 1.1 below, there is progressive increase in the number of people using Internet in Nigeria facilitated through the enhanced teledensity status.


Fig. 1.1: Telephone Penetration in Nigeria

Source: NCC (2005)

However, there has not been optimal deployment of these facilities to various sectors and hence the benefit has not been optimal. Although “individual access is scarce, private cyber cafés and public call offices have become a regular feature of the modern African city” (Bertolini, 2004). Specifically, some of the new digital communication facilities such as computers, computer networking (Local Area Network-LAN and Wide Area Network-WAN), CD-ROM technology, GSM and the Internet have been in use widely in Nigeria. The situation has brought a significant challenge to the development actors in the country, who have to contend with the socioeconomic and political dimensions that have altered the balance between rural and urban economies (Antoine, 2000).
Table 1.1: Growth of the Nigerian Telecoms Industry

Source: NCC (2005)


Hardware Enabling Factors This concerns issues regarding the availability of the ICT facilities/infrastructures not minding the ICT content issues. The following issues discussed below assess the situation in the country, from both public and private circumstances, to ascertain the readiness of adoption of the ICT facilities. National Information Technology (IT) Policy – In March 2001, the Federal Government of Nigeria approved a National IT Policy and implementation started in April 2001 with the establishment of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), charged with the implementation responsibility. The policy recognised the private sector as the driving engine of the IT sector. Emphasis is to be laid on development of National Information Infrastructure Backbone (NIIB) as well as the Human Resources Development. In addition, Information Technology equipments/parts are to be developed in Abuja and in each of the six geo-political zones (NITDA, 2003). Specifically, the policy recognised agriculture as one of the areas of attention for IT adoption; The nation shall use IT to re-engineer agriculture for the purposes of maximizing food production, improving food self-sufficiency and security, increasing output for industrial raw material utilization, providing employment, economic growth, and minimising environmental abuse and degradation. Information Technology (IT) will also be used to facilitate the following regarding agricultural development agenda.  Establishing an agricultural information system to provide support for planning, production, storage, and distribution of horticultural crops, livestock, and fisheries products  Creating IT awareness for all types of farmers at all levels nationwide. The National Telecommunication policy for instance has the following as its strategies: 1. Government shall encourage the provision of the elaborate infrastructure required to have fast and reliable Internet access through institutional and private sector participation. 5

2. Government shall encourage the development of Internet content that will promote the Social, economic and political development of Nigeria. 3. Government shall continue to closely monitor the emerging applications of the Internet in areas … and enact the appropriate legislation and incentives that will encourage their use to promote rapid socio-economic development. 4. Government shall promote the use of Internet in health, agriculture, education and research, and encourage private sector participation in this project. Public Sector Information Technology (IT) Infrastructural Development Projects - Federal Government of Nigeria, according to NCC (2005), signed a contract with China Great Wall Industry Cooperation (CGWIC) for the design, manufacture and launch of the Nigerian Communication Satelite-1 (NIGCOMSAT-1). The aim of the project is to provide an opportunity for the country to receive a sizeable portion of capital flow paid by African countries for their international telephone traffic. Other intended benefits include the need to bridge the digital divide, and launch the Nigerian economy into the information age. NIGCOMSAT-1 plans to have coverage over Africa and Europe, and is expected to be launched in December 2006. In the same vein, the Nigerian NITEL owns 7% of the USD$80m SAT3 submarine fibre optic and has commercially activated public access to this continental telecoms link in May 2003. SAT3 connects several African countries to each other and terminates at Portugal. Currently NITEL has sold about a quarter of SAT3 capacity to large oil companies, ISPs and other telecom operators who are using it for wholesale Internet and international voice traffic.


Fig. 1.2:

Source: Mobolaji (2004) According to NITDA (2003), Nigerian government has commenced the building of National Information Infrastructure Backbone (NIIB), State Information Infrastructure Backbone (SIIB) and Local Information Infrastructure Backbone (LIIB). These are in preparation for full take-off of the e-government programme. Rural Internet Resource Centres and Mobile Internet Units have been established for accelerating ICT diffusion into the rural areas. In the third quarter of 2004, the Nigerian Government announced the details of a National Rural Telephony Programme (NRTP), which proposes to connect 500,000 new lines in 343 local government areas within twelve months. The programme has an investment of N28 billion (USD200 million) provided as a concessionary loan from the Chinese government, and a matching grant of N2.8 billion from the Federal Government. The three contractors to the project are: 1. Rural Radio Systems (RRS), which will provide services to 125 Local Government Areas (LGAs), 2. 3. Alcatel Shanghai Bell (ASB) covering 108 local governments, and ZTE, which will cover 110 LGAs. 7

The project is already off to a good start, as equipment worth USD$23m ordered by Alcatel Shanghai Bell (ASB) for NRTP arrived in the Lagos port from China in February 2005. The equipment included switching systems, transmission systems and cables ready for installation (NCC, 2005). Power Supply Situation – the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) has concluded all arrangements for the privatisation of the incumbent electric power operator, NEPA. The firm is now Power Holding Company (PHC) out of which 18 companies are expected to emerge. According to Mobolaji (2004), the NEPA currently uses the SAT3 cable system and has begun a phase-wise national fibre optics cable system to facilitate effective power distribution in the country. The figure below illustrates the project plan; Fig. 1.3:

Source: Mobolaji (2004) The power supply status, will no doubt, affect the operation environment of the private sector in the information technology. Apart from this, regular power supply is equally a major factor for accessing the ICTs at the audiences’ ends.


Private Sector Information Technology (IT) Infrastructural Development Projects The Honourable Minister for Communications, in late 2004, announced that private investment in the Nigerian telecoms sector has grown from US$50 million to over US$6 billion over the past four years. It is generally believed that a significant amount of the telecoms investments has been generated within the country (NCC, 2005). Fig. 1.5:

Source: NCC

According to NCC (2005), the following constitute some of the declared the private investments in the telecommunication sector within the last four years.  Globacom, in February 2003, awarded a €675m turnkey contract to French vendor Alcatel, for the installation of 1 million mobile lines, 100,000 fixed lines, 3 international gateways, and a national fibre-optic backbone. It equally awarded a US$200m contract to Siemens, for network installation in Northern Nigeria at the same period.  In November 2003, MTN obtained a US$395m facility from a syndicate of 14 Nigerian banks, led by Stanbic Bank, and Standard Chartered (London), as part of its USD$1.3m capital expenditure budget. It equally obtained another US$250m facility from a bank consortium led by GTB


in October 2004, for network infrastructure. MTN also declared an expenditure of USD$620m on capital expenses incurred by its Nigerian operation between March and September 2004. The amount was spent mainly to build 344 base stations and 6 switches.  US$120m equipment finance deal between LM Ericsson and Vmobile in 2003, for the installation of a north/south transmission backbone. Another US$110m radio network contract awarded by Vmobile in February 2004 to LM Ericsson.  Starcomms, in March 2003, had a US$70m network upgrade investment in separate contracts to LM Ericsson and Huawei Technologies.  US$17m wireless network-provisioning contract, to Harris Networks, by Odua Tel, in January 2003.  US$145m network expansion contract awarded by Reltel in April 2003 to LM Ericsson.  NITEL awarded US$53m GSM contract by to LM Ericsson in April 2003. MTEL has a cumulative expenditure of US$650m on network investment as at April 2004, in separate contracts to Motorola, ZTE, Huawei and LM Ericsson.  US$7m investment by Huawei in establishing a multi-product training centre in Abuja.  US$12m network upgrade contract awarded by Intercellular to Motorola in July 2003. The majority of the active operators have awarded contracts for the expansion of their networks into the hinterland. Operators with aggressive network rollouts include MTN Nigeria, Globacom, Vmobile, Intercellular, and Starcomms. Internet companies that are also active in network growth include Accelon, Direct-on-PC, GS Telecom, Linkserve, Broadband Technologies, and Koochi Communications, among others (NCC, 2005). At the end of 2004, at least 100 Nigerian towns had primary coverage from the telephone operators.


The foregoing shows a serious trend in ICT infrastructure development in Nigeria and the challenge remains effective deployment of the facility to develop every sector of the economy – urban or rural.

ICT in Rural Development Considering the idea of holistic rural development, the focus does not have to be specific to agriculture in order to enhance rural livelihoods or contribute to improved agricultural production. The concept of rural development implies the desire to improve the circumstances and position of rural communities through the recognition that a dichotomous urban-rural relationship exists (CTA, 2006). This is important to most developing countries where rural population constitute the majority of the country’s population and especially in Nigeria where about 55% of the population live in rural areas (Microsoft Corporation, 2003). The importance of rural development cannot be overemphasised to the extent that the concept is analogous to human development concerns as a whole; they are deemed identical such that studies on the latter are synonymous with the former (Sharon, undated). The rural poor constitute the engines of agricultural production in developing countries while agricultural production and post-harvest activities account for the primary livelihood strategies available to them. Hence, any problem to improving the general livelihood of the rural poor (such as lack of information, lack of health provision, disasters, lack of education, lack of infrastructure, lack of financial services, and many others) will have significant impacts on agricultural production at household, regional and national levels. The interventions that improve the general livelihoods of the rural poor will also yield significant agricultural development opportunities to the rural families. In examining the potential of ICT for rural development, it is essential to recognise that information dissemination is a fundamental element of any rural development programme, as rural areas are often considered information-poor. Amidst the changes facing extension, there is growing recognition that farmers


and members of rural communities have needs for information and appropriate learning methods that are not being met (Greenridge, 2003; Lightfoot, 2003). The emerging issue is how ICT can be integrated into local knowledge and information networks to address locally identified knowledge gaps. With the emphasis on ‘Information and Communications’, the importance of context-driven and indigenous approaches such as projects that meet local needs, demanddriven content and local language media become obvious challenges. According to IDRC (undated), the role of ICTs in developing local agriculture may provide the following benefits:

Faster and more efficient delivery of information with more relevant and adapted content Wider dissemination of information to people hitherto unreached or underserved, and a deeper geographic penetration, especially to rural areas








empowerment of men, women and the youth in the communities thereby spreading of knowledge and information about good practices

Rare opportunities and challenges for government to provide services to the rural population to participate in the development process.

A way of intervention may be through the establishment of a web-based information service which will provide commodity prices at various points in the country, equipment cost/prices at different places, basic agricultural production information, disease management techniques, questions and answers slot to enhance feedback, value-added information for export products and prices of exported commodities. This service will be most relevant to the farmers and other rural dwellers, who characteristically lack or have poor access to vital information for their enterprises. It will make them have better productivity and better values for their efforts. If, for instance, a farmer wishes to sell his produce and have information about the price such produce is sold at various places, he may decide to sell where people will pay more or at least enable him negotiate better if he wishes to dispose them at the farm gate. This will ultimately lead to 12

significant enhanced.

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entrepreneurs will be better rewarded and agricultural enterprises will be programme providing information improved methods/practices in agricultural production, which will enhance farmers’ productivity. The information exchange process will be buttressed through Online Content Management System to entrench feedback into the communication process.

Youths in Development Programmes The conventional view of knowledge transfer is that knowledge is best transferred from adults to youth or from adults to adults. Even liberal educators who attempt to use participatory, or Socratic, methods of learning have jealously guarded the elderly image of the teacher. Even in peer tutoring, older or smarter youths have been used as substitutes for teachers. Societal prejudices have sustained these conservative views on the capabilities of youth. In most communities, young people are assumed to be unsure of what they want, short-tempered, lacking in coping skills, immature, restless, unsettled, exuberant and unable to handle stress. Because of these prejudices, youth have not been given more responsibility or a chance to use their potential to the maximum. These prejudices have had dire consequences for development processes in Africa. Elders who have maintained their right to be educators have been unable to update themselves in various areas as evident in the emerging ICT tools. Most of their views and skills have remained static. The youth, on the contrary, have been acquiring knowledge and skills but have had difficulty transferring to their elders and their communities. As a result, communities have failed to be transformed by the traditionally oriented educational systems and institutions. The youth have thus been relevant to other institutions except their communities. The problem is that of mutual irrelevance. Because adult skills have remained static, they have become irrelevant to the youth, and the youth have acquired


some new and dynamic skills that their communities have not internalised, hence these skills have remained in the youth sectors of society. This mutual irrelevance has widened the divide between the modern sectors and the indigenous sectors and slowed the processes of mutual enrichment. For this reason, education has continued to benefit more and more people in the modern sectors while the so-called traditional sectors have fallen further and further behind. In the past two decades, however, the myth of adult monopoly over knowledge and the mechanisms of its transfer have been shattered. Youth-to-youth schools have sprung up in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Congo (Kinshasa), Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (Paschal et al, 2000). Youth volunteers, working with the help of teachers and other specialists, have become very effective in the areas of health, nutrition, safety, sanitation, and environmental management. In Zambia, for example, the youth have helped to popularise immunisation for polio, measles, diphtheria, TB, etc. Using songs and poems composed by young people, the youth have easily changed other youths’ and the community’s attitudes toward immunisation (Otaala, 1986). In Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, youth have spearheaded community programmes on clean water and sanitation, good diets and nutrition, and the prevention of diarrhoea. They use songs and demonstrations, plays, dramas, paintings, drawings, games, etc. In Botswana, one also sees youth-to-youth programs on safety and survival, covering, for example, road signs, road crossing, and first-aid techniques. A typical poor person in Africa may not be devoid of resources, such as land or assets for use in production and distribution; rather most of the poor individuals and communities lack knowledge of how to better use their natural resources, add value to their primary products, create commodities out of their resources, attract consumers from within and outside the community, among other economic


activities. Most African communities, whether rural or urban, have a distance problem. Some industrial estates located in big cities are unreachable because of bad roads, personal security problems, etc. In some cases, industry operators have had to build roads and small bridges to make their estates reachable. Most rural areas are mainly accessible by footpath and sometimes by canoe. Transfer of commodities and products to and from such areas depends on human, animal, and bicycle portage. This creates a distance penalty. Any development programme to help reduce poverty in such areas must have a clear understanding of the role of communication infrastructure and the potential for telecommunication and information systems to reduce this distance penalty. On the need to pursue holistic rural development goal, it is important to see how the use of existing telecommunication infrastructure can improve access to information on health, social services, environmental management, and industrial production and services. Whether in the urban or rural areas, in the majority of cases, people still make only social use of telephones, where these are available. More often than not, they use telephones to reduce their need to physically go and see someone, rather than for accessing information on social services, production, distribution, or governance.

The Role of Youths in ICT Integration for Rural Development Sustainability of ICT introduction in rural areas is an important issue which involves factors of human capacity, social capital and best practises. This will determine the extent to which rural communities can optimise the benefits of ICT for agricultural and rural development (FAO, 2000). In essence, to enhance sustainability will require the recognition of youths and their potentials. They are members of every community and a focus of development stakeholders on these members of communities will enable the use of their capabilities to achieve developmental objectives. This position is relevant because of the following qualities of youths as stated by Paschal et al (2000).



That youth have been critical to the propagation of community knowledge and have a big influence on their parents and other adults in their communities;


That through youth-to-youth and youth-to-community education programs, the youth have (even at a tender age) succeeded in helping to improve the quality of life in Africa where others have failed;


That status and other problems tend to constrain adult-to-adult education programmes, whereas youth-to-adult education programs do not have such problems;


That the youth have shown leadership in acquiring the skills needed to use ICTs and that most adults are already learning these skills from young members of the community;


That the youth, as agents of ICTs, would have a unique opportunity to give back to society a bit of what society has given them in terms of their care and education;


That most youth in Africa have been systematically alienated from their communities through education and that through such community-based programmes they can be reintegrated into their communities and be given an opportunity to engage in community development;


That for community-based programmes to succeed, they must recognise, respect, and reciprocate with community systems of knowledge, power, and production;


That the national youth service programs of various governments have laid the foundations for the integration of the youth into their communities and that a youth-to-community education programme for informationtechnology (IT) literacy would add a greater value to the role of youth in community development; and


That “information poverty” is at the core of Africa’s slow recovery and stagnation and that equipping youth with IT skills and proper


methodologies to transfer such skills to adults involved in production and services can go a long way toward spearheading Africa’s entry into the global information society. Given these facts, incorporating youths as change agents in intervention programmes that involve technology transfer will be really meaningful as well as sustainable. Their role in the conceptualised programme can be by selecting some youths in the locality that will be trained to serve as anchor persons for the ICT deployment programme. They will serve as human-machine interface between the source of information (website and IT equipment) and the people (information seekers/users). This strategy of intermediary is to circumvent the literacy/technical constraints as well as stimulate sustainability of the project.

Conclusion Given the discussions x-rayed in this write-up, it can be safely concluded that;  Nigerian communication infrastructure development has gone far and the country can be said to be ready for ICT deployment for human development  A major challenge to development stakeholders is to be in tune with the trends of happenings in the digital world so as to be in position to adopt appropriate strategies to pursue their developmental goals  The characteristic of rural audience does not seem adequate to appreciate the highly technical information technology; unless an intervention strategy is evolved, such deployment may only be elitist and ineffective  Youths are present everywhere and their characteristic is often underestimated by most traditional societies; whereas their traits holds the key to an eventful deployment of the ICTs in local communities  Recognition of youth as important stakeholders/partners in development programmes, especially in rural areas will foster development activities in developing countries 17

Recommendations  Basic education must be provided for young people so that they will be made ready for civic responsibilities expected of them  Adopting ICTs for rural development should not be seen as utopian but a sure way to bridge the gap between the developing and developed nations  Development practitioners must re-strategise and consider the inclusion of youths in the implementation of transfer-of-technology developmental programmes


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IDRC (undated): Electronic delivery of Agricultural information to rural communities background.htm Lightfoot, C. (2003) Demand-driven extension: some challenges for policy makers and managers. Presentation to CTA’s Sixth Consultative Expert Meeting of its Observatory on ICTs. Wageningen, the Netherlands: CTA. http://www.cta.int/observatory2003/keynote_ papers/Challenges_in-demanddriven_extension.pdf Microsoft Corporation (2003): Microsoft Encarta Encyclopaedia 2004. Mobolaji E. A. (2004): Some Issues in ICT for Nigerian Development. Paper presented at an E-contribution to an ICT Advocacy Forum/Workshop in Abuja (on October 16, 2004). NCC (2005): Trends in Telecommunication Markets in Nigeria, 2003 – 2004. Nigerian Communication Commission, Corporate Planning & Research Department. Abuja – Nigeria. NITDA (2003): The Nigerian National Information Technology Policy. National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). Abuja, Nigeria. URL http://www.nitda.gov.ng/nigeriaitpolicy.pdf Otaala, B. (1986): Child to child in southern Africa: A report of an international workshop held in Gaborone, Botswana, 25–29 August Paschal, B., Mihyo and O. Ogbu (2000): A Youth Leadership Program for Africa. African Youth on the Information Highway: Participation and Leadership in Community Development. IDRC, Canada UNDP (2001): Information Communications Technology for Development. Essentials ICTD 31. Synthesis of Lessons Learned. Evaluation Office No. 5 September. New York. URL http://www.undp.org/eo in Uganda. URL http://www.agricinfo.or.ug/


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