Towards a knowledge-based society
To compete in the global economy, Nigeria must acquire the technological skills of the developed world. For Nigerias population 44% of whom are under 15 years of age the drive is on to develop a modern, knowledge-based society.
During the early stages of Olusegun Obasanjos presidency, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) was established, and plans to make Nigeria a key player in IT by 2005.
Director General of the National IT Development Agency
G. Olalere Ajayi, Director General of NITDA, says Nigeria could
emulate the success of the Asian tiger nations. He is particularly impressed
by Malaysias multimedia corridor, the equivalent of Californias
The movers in Malaysias multimedia corridor are young people between 25 and 35, many of them managing directors, he says. As a university professor for many years, Mr. Ajayi believes there is plenty of similar talent in Nigeria.
Mr. Ajayi says the response, from both foreign firms and local businesses, to the IT initiative has been very positive. Weve collaborated with the private sector in many projects, especially conferences and workshops aimed at spreading awareness of the importance of IT to national development. The government recognizes the private sector as the driver for IT development, and is creating an enabling environment for investment.
More than $100 million is being invested in IT training schemes for young people, in collaboration with international companies such as Cisco. There are also public awareness campaigns promoting the benefits of IT and the internet.
Nigeria is now manufacturing computer hardware. A computer keyboard incorporating three of the main languages spoken in Nigeria Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba has been developed, and more IT production and software companies are being established.
Earlier this year, NITDAs made in Nigeria mobile internet units were commissioned. These are luxury buses equipped with computers with multimedia facilities such as realtime international internet access, and generators which, will enable them to operate anywhere in the country.
has other projects in the pipeline, including six regional IT parks. The agency
is also playing a key role in creating e-government, or Smart (simple, moral,
accountable, responsive, and transparent) Government.
We have a target to train 500,000 Nigerians in IT within the next two to three years, says Mr. Ajayi. This can only be done through public-private partnership.
Nigeria is the major economy in West Africa, and it is set to play a leading role in the region, he adds. IT investment in Nigeria will easily spread the market into West Africa. We need investment in our IT parks to create a multimedia corridor as in Malaysia. The opportunities are great, and the government is providing tax holidays and other incentives.
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