Women development centres as ICT hubs
With Adekunle Adekoya
Last week, the issue here was about connecting rural communities with ICTs, wherein it was stated that the issue is part of the objectives of the Geneva Plan of Action of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS).
I also averred that if we are serious about actualizing this particular objective, there is both an institution and resource that we have ignored all along; or if we did not ignore it, certainly the requisite attention has neither been paid nor has the appropriate resources made available. The institution I talked about was NIPOST, while the resources is the nationwide network of post offices. This week, the focus of connecting the rural communities is on the people there — largely the women and children, as well as the old men and the infirm, who depend on remittances from the urban centres to power their personal economies.
Now, last May, the e-Nigeria summit held in Abuja, organized by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). There, two lady members of the NITDA board, Mrs Titi Salau and Princess Ethel Eweka in an interview said that if Vision 20-2020 were to be realized, the womenfolk and children must join the information super highway through ICT, but in our local languages.
Good point. While we are waiting for the necessary protocols towards that (somebody writes a paper about it; a politician who sees “money”in it promotes it in government; it goes to National Assembly as a bill; it gets passed; it becomes law; a commission/parastatal is created to execute it; etc, etc…), there is another resource we assembled piecemeal, more or less nationwide, but which is becoming irrelevant to the needs of the communities.
I am talking about the various women development centres that our state and federal first ladies acquired millions to build, since the Better Life for Rural Women programme of late Mrs Maryam Babangida. In almost every local government headquarters nationwide can be found a building dedicated to one welfare programme or the other under the auspices of incumbent or former first ladies. I am here advocating that we devise plans by which such centres can be used in executing programmes that are 21st century-compliant.
It is good if rural women can acquire skills they didn’t hitherto have at such centres, but it is even better if they can partake of the ICT wonders going on around them. In this era of internet and the vast improvements it has brought in terms of communications in this part of the world, life can only be better for the rural woman if the women development centres are brought into the loop of grassroots ICT penetration.
This is easily done by providing a few desktops with internet connection in the centres. As noted in the earlier piece, the computers would need maintenance men who would also be the ones showing the village folk how to use them. Again, it is another area by which youthful population can be retained in the villages, thus stemming the current rural-urban exodus.
With computers and internet available in the villages, and for the womenfolk at their centres, new ways of doing many things will become known to them. Thus, we will be banishing ignorance, diminishing poverty, and reducing disease. There is nothing we will lose from trying; but a lot will continue to get lost if we don’t try. Let one first lady try this one, now!