News and views... from the 'developing' world

Keeping track of ICT issues in the so-called “developing world” can always be a challenge, simply because these issues hardly get discussed in the ‘information society’.Here’s one report CTO CEO Sees Bumpy Rides in Roadmap for Networking the Commonwealth for Development that looks at technology issues in the network of nations linked by a shared history in (British) colonialism.

Keeping track of ICT issues in the so-called “developing world” can always be a challenge, simply because these issues hardly get discussed in the ‘information society’.Here’s one report CTO CEO Sees Bumpy Rides in Roadmap for Networking the Commonwealth for Development that looks at technology issues in the club of nations linked by a shared history in (British) colonialism.

It says: “[The Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), Dr Ekwow] Spio-Garbrah stated that whereas the theme for the CHOGM aimed at focussing attention on the digital divide and how networking within the Commonwealth could help address developmental issues amongst and within nations, the Heads of State’s concerns and interest in bridging the digital divide ended up as only a small paragraph 52 in a 60 paragraph final Communique dominated by political and other socio-economic issues.

““In view of what ICTs can do to help solve some of the problems identified by Heads of State in the areas of trade, aid, debt, terrorism, corruption, etc, it would have been quite instructive if Heads of State had seen it fit to weave the role of ICTs into some of these understandably topical issues”, the CTO CEO said in a separate interview.”

And: “The CTO CEO remarked that although the Tunis WSIS had focussed on the role of the Internet and the challenge of providing adequate financing for bridging the digital divide, the Malta Summit had not focussed on these issues.

“Both Summits, however, had agreed some financial arrangements for implementing aspects of their decisions, with a Digital Solidarity Fund established within the WSIS process, and a Special Fund approved within the Commonwealth process.

“However, both of these funds are voluntary in nature, have as yet to receive any commitments from the major international development partners or agencies, and are therefore not expected to be significantly successful in mobilising the needed funds, especially for the major investments in infrastructure that a region such as Africa needs if it is to develop knowledge economies and societies, Dr Spio-Garbrah said.” frontpaged this report on December 7, titled The $100 Laptop and Nigeria’s Computer Literacy. Tayo Ajakaye wondered “if any Nigerian state government plans to buy the $100 for her citizens.”

From this report:

Although Negroponte disclosed that the most enthusiastic interest had come from Brazil and Thailand, two other African countries, Egypt and Nigeria were mentioned as countries to receive the first batch of laptops starting in February or March. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who was himself at the Tunis WSIS had given the Nigerian commitment to pay $1 Million for its first batch.

One of the advantages of the Laptop for a country like Nigeria is that many of the school children will know what a laptop looks like in the first instance. Many of them, especially in the rural areas could barely distinguish a television set from a computer monitor for now. Showing them a laptop will make them know the difference between one, and what he might suppose is a ‘modern’ briefcase. It will definitely aid computer literacy. The interest the apearnace would generate alone would make the children wanting to use it.

The fact is, this is where everybody will still come to, whether there is a cruel lack of amenities in the rural areas or not. Information Technology is the next level, whether one lives in the village or in the city.

An argument that had come up with the emergence of the Laptop is that it is still too expensive at $100 or the more realistic price of $115 for most African and Nigerian families. That many families could barely live on $200 per annum and spending half that amount on a laptop just won’t work.

But the same rural dwellers had embraced the cell phone wholeheartedly. The use of cell phone costs them each minute they use it. Even when they receive calls, someone was paying for it at the other end. The use of Laptop would not carry that everyday overhead.

But even if the acquisition were on the high side, what do we have governments for? Since the reports came out, how many state governments are already liaising with the federal government on the possibility of buying the Laptop and flooding the state public schools with it?

Another report from Nigeria comes from The Vanguard, and is titled NeGST showcases solutions at WSIS.

Giving an apparently-official point of view, it says The Nigeria eGovernment Strategies Ltd was at Tunis and Gbenga Adebusuyi was there to “showcase the huge advances which Nigeria has made in the area of eGovernment”.

One of the flag ship products which Adebusuyi spoke about at WSIS is the telemedicine project which NeGST rolled out in cooperation with the national Hospital in Abuja recently.He said that with telemedicine, healthcare delivery is brought to the people no matter where they reside.

“Healthcare delivery is in the doldrums. With telemedicine, it is possible to make quality healthcare available to the remotest areas of Nigeria. It facilitates contact between a very remote station and a doctor in a different location. So we can have a team of doctors in the Lagos Teaching Hospital, Idi Araba, for instance, addressing the needs of a patient hundreds of kilometers away in a village, Adebusuyi said, as he explained the importance of telemedicine to the Nation’s healthcare delivery needs.

Adebusuyi also said that NeGST had some rural access devices which it had already launched. The most significant, he said, is the e-kiosk. The e-kiosk, according to him, come in different specifications. There is the mobile e-kiosk which moves on a tricycle and the stationary e-kiosk.

The e-kiosk is a device with computer with Internet access which makes it possible for rural dwellers to access the Internet and transact business with the outside world.

IT as a magic wand to take care of all our ills and problems?