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How are APC members improving their communities’ lives? In this column we’re highlighting stories of impact and change by our members, supported by APC subgranting. For CITAD, this has manifested in the development of numerous projects aimed at bridging digital divides and empowering local communities in Nigeria.

Based in Nigeria, the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has been a member of the APC network since 2015, and in that time has engaged in an impressive number and range of projects seeking to leverage technology for sustainable development and good governance. Focusing in particular on empowering youth and women, they are continually looking at innovative uses of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve access to information, build skills and help connect people with necessary resources. Education, advocacy and ICT business promotion are three pillars of their approach to their work.

Connecting women across the airwaves

One particularly meaningful manifestation of CITAD’s advocacy work was back in 2016, when they developed a 13-part series that aired on the radio. The overall focus of the programme was online gender-based violence, and it was conducted as part of a project that aimed to build capacity among 500 women and girls in preventing digital violence.

The concept of creating a radio programme (as opposed to an online campaign) was a strategic decision. In the words of CITAD’s executive director, Y. Z. Ya’u, “Women listen to the radio – it has a certain credibility, and it also reaches those without internet access.” Thanks to a subgrant from APC, this radio series was broadcast widely and ensured that important information and resources were readily available to local communities who tuned in.

CITAD’s advocacy for gender digital inclusion has resulted in the Nigeria Internet Governance Forum (NIGF) starting a Women-IGF as a pre-event to the national IGF. This followed piloting by CITAD, and last year the NIGF took over and mainstreamed it as a regular yearly event. This advocacy was also supported by a subgrant from APC.

Photo: Dr. Sana Abdullahi Mu'az of the Department of Software Engineering, Bayero University, Kano presenting a paper on Gender Technology and at Bauchi Feminist Internet School organised by CITAD. (CITAD)

Advocating for inclusive learning

More recently, CITAD embarked on another important project, this time with the intent of examining the experiences of people with disabilities in higher institutions of learning in Nigeria. Through a small grant they received from APC in 2019, CITAD was able to identify numerous gaps in both policy and practice for the inclusion of people with disabilities. For example, they noted a distinct lack of policies for teachers on how to work with people with disabilities, a phenomenon present across many institutions. Giving a particularly troubling example, Ya’u explained that, “You have a situation where visually impaired students will use a recorder to record, but because there are no policies some lecturers will chastise them in front of the class.”

Citing digital exclusion as a major barrier for people with disabilities attending higher institutions of learning, Ya’u described a plethora of ways that they can get left out or left behind. “There are very few institutions that have special facilities for people with disabilities,” he noted. This means libraries with minimal access to e-books as well as entrance examinations that require technical literacy to participate. When even admission to higher learning is an obstacle, active enrollment and engagement become next to impossible.

The result is that people with disabilities in Nigeria often end up being pushed into special education studies. Without facilities that offer accommodation or policies for digital inclusion, dreams of advanced studies such as law and engineering become unattainable. CITAD’s research in this area continues to evolve as they explore ways to advocate for digital inclusion.

Amplifying impact together

With the opportunities that are created through subgranting, Ya’u highlighted how APC members are able to engage in meaningful work that they might otherwise not be able to do. Having access to this source of funding, Ya’u said, “has allowed members to gain more experience, in a way to get rooted in their own communities.” By not having to undergo elaborate application and reporting processes as is generally the case with large grants, organisations have more agility to respond quickly and effectively to changing contexts.

One positive outcome from this is that organisations like CITAD can focus on local issues while connecting with and learning from other organisations doing similar work in the region and beyond. As Ya’u noted, “We create a voice on local issues. When we speak locally, APC provides a platform to get our voices out into a wider space. In a way, subgranting brings its voice to local contexts, and takes our own voice into the global space.”

To that end, CITAD has collaborated with another APC member in Nigeria, Fantsuam Foundation, who also mobilise ICTs to fight poverty and disadvantage in Nigeria. Through three different subgrants, CITAD has been able to work with Fantsuam Foundation on training and capacity building, and as Ya’u added, “because of that we have involved them in other work that we do.” This is an encouraging example of how short-term financial support can help develop mutually resourceful and beneficial relationships between civil society organisations, and help bridge the digital separation of APC members.

Along with seeding numerous projects through APC subgrants, CITAD is also working with community networks on the APC project “Connecting the Unconnected: Supporting community networks and other community-based connectivity initiatives”, joining other APC members working toward meaningful access in order to amplify impact.

Photo: CITAD Community Network Project team pays a learning visit to Fantsuam Foundation Community Networks team, Kafanchan. (CITAD)


This piece is a version of a story highlighted in Continuing the conversation: Lessons from APC subgranting, a report that presents the findings of interviews and surveys of APC members and partners who were recipients of funding through its core subgranting programme, supported by Sida, and of subgrants offered through other APC projects and staff working on subgranting in the organisation.

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