Publisher: APCNews 07 August 2015
Each member provides the APC network its unique perspective and experience, thus participating in the construction of a rich and diverse global community. Nigeria’s Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) comes with an enlightening vision: “A knowledge-based democratic society free of hunger.” As CITAD joins APC, read its story in the words of one of its founders, Yanusa Ya’u.
How was the the centre founded?
In the early 1980s when I was lecturing at Bayero University, Kano, we introduced a course unit called Information Technology (IT) for final year students. At that time IT was only a concept. I taught the course for about three years and the students liked it, but it was not generally understood as something useful by the education administration, so in 1987 following a national harmonisation of curriculum of universities in the country, the course unit was phased out.
As I was convinced that we could not run away from IT, I sought for an alternative platform to continue to teach information technology knowledge to people who were interested. This was what led to my teaming with some colleagues to establish the Computer Literacy Project (CLP), an informal platform devoted to providing computer training to students and others.
Gradually the demand expanded and this was when we then decided to introduce the Learn and Teach Others (LATO) principle, requiring all those who benefited from our training to also agree to become volunteer trainers.
A few years later we asked ourselves a key question: what was the purpose of the computer literacy we were training people for? Certainly it was not just for its fun, and the conclusion crystallised in the idea of the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), meaning that we thought of a platform to push for ICTs as tools for development. CITAD became a space not only for ICT geeks but for activists committed to democracy, who saw ICTs as tools for democratisation.
Our goal since then has been to provide guidelines informed by both research and practice on how ICTs could be properly deployed in the efforts to promote sustainable development and good governance.
What’s unique about CITAD?
The uniqueness of CITAD is shaped by the circumstance of its founding that made it from the beginning to be driven by the spirit of volunteerism which finds anchorage in our flagship marker that is LATO. Using this approach, each alumnus of CITAD (for whatever programme) becomes a volunteer to give back to the organisation what he or she was given freely. This has enabled us to have limitless volunteers who are ready to offer time, resources, social networks and other services. This has made the centre not so much a centre in the conventional sense of a physical space but a centre of mass movement of people committed to the use of ICT to promote good governance and sustainable development.
What are you most proud of?
We feel greatly proud of our work using ICT to promote peace in the country. Over the last three years we have engaged in social media peace campaigns, mobilising citizens, government, community leaders and other organisations to realise that peace making is a collective responsibility. We have set up a hate speech observatory, monitoring and countering hate speech, especially in the context of the last general elections.
Why did you decide to join APC?
We feel that given our experience, networks and social placing, we can contribute in the furtherance of the objectives of APC while at the same time gaining from the experience, expertise and knowledge of the APC network to enhance the work we do.
We see also in APC a platform that can help us speak out to the global community on local issues. CITAD’s history as an organisation that provides services and does campaigns and policy advocacy means that it has a blend of experience that other organisations in APC could learn from. We think that given our social positioning, we could also leverage civil society voices to be a grassroots rooting for APC’s voice.