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The Information Age: A Great Tool for Nation-building

“Learning is the indispensable investment required for success in the ‘information age’ we are entering” Authors of report ‘A Nation at Risk’

A few years ago, Nigerians with assess to the internet was mainly focused on forming groups on Yahoo, AOL and Hotmail for chatting about the problems in Nigeria and a few with suggestions of what can be done. Out of these groups, businesses, political platforms, advocacy movement and a few other initiatives came forth.

With the advent of browsing on phones and mobile internet packages from service providers, the internet has, in addition to providing us with a platform to network & share ideas, been a powerful platform for getting information and for the mobilisation of people to action. The influence of the Social Media in the recent protest against the fuel subsidy removal is well acknowledged and documented. This is the information age.

Wikipedia describes the Information Age as ‘characterized by the ability of individuals to transfer information freely, and to have instant access to information that would have been difficult or impossible to find previously”.  As it’s always been my focus, let us assess how we can utilise the benefits for this Age in our effort to build a developed Nigeria.

Information Availability: A key benefit of the information age is the availability of information. This information is usually available at little or no cost and at instant access. Nowadays, we don’t need to wait for the printed newspaper to come out the next day to hear and see reports of an event in any part of Nigeria or the world.

 

The information age has made most information instant and this helps to remove secrecy in government. In Nigeria now, we are able to access the national, state & local government budgets with the breakdown on how much has been allocated to each sector and region (including details such as the feeding cost of our leaders).

 

Not only do we know the estimated recurrent & capital expenditure for the year, we also able to evaluate them, discover discrepancies, raise objections and demand more transparency. This government has been completely caught unawares with regards to the searchlight Nigerians have put on the Petroleum Industry sector. We now know who received oil subsidy payments, those who shouldn’t have been on the list of importers, capacity of our refineries and even what can & should be done to improve local production, generate more revenue and protect the industry from fraud.

 

But we need more Nigerians to regularly gather information on government expenditure, contract issuance & implementation, corruptible acts, etc., at all levels (local, state and federal). But before that, we need to gather sufficient on people who seek to stand for elections at all levels to ensure they have the pedigree to deliver credible leadership.

 

We must participate fully in this process to ensure transparency, accountability, reduced barriers in governance and support for credible leaders. When our political leaders know that the followers are actively monitoring their activities and there is no place to hide stolen wealth (the information age has made the world a global village accessed through the internet), there will be an increase in good governance.

 

Knowledge easily gained: As a result of the easy access to information, we are able to gain knowledge on issues that we had previously been ignorant about. This is a key benefit because when we feel ignorant about an issue, we can avoid discussing it and also can be easily deceived.

Like many Nigerians, I had no understanding of how importation of petroleum products worked. During the fuel subsidy removal protest, many of us accessed much of the relevant information online and read extensively. We may not have become petroleum industry experts but we cannot be easily lied to anymore because we understand how it works and in fact, we do know we should not have spent N1.7trn on fuel subsidy in 2011. We also know that with functional refineries operating at 90% capacity, our local requirements will be met and there will be no subsidy & more importantly, no price increase from N65 per litre.

The information age offers those willing to learn the opportunity to amass a wealth of knowledge that is within or outside their sphere of expertise. You don’t have to be a doctor to study a particular ailment and recognise the diagnosis & know the action to take. In fact, there have been several cases of people who got diagnosed with a particular ailment by their doctors but through extensive research they have identified the correct ailment, the solution and where to get treatment.

The point is not to eliminate or become experts but through knowledge gained, we are able to make a more informed decision and take an informed action. This is critical for nation-building because we now know we can research, identify and implement solutions at the various challenging points of our society. It is no longer acceptable to see a problem and ignore it because we don’t know anything about it.

In 1983 in America, the authors of the report ‘A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform’ stated that “Learning is the indispensable investment required for success in the ‘information age’ we are entering”. It is essential for us to recognise the importance of continuous learning to enable us gain the knowledge that would be required to not only carefully monitor government activities but also to implement innovative solutions in the problems areas of our nation

For nation-building to be accelerated, our leadership in all sectors (politics, business, family, community & faith) must invest sufficient time to gaining new knowledge to enable improved leadership. At this stage of our development, we must reduce the time spent on leisure (watching football matches, reading football news, watching movies & reality shows, out at drinking bars, etc.).

Learn best practices from other places: The information age has turned the world into a global village and as a result, we are able to gain information & knowledge from not only local sources but from any region of the world. This means, we can learn best practices from across the globe and apply to our situation.

We can learn from the Western Europe example or American example or even from the example of emerging economics like China, India, Brazil and Malaysia. With the availability of all these information, it is even possible to learn from all the various best practices and then create a solution that best suit the Nigerian challenge.

The information age provides us with a great opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of other people as it makes the search for a solution global rather than just local. We must harness this to the optimum as we seek solutions that will lead to our national development.

It is important for us to recognise that our situation is not impossible or peculiar, as every developed country has passed through this phase to get to their developed stage. The best practices of their past and the present are available for us to study, adopt or fine tune and apply in Nigeria.

Encourages innovation: One of the biggest challenges, I believe, we face in nation-building is the use of thoughts and approaches that are outdated and not applicable today. The information age gives us the information, knowledge and best practices that should broaden our horizon and enable the adoption of new approaches & the generation of new ideas.

If we are going to build Nigeria, we must become innovative in developing and implementing the Nigerian solutions to our national challenges. Whether the issue is our federalism, power, educational curriculum, terrorism, petroleum products production/distribution/marketing, road construction, rail transportation, fuel for cars, etc., there is an urgent need to utilise the benefits of the information age to initiate new solutions to these and other problems.

In the final analysis, if we are waiting for those in government to harness the benefit of the information age for our national development, we might wait forever. The call is upon every Nigerian, especially the educated class with regular access to the internet, to carry this burden. This can only be achieved through a 100% commitment to use the abundant & readily available resources to build a developed Nigeria. The time to learn and to build Nigeria is now.

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