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JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT VOLUME 7 NO 2, DECEMBER, 2009

INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY FOR YOUTH EMPOWERMENT IN NIGERIA: A CASE STUDY OF STUDENTS IN THE UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS
Blessing F. Adeoye
E-mail: bless_adeoye@yahoo.com
and
S. A. Bello
Faculty of Education, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
s-bello@unilag.edu.ng
 

Abstract

This study explored the extent to which students use ICTs for empowerment. A sample of 500 students across various departments in the University of Lagos participated in this study.  Students were asked to respond to a questionnaire to ascertain the extent to which they are using ICTs for empowerment and personal development.  The findings revealed that many of the participants use ICTs for academic work, communications and pleasure. It also recorded many barriers the participants were having with the use of ICT.

Keywords: Information and communication technology, youth empowerment, e-learning


Introduction

Information and communication technology (ICT) is fast becoming a popular means of youth empowerment and economics turn around in many countries. Young people looking for meaningful, secure, income-generating work make up a sizable proportion of the population in developing countries. Demographic trends show that the total youth are growing numerically; making up more than two-thirds of the population of some developing nations. Trends show that about 85% of the world’s youth reside in developing countries (Sobeih, 2007). Young people need to be empowered and prepared for the future and ICT can assist in this process.

According to Abulkhirat (2006), ICTool breaks barriers to human development and therefore empowers youth in at least three ways not possible before or with other forms of technology.  The three ways are listed below:

  • Breaking barriers to human knowledge - Access to information and education is indispensable in building human capabilities.
  • Breaking barriers to participation - The world has witnessed innovative uses of the Internet and other ICTools in enhancing political participation as well as in bringing about greater transparency and accountability.
     
  • Breaking barriers to economic opportunity - Since the ICT sector requires less initial investment than the more traditional sectors of industrial activity, it lowers the barriers to entry into the economy for people who could never break into the industrial sector.

 

Over the past decade, ICT has brought about marvelous opportunities and activities in the military and business fields, as well as provided new employment opportunities in economically advanced countries (Tamara, 2002). Nigeria’s interest in the diffusion of ICT and the consequent development of an information society has been backed up by programmes and numerous related initiatives such as the implementation of its Information Technology (IT) policy in April 2001.  Although, Nigeria’s ministry of education is yet to fully design its ICT policy for education, the Ministry’s ICT department was created in February 2007. However, several different initiatives by government agencies and the private sector to introduce and promote ICTs in education are underway in Nigeria. Also, several government agencies and other stakeholders in the private sector have initiated ICT-driven projects and programmes to impact all levels of the educational sector.
Technologies such as learning management systems, portals, PDAs, wireless technologies and web services are being used to create virtual communities that provide an interactive platform for learning.  Also, information and communication technologies, which include radio and television, as well as newer digital technologies such as computers and the Internet have been touted as potentially powerful enabling tools for educational change and reform (Tinio, 2002).  When used appropriately, ICTs are meant to help expand access to education, strengthen the relevance of education to the increasingly digital workplace, and raise educational quality by, among others, helping make teaching and learning into an engaging, active process connected to real life.  However, the experience of introducing different ICTs in the classroom and other educational settings all over the world in the past several decades suggests that the full realization of the potential educational benefits of ICTs is not automatic.

Statement of the problem

Looking at ICT tools, their opportunities and risks, particularly as an instrument for poverty reduction, it is still an extraordinary undertaking in African countries (Abulkhirat, 2006).  While the potential of ICT for stimulating economic growth, socio-economic development and effective governance is well recognized, the benefits of ICTs have been unevenly distributed within and between countries.  The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015.

There is a need to build awareness among decision makers and stakeholders, including regional organizations and private sector, on the need for investment in ICT capacity building at all levels of formal and non-formal education. This includes training development workers to incorporate ICTs in their activities. Sobeih stated that emphasis should be placed on training women and youth about using ICTs and ensuring the inclusion of disadvantaged groups (Sobeih, 2007).



Obviously, young people are Africa’s greatest asset for the present and future, but they also represent a group with serious vulnerabilities. Today’s youth are faced with high levels of economic and social uncertainty. Compared to adults, the youth of today are more than three times as likely to get involved in dubious activities if they were not engaged in meaning activities.  All too often, their full potential is not realized because they do not have access to decent and productive life opportunities (Abulkhirat, 2006). 

In the context of the "digital divide," the difference in resources and capabilities to access and effectively utilize ICT for development continues to rise.  The capacity of young people to exploit the potential of new ICTs as tools for empowerment is inhibited in many ways. For instance, many young people in Nigeria are yet to understand that outstanding economic growth can be achieved through the use of ICTs.  It was observed at many Internet cafes outside the campus that many students use the Internet for their homework while many use it for dubious activities at the cafes off the campus.  In order for the youths in Nigeria to be info-empowered, there has to be awareness of the use of ICT for empowerment, greater access to ICT tools, and an obstructed free flow of information.  There is a need to explore how the students are using ICTs.

Purpose

Therefore, the purpose of this exploratory study is to find out how young people are using the ICTs and how the tools can be used to empower them.

Research questions

This study seeks to answer the following research questions:

  1. What is the status of ICT usage among the young people in Nigerian universities?
  2. What are the current views of young people concerning ICTs as empowering tools?
  3. What are the empowerment-related challenges in the use of ICT among the young people?

Research Design

A quantitative research design was used in this study; specifically, the study adopted the descriptive survey research design. Self-administered questionnaire, containing 15 items was used to collect data.
 
The validity of the measuring instrument was ensured through a panel approach (face validity). With this technique, qualified people were recruited to generate the content and determine that the technique taps the content to be measured (Frey et al., 1991). In using this approach, the validity of the measurement depends on the credentials of the panel members. For the purpose of this study, three lecturers (one social psychologist, one technologist, and one methodologist) were employed as panel members.   

Methodology

The participants consist of 500 undergraduate students enrolled in FED 301 (Introduction to Educational Technology) during the first and second semester 2006/2007 academic year.  Five hundred surveys were distributed and only 426 were completed and returned. The majority of them were male (45%) compared to 22% females. According to the data collected, there is an indication that males use ICT more than females.  In regard to the participants’ age, the majority of them were below 26 years old (43%).

A questionnaire was used to collect information from the students.  Participants were students who enrolled in a large class (FED 301).  The class was divided into two sections (A and B) of 500 hundred students each.  The course was a Faculty course that consists of 1,000 students from eleven departments.  Two hundred and fifty students were randomly selected from each section to participate in the study.  They were asked to respond to the questionnaire to ascertain their awareness of the use of ICT, accessibility, and usability of ICT tools. 

Data Analysis

After the data collection, the data was coded and entered into Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS).  The secondary analysis of the data was done with descriptively. Specifically, frequencies on each single variable and cross tabulations (chi square analyses) on some pairs of variables were conducted. The frequencies provide a general view of the data; while the cross tabulations (chi square analysis) provide the level of relationship and their significance.  

Findings

The findings revealed that many of the participants use ICTs for academic work, communications and other reasons.  The following tables (Tables 1 to 8) present specific information on the findings.


Table 1: How do you often use ICT?
____________________________________________________
Variables                                            f                      %
____________________________________________________
Online classes                                  35                    10.5
Conduct research                           173                    42.5
School work                                  134                    31.5
Network                                           58                    13.5
Total                                              400                  100
____________________________________________________


The researchers asked the respondents to specify how they use ICT.  The aim was to track the use of ICT and how ICT supports their academic work.  The study (see Table 1) revealed that 42% of participants use ICT to conduct research, 32% use it for schoolwork, 14% for networking and communication while only 10% use it for online classes.  On the University’s website, there are three e-learning platforms in the Learning Management System.  The intension of the university is to use these tools to support teaching and learning.  This study was not able to conclude how the students and lecturers use the Learning Management System, but it revealed that only 10% of the students use it for online classes.


 

Table 2: Approximately how many of your use of internet include the following?
_____________________________________________________________
       Variables                                               f                           %                
_____________________________________________________________
Communication between you and
your lecturers                                               44                    20.8                                            
Moderated online discussion                         4                      2.0
Unmoderated online discussion                                   4                                  2.0
Online testing                                               52                    24.2
Missing data                                               322                    50.0
Total                                                          426                  100.0
______________________________________________________________

                                                                 


When the participants were asked how they use the Internet for communication between them and their lecturers, moderated online discussion, unmoderated online discussion, online testing; majority of them did not respond to this question (see Table 2).  The reason for not answering this question may be attributed to the fact that many of them do not have email accounts.  The lack of email account may be attributed to a number of reasons such as high cost of Internet usage, lack of interest, computer literacy, very small number of PCs in the university cafes, poor services provided by most cybercafés. This is unfortunate because it perpetuates the digital divide and the empowerment of the youth by way of less information and knowledge transfer and consequently lack of empowerment.  For those that responded, about 21% communicate with their lecturers with email, 2% use email for moderated online discussions, another 2% use it for unmoderated online discussions while 24% use it for online testing.


Table 3: How often do you use email in a week?
_____________________________________________________________
Variables                                                      f                           %                
_____________________________________________________________
Once to twice a week                                 142                    34.3                                            
Three to four times a week                        126                    30.4
Everyday                                                     90                    21.7
Never                                                           54                    12.6
Missing data                                                   4                      1.0
Total                                                          426                  100.0
______________________________________________________________


Internet continued to be most often used at the discretion of the individual student. This was the case in 34% that indicate that they use the Internet once to twice a week, 30% that use it three to four times a week, and 22% that use it everyday.  Only 13% of the respondents indicate that they never use the Internet (see table 3).  It is important to note that in the Faculty of Education, there are three Internet Cafes being run by private providers.  The problems with these cafes are over population, high cost, slow servers, and frequent electricity failure.  Majority of the students do not have another means of using the Internet; they depend on the café to get their work done.


Table 4: How they use the internet in the school (N = 426)
_____________________________________________________________
Variables                                                      f                           %                
_____________________________________________________________
Homework                                                   38                      8.9                                            
Chatting                                                       86                    20.2
Searching information                               196                    46.0
Sending/receiving e-mail                              88                    20.7
Other                                                             2                      0.5
Missing data                                                 16                      3.8
Total                                                          426                  100.0
______________________________________________________________

It has been noticed that the way students use the Internet at schools may be different from the way they use it outside the school, for this reason, they were asked how they use the Internet in the school.  Table 4 presents that 9% use the Internet for homework, 20% use it to chat with friends, 46% use to search for information online, 21% use it for sending and receiving email. It appears that students use the Internet to communicate and socialize.  At the same time, the e-mail is regarded as a means for communication either for leisure or for academic purposes. However, only 9% see the Internet more as a tool for getting homework done rather than a place for them to socialize.  Although the findings above are consistent with those by Silong et al. (2001) who found high levels of competency among online learners in word processing, the Internet and e-mail as these are highly utilised applications for educational purposes. The only concern with our study was that we were not sure the students were using it for educational purposes. 

 

Table 5: How effective do you think ICT has been in helping you educationally?
_____________________________________________________________
Variables                                                      f                           %                
_____________________________________________________________
Very effective                                           148                    34.0                                            
Effective                                                    132                    33.0
Unsure                                                         52                    13.0
Not effective                                               48                    12.0
Not effective at all                                       20                      5.0
Total                                                          426                  100.0
______________________________________________________________


Effects of the use of ICT was considered significant as 34% indicate it was very effective, 33% indicate it was effective, only 13% were not sure, 12% indicate that ICT was not effective, and 5% indicate it was not effective at all.  Many reasons can be attributed to the participants’ opinion regarding effectiveness of the use of ICT; particularly when considering their lack of access to ICT tools, cost of Internet connectivity and irregular supply of electricity.

Table 6: How would you describe your knowledge of the use of ICT?
_____________________________________________________________
Variables                                                      f                           %                
_____________________________________________________________
Some knowledge                                         72                    16.9                                            
No knowledge                                             72                    16.9
Have knowledge, but poor usage               180                    42.2
Excellent                                                      76                    17.8
Total                                                          400
______________________________________________________________


We asked respondents to describe their knowledge of the use of ICT.  Table 6 presents that about 17% of them claimed to have some knowledge of ICT, another 17% claimed to have no knowledge of ICT, 42% have good knowledge, but could not use ICT.  This can be explained by the facts that many have ICT tools but could not use them because of lack of electricity. Some (17%) claimed to have excellent knowledge with usage of ICT.  


Table 7: How likely do you think you will use ICT to support your learning in the next 2 years?
_____________________________________________________________                      
Variables                                            f                                    %                   
_____________________________________________________________
Very likely                                     156                                38
Likely                                              90                                22
Not sure                                           76                                19
Unlikely                                           52                                21
Total                                              406
______________________________________________________________
                                                                 
                                                                 


In regards to the future of ICT, 38% are very likely to use the Internet, 22% indicate they would like to use it, 19% were not sure and only 21% indicate no interest in the future use of the Internet (see Table 7). The percentage of the students that indicate they would like to use ICT to support learning in the future is very low for various reasons.  The findings in Table 8 support that many students lack ICT knowledge, have no skills, lack training, and complained of poor ICT infrastructure.  Students’ perceptions will soon be changed as the government and many higher institutions are addressing these problems.


 

Table 8: What are the barriers are you having in using ICT (N=403)
_____________________________________________________________
                                          
Variables                                            f                                    %                   
_____________________________________________________________

Lack of knowledge                          54                                12.7
Lack of skills                                   64                                15.0
Lack of training                             100                                23.5
Lack of demand                              83                                20.2
Organization’s infrastructures        102                                23.9
Total                                              403
_______________________________________________________________

Participants recorded many barriers they were having with the use of ICT.  Some of the barriers are recorded in Table 8 above.  Thirteen percent lack ICT knowledge, 15% lack skills, 24% lack training, 20% indicate lack of demand for ICT (they do not see a need for it) and 24% complained about ICT infrastructure.  Also, findings from the study indicated that students experienced major challenges with slow speed of servers, paucity of infrastructure and lack of encouragement from their lecturers. These findings were supported by Adeoye and Udeani, (2008) in which they also reported that students experienced major challenges with regards to ownership of personal computers, Internet accessibility, slow speed of servers, paucity of infrastructure and lack of encouragement from their lecturers.

Implications

ICTs are widely believed to be important potential tools to help in the economic and youth development efforts. Despite evidence of increasingly widespread use of ICTs in education initiatives around the world, however, there is little guidance available for policy makers to meet the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDG).  As the world has become a global village, it can be concluded that universities in Nigeria and by extension other developing countries should improve on existing infrastructure before the introduction of e-learning as part of the teaching and learning tools. This will prepare the young people to be empowered at various educational and professional levels.  As e-learning grows, more organizations will conduct business globally, and thus more companies will be required to move training into the global arena (Adeoye, 2004).  ICT readiness will prepare Nigeria youth to be competitive in the global connections.

Recommendations

ICT holds a lot of potential for economic growth and Nigeria being the "giant" of Africa needs to wake up and take the initiative of empowering her youths for the challenges ahead; more investment has to be made in the ICT sector, subsidies have to be introduced to reduce the exorbitant cost of acquisition and implementation of ICT tools in Nigeria today.  In fact, a state of emergency should be declared in the ICT sector

of the economy and incentives provided to encourage more youths to pursue careers in the ICT industry.

ICT capability is about having the technical and cognitive proficiency to access appropriately, to use, develop, create and communicate information using technological tools. Many of the students that participated in this study demonstrate this capability by purposefully applying technology to solve problems, analyse and exchange information, develop ideas, create models and control devices. They are discriminating in their use of ICT tools, and systematic in reviewing and evaluating the contributions ICT can make to their work as it progresses.

Some of the drawbacks to the effective utilization of ICTs are the generally epileptic and insufficient supply of electric power across the country. The nation generates 3,500 megawatts of electricity against a required minimum of 5,500 megawatts. Several communities in the urban areas lack electric power. Rural communities are worse off because of the absence of infrastructure.  This phenomenon is prevalent nationwide and constitutes the bottleneck to effective countrywide deployment of ICT in education.

In order for Nigeria youths to be info-empowered, there has to be greater access to ICT tools, there has to be an unobstructed free flow of information and training on proper usage. This unfortunately is not the case presently in Nigeria. Public Internet access, especially in schools is an important public good deserving political and financial support, if not the status of a universal service (Levine, 2000).  The awareness brought about with this study will help in facilitating use of ICT for empowerment and economic growth.

The importance of information technology cannot be overemphasized; therefore, government cannot afford to allow it to flop.  This study support the recommendations of Akinsola, Herselman, and Jacobs, (2005), in a similar study where they argue that bridging the digital divide in disadvantaged communities requires adequate knowledge of the underlying causes of the divide, a favourable Government policy, a focus on the benefits of providing ICT,

the provision of suitable infrastructure, and a committed management that is prepared to get round the various barriers or risks found in

disadvantaged communities. In addition, the cost of some of ICT tools should be subsidized so that accessibility could be easier and less expensive.

References

Abulkhirat, E. (2006).  ICTool for African Youth Empowerment. [Online] Available at:
http://www.africa-union.org/root/ua/Conferences/2007/decembre/HRST/06-07%20dec/ICT%20Empowering%20Youth_3.pd.  (Retrieved Mar 10, 2009).

Adeoye, B. F. (2004).  The relationship between national culture and usability of an e-learning system. Unpublished dissertation, University of Illinois.

Adeoye, B.F. and Udeani, U. (2008).  Students barriers to using e-learning at the University of Lagos, Nigeria.  The International Conference on Technology, Communication and Education.  Kuwait, April 7th to 9th.

Ajayi, G. (2003).  NITDA and ICT in Nigeria.  The National Information
Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Abuja, Nigeria. [Online] Available at: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/internet/page/43.

Akinsola, O.S, Herselman, M.E, Jacobs, S.J., (2005).  ICT provision to disadvantaged
urban communities: a study in South Africa and Nigeria.  International Journal of Education and Development using ICT. Vol. 1, No. 3.  

DFES (2004).  Pedagogy and practice: teaching and learning in secondary schools.
Ref: DfES 0438-2004 G.

Frey, L., Botan, C., Friedman, P. & Kreps, G. (1991). Investigating communication: an
introduction to research methods. NJ: Prentice-Hall

Tamara, N.  (2002).  Knowledge-based economic growth and socio-political
Implications in Indonesia.  [Online] Available at:  http://www.worldbank.org/wbi/pubsbysubject_devecon.html.  (Retrieved May 14, 2009).

Silong, A.D., Ibrahim, D.Z. & Samah, B. (2001). Perception of working adults’ toward
online learning in a Virtual University. [Online] Available at: http://pppjj.usm.my/mojit/articles/pdf/Dec05/08%20-%20Gender_differences[1]-final.pdf
  (Retrieved May 14, 2009).

Sobeih, A. (2007).  ICT and enterprise development.  [Online] Available at:
http://www.yesweb.org/yes2008/doc/ICT&Enterprise_Development.pdf.  (Retrieved May 14, 2009).

Wikipedia (2009).   Millennium Development Goals [Online] Available at:
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDG. (Retrieved June 14, 2009)