INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY FOR YOUTH EMPOWERMENT IN NIGERIA: A CASE STUDY OF STUDENTS IN THE UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
This study seeks to answer the following research questions:
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 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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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)
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?
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?
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?
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)
Lack of knowledge 54 12.7
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.
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.
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.
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