‘Wasted’ N48m ICT project in Ogun

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[A computer] looks like a television, I have seen it, but I have never touched it.

Tope, a 13-year old student, has only seen a computer a couple of times. He looked dreamy when he described it. “It looks like a television,” he said in Yoruba. He was quick to add that he never touched it and of course, he doesn’t know how to use it. His 15-year old brother, having lunch close by chimed in about his superior knowledge. “There is a cybercafé a bit far away from here.  I see these computers when I go there, and I have even touched them, but I don’t have money to pay for pressing the computer,” Kayode, Tope’s older brother boasted.

Their father, who rides a motorcycle and own a sparse tailoring shop in Ijebu-Igbo, cannot afford to buy a computer. Tope’s school certainly does not have such modern facilities. So his ‘television’ answer could have been accepted if a government-owned N24 million ICT centre is not a five minute walk from their father’s shop.

Welcome to Ijebu-Igbo ICT Centre

The provision of ICT centres in Ijebu North/Ijebu East/Ogun Waterside Constituency was part of the constituency projects approved by the House of Representatives in 2015.

Mr Adesegun Adekoya, who represents these constituents, facilitated the creation of the ICT centres to “encourage education and promote access and exposure to new technologies in the information and communication world.” These centres situated at Ago-Iwoye and Ijebu-Igbo cost N 48 million for execution.

In the first house on Agbowa Street, Ijebu-Igbo sits a palatial green two-storey building that houses the Ijebu-Igbo ICT Centre. Painted in green-white-green, a small sign board fills you with expectations of the many services provided at the centre; this includes, typesetting, photocopying, colour printing, free computer training, and more.  On the ground floor, there is a cement shop with stacks of cement for sale. After three minutes of knocking on the brown wooden door, a young boy opens the door; does not say a word and returns to his seat. There are three other children playing around the room. There are three seated adults chatting away. There are twelve other desktops.

Raising his voice, so that the booming music in the room does not swallow his voice, a fidgety attendant responds to questions about the use of the centre. He was unsure of the number of people that have undergone ICT training at the centre.  When asked whether the training were free, he refuses to speak saying that it is only his supervisor that can answer the question. Attempts to reach the supervisor were abortive.

The Ago-Iwoye ICT Centre

The Ago-Iwoye ICT centre located at the Ijebu North/Ijebu East/Ogun Waterside Constituency office, on Adenugba Street. A large banner announces the Hon Adekoya’s largesse to his community. The old dull brown building with mouldy stairs is not so different from its Ijebu-Igbo counterpart. The 24 million project is in a small room with frayed carpets. There are fifteen computers in the room; one printer; two generators sit at the entrance of the room.

When a request to browse was made, the ICT instructor explains that the ICT centre does not offer such services since their Wi-Fi is bad.  “People will come from Abuja to fix it.” He says as he hands his laptop already connected to an internet modem.

There is no electricity, although, there were two generators in the building. Two young ladies sat behind the computers, chatting away, while the ‘instructor’ was coaching a recent secondary school leaver in Economics.

After browsing incognito for about 10 minutes; the instructor was asked for the cost of the services. He requested for any amount deemed worthy for the serviced. He received N200.

Mr. Joshua Osiyemi, the project monitoring officer from Tracka says that not much learning takes place there, since students have to pay a particular amount of money for the training.

“Residents are required to pay N500 for identification cards, N1000 for desktop publishing and N300 per hour for internet browsing.”

There are two educational institutions where the ICT centres are located, Olabisi Onabanjo University and Abraham Adesanya Polytechnic. Also, several youths and children live and work around the centres, (which was supposedly created for their benefit), yet, they are oblivious to its existence. From conversations with some students in Ago-Iwoye, it is clear that majority think that ICT is synonymous to Google, which makes their assignments and projects easier.

The deployment of technology to solve practical problems is gray to them, while their counterparts in Ile Ife, Lagos and Ota are founding tech startups and inventing solutions.

When one thinks of rural settlements, a picture of petty farmers/traders with families living in poor conditions comes to mind. This depiction, in most parts of Nigeria, is not far from reality. They are often deprived of information and access to growth and modernity, left behind in the fast-paced and ever evolving technological world.

As of 2016, over 51% of Nigerians live in rural areas. Therefore, a free ICT training in towns such as Ijebu Igbo could kick-start development and a positive change in the quality of life of its dwellers. They would realize that farming can be done more efficiently, trading could be global, and there are numerous skills to be acquired. Their children’s curiosity would be piqued, they would challenge the status quo and embark on a journey to change their world.

However, many rural dwellers in Nigeria are abandoned at the mercy of politicians who swindle them by implementing high-costing projects of little benefit those in need. They are forced to stick with obsolete and laborious methods because the information that should have been accessible to them free of charge comes at a paid service, courtesy of their representatives.

The House of Representative member could not be reached at the time of this report.  However, in a statement through his lawyer (Titi Banjoko), he noted that residents have to pay to ensure an effective centre.

“The commitment of the Federal Government on the projects stopped at the provision and installation of those items and ICT facilities, and not beyond that especially in terms of maintenance, repairs and operations.”

Mr. Joshua reasoned that the project would have made more impact if ICT trainings were widely publicized and made attractive for residents in both towns. “If they had made ICT lessons an interesting adventure, the youth will jump at it. They will learn fast and it would have made more impact.”

If ICT education for the youth and children living in the rural areas is not well executed, then what chance do the likes of Tope and Kayode have in competing in this tech age?

Omolayo Omotola is a freelance journalist. 

Reporting done as part of BudgIT 2017 Media Fellowship. 

The post ‘Wasted’ N48m ICT project in Ogun appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.

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