Some experts working towards advancement of technology and digital transformation in Nigeria, yesterday, disclosed that 60 per cent of Nigerians do not have access to smartphones or digital devices.
According to them, the situation, which has been compounded by limited Internet penetration, means that more than half of the population, mostly children in rural areas and vulnerable groups, are without access to technology or the Internet.
The experts spoke in Abuja at the ongoing Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum 2021 (DRIF21) organised to discuss ways to make the Internet and technological infrastructure more accessible to children in vulnerable communities.
At one of the sessions hosted by TechHerNG and tagged “Access to Technology for Children in Vulnerable Groups,” children and girls, especially the internally displaced ones, were identified as the most affected in terms of access to technology.
Panelists called for a synergy among government, private sector and civil society to ensure that both infrastructure and environment required make Internet access affordable for citizens in the vulnerable areas are made available.
A software engineer, Asma’u Aliyu, said digital literacy remained critical in today’s world, bemoaning Nigeria’s status as one that has severely fallen behind.
She blamed limited access of children and girls to Internet on what she described as entrenched social norms and prevailing socio-economic challenges.
“Children are not equipped on how to handle technology because their parents are equally disadvantaged. In the course of my projects in Borno State last year, I discovered that there is nobody to guide them on how to use it.
“This prompted my team to develop content software that can teach and train pupils on how to use the Internet, alongside online safety. Government has an active role to play in making technology/Internet accessible and affordable, particularly in the provision infrastructure,” Aliyu said.
Another panelist and founder of Aspilos Foundation, Simi Olusola, stressed the need for government to roll out digital literacy platforms, like digital hubs, as it is almost impossible to teach technology without devices or electricity.
“About 90 per cent of our primary schools do not have computer teachers. This is why the government needs to redefine our educational system. We cannot depend on an analogue age. As the world is changing, we need to change too,” she said.
Grace Attah, the Business Development and Partnership Officer for TechHerNG, who moderated the session, revealed that the organisation’s School Tour project has reached over 400 children in six rural schools in the FCT, teaching them basic digital skills and online safety.
“The digital literacy project was conceived to help them take interest and possibly take careers in technology and see other opportunities in/via technology,” she explained.
Attah advocated greater intervention and investment by the government in technology for children to increase the quality of education they receive and to prep them to compete with their contemporaries across the globe.