Monthly Archives

September 2014

Cleaning Her Way Towards Opportunity

By | Uncategorized

She’s young. Very young. We hired her as a cleaner when it became clear that the new office needed someone to look after it through the day, especially as there was now a lot of human traffic through the Ajegunle Innovation Centre – parents seeking opportunities for their kids, students who come in daily for 7 weeks to learn new things that could turn their lives around, young people who just want to check out what was so important that their colleagues went through the rigour of interviews. Tinuke didn’t come across as one with a lot of confidence. Actually, she lacked confidence and you could see through it. But she was just a victim of the lack of opportunity that Paradigm Initiative Nigeria is working hard to at least make a dent in – and continue to chip away at the alarming numbers. When we hired her, she didn’t bother to tell us that she had gone through training at an ICT Centre, and that she actually did teach. Yes, she didn’t bother trying to pick up a job with that skill and grabbed the opportunity she could get.

I’ve seen a lot of that. People don’t bother looking for matching opportunities because 54% of the other young people out there are unemployed, and they will accept a much lower pay to edge others out of the competition for the few spots that open up. At one point, a graduate attended the interview for our Ajegunle.org program but hid what you would think was his competitive advantage. He knew it was a program for folks who, among other things, have not had a chance at tertiary education and didn’t want his degree to disqualify him from a program that could offer a 3-month (or longer) internship that might just be his entry to the world of work that had eluded him for over 3 years after he was told by his Vice Chancellor that he had been found worthy, in character and in learning, to join the labour force. He didn’t get a job, like many others, so he lowered the bar to start from anywhere. Chances are that the security guard you were rude to last week holds a BSc but ate the humble pie as he keeps searching for that better opportunity. I don’t think this was Tinuke’s deliberate approach, but she is also a lot more powerful than the position she accepted.

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As she cleaned the training room, she showed interest in more than just keeping it neat. After asking her about her plans for tertiary education, I’d think to myself: she should join the next set of students so she can pick up skills that could set her up for much more. Little did I know that she would one day walk into the class to train the students she was cleaning up after. Tinuke is no longer just the cleaner who had to keep every stain off, she is now the tall lady who puts students through on those computers she still cleans. Of course, she won’t be there for much longer as she has now taken the bold step of showing interest in an opening to do what she had been doing on the side – assisting our program lead with making the Ajegunle.org experience much better. Just before the staff evaluation exercise at our recently concluded staff retreat, other members of the team confirmed the need for her to step up, “come out of her shell” and show much more confidence. I took time to tell her in person, when she sat alone with me to give honest feedback that could help us at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria in our desire to be a much more desirable place to work.

Tinuke is work in progress, as I am. As you are too? Well, I thought it was just me. And Tinuke. LOL. I won’t be surprised when she goes on to become much more than she was ever given a chance to be, and I am extremely glad that Paradigm Initiative Nigeria is able to add value to the students that walk through our doors – and the young men and women who work very (read that as VERY) hard to make sure that our program beneficiaries get a chance to improve their lives. Our vision is summarized by ICTs + Youth = Socio-Economic Opportunities and it is the work that people like Tinuke and the other team members do that allows us to hit the nail on the head. But this isn’t just about a young woman who is climbing higher on the ladder of opportunity, it’s also about what she has taught me. Tinuke has reminded me again that it’s okay to start really small and grow, and to never allow the smallness of the space you currently occupy take away the sight of that big vision. Thank you, Tinuke, and all the best with the rest of your career journey.

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CSOs: Government Should Respect Internet Freedom and the Privacy of Citizens Online

By | ICT Policy, Internet Freedom

Government Should Respect Internet Freedom and the Privacy of Citizens Online

By Civil Society Organizations Working on ICT for Development Issues in Nigeria

The Nigerian media space has recently been awash with news of a multi-million dollar Internet surveillance contract, ostensibly intended to enable the government monitor internet communications of citizens. According to the Nigerian online newspaper, Premium Times, the Nigerian Government had signed a $40 million contract with an Israel-based company, Elbit Systems, to monitor internet communication in Nigeria.

Another report, titled “Stop, Jonathan, Stop – Before Nigerians Lose Their Internet Freedom“, reveals that, “…it was reported that Nigeria set aside $61.9 million for ‘Wise Intelligence Network Harvest Analyzer System’, Open Source Internet Monitoring System, Personal Internet Surveillance System And Purchase Of Encrypted Communication Equipment.”

It further explains that although “…the act of surveillance, for the purpose of ensuring national security, might appear noble, it is important to explain how lazy governance is at play again, in what could take Nigeria many years back into the military era when surveillance became a tool of oppression by the State.”

So far, the government has not denied the story of the contract award. Instead, its silence on the matter would appear to be a confirmation of the contract deal, which raises a number of serious concerns, including the following:

1. Such Internet surveillance is a rude, undemocratic and illegal violation of the privacy of citizens. The government must protect the privacy of all citizens and this should not be violated through such unwarranted surveillance of all technology-mediated communication; such as communication with friends and loved ones by email, SMS and chat;

2. It is huge waste of public resources with absolutely no return on the investment because as an open platform, the Internet has a reasonable amount of safeguards against criminal uses. In addition, the current legal instruments – if effectively employed – provide for adequate non-intrusive surveillance of suspected criminals;

3. It is a monumental waste of efforts in addressing security challenges because criminals who use the Internet for criminal purposes usually deploy sophisticated encryption technologies for which the surveillance of mail reading and interception of other communications would disproportionately affect the average and less technically-sophisticated citizen;

4. The contract is a total negation of the local content principle that the government through the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has been promoting and which is necessary for the repositioning of the national economy to achieve the goals of Vision 20:2020;

5. If government is interested in fighting cyber crime, it would focus its attention on legislating specific and better targeted cybercrime related laws that have been waiting for government action at various stages.

We acknowledge the importance of the Internet as a platform for governance, education, commerce, and indeed for all social engagements. We also acknowledge the fact that Nigeria is currently passing through a major security challenge. However, this challenge cannot be addressed by unwarranted intrusion on the privacy of citizens which only promises to lead to the abrupt collapse of the digital economy in the country and the wiping out of the benefits gained from the internet.

The measure itself is a flagrant violation of the constitutional guarantee of the privacy of citizens as provided for in Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution, which stipulates in very clear terms that “The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.”

The only permissible circumstances under which this right may be restricted are those stated in Section 45(1) of the Constitution, which means that the measure taken must be in accordance with a “law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society” to protect the stated interests or the rights and freedoms of other persons. We fail that see any such law being relied upon in the award of the illegal surveillance contract.

In view of these, we the undersigned, as representatives of our respective organizations that are committed to the use of ICTs for development:

1. Unequivocally condemn the contract and call on government to immediately cancel it;

2. Demand that the Federal Government works with the National Assembly to take legislative action on various draft laws and regulations as well as pending bill relevant to the issue and that the process should be fully transparent with adequate opportunity given to all interested parties and stakeholders to make inputs into the process.

3. Enjoin the government to work with all stakeholders to curb cyber crime and address security problems, arising from the use of the Internet, within the context of democratic norms and principles and in accordance with international best practices of protecting the privacy and human rights of citizens.

Signed by: BudgIT, Centre for Information Technology Awareness and Development (CITAD), Co-Creation Hub (CcHub), Development Information Network (DevNet), Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria, Fantsuam Foundation (FF), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), Wennovation Hub, West African NGO Network (WANGONeT) and Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC)

[Draft Statement on Internet Freedom/Communication Privacy in Nigeria by ICT4D CSOs]

A Time To Map: Mapping The Nigerian Tech Ecosystem

By | AbaLIFE, ICTs, Uncategorized

Image courtesy Co-Creation Hub, Lagos

There is a time for everything. There’s a time to learn, and a time to apply that which has been learnt. There’s a time to apply what’s been learnt, and a time to show results. There’s a time to show off results, and a time to connect results and resources with others. There’s a time to connect, and a time to raise a new generation of doers. And then, there’s a time to ask who exactly is doing what, where and when. For the Nigerian tech ecosystem, that time – the time to map the industry – is now.

For a while now, I’ve had two kinds of conversations with various people around the not-so-defined buzz within Nigeria’s tech ecosystem. From eCommerce to policy, start-ups to hubs and events to some more talk, Nigeria is seeing a revolution similar to what happened in the ’70s when a generation of tech people returned home from new knowledge acquired on a topic that was still magic at home. Today, that generation sits atop industry associations that many accuse of being disconnected from the real work of innovation going on in the Nigerian tech space.

My conversation has been with two broad categories: those who want to make a sense of what’s up with Nigerian tech so they can benefit from the revolution, and those who are within the thick of things and just want to know how what they’re doing impacts the bigger picture. The advantage of this is that one gets better perspective of the ecosystem, but it also comes with the disadvantage of spending valuable time explaining what can actually be made available as a resource for future reference and relevant consultation. That explains my excitement when CcHub’s Bosun Tijani and I discussed the need to map Nigeria’s tech ecosystem few weeks ago.

In the early days of tech in Nigeria, it was easy to know what folks were doing because everyone sort of met at one watering hole or the other – meetings, contract bids, etc. But then, the industry has grown with Nigeria and we now have so much going on such that it’s impossible for us to have as many touch points as are required for anyone to make sense of chaos. Some of the demerits of this scenario include the replication of exact same projects with strained resources; disconnect between government, academia and industry; complex process of engaging ideas within the ecosystem from outside; and more.

Mapping the ecosystem is like bringing order to somewhat organised chaos. It will help us see who is doing what, where, when, and more. It will also allow actors – or intending players – know who to engage and exactly what space everyone plays in. Just as a map allows us see where each utility exists to serve the community, a mapping exercise for the Nigerian tech ecosystem will allow us see who is working on policy, capacity building, research, incubation, funding, bottom-of-pyramid engagement, mobile, getting-hands-dirty and all that needs to be done, or is being done.

It then makes it easy for new entrants to know who their existing competitors are, where they fit within the food chain and/or who they can hook up with as partners. As an investor, you can easily see where your money will have most impact instead of playing “tente” based on who you know and think may know what you’re looking for. It also becomes easier for government to see policy gaps, for the academia to see where research is most needed and also for the media to see better connections between seemingly isolated activities.

So, it’s the time to map. And this is an early invitation to engage the process when PIN and CcHub call for a stakeholder session in Q1 2013.

10 New Economy Skills

By | Uncategorized

Few thoughts expressed on twitter earlier today, based on what I told students at 2 meetings where I spoke at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife last weekend:

Are You Plugged In?

By | ICTs

The days when the colour of technology was masculine are over. Increasingly, technology tools that were the exclusive preserve of geeks now offer low barriers of entry, and it is safe to say that the definition of literacy has moved further down from just the ability to read, write and use a computer, to include the ability to creatively use technology tools and platforms – without the need for a manual or a training course.  When you also consider the fact that your mobile phone is more powerful than some of the most powerful computers that paraded the cold rooms of Computer Science departments many years ago, and that the increasing power of technology platforms or tools come with ease of use, you will agree with me that not taking advantage of these tools and platforms now comes with fewer excuses.

Social Media pushes the bar higher with its extreme simplicity and diverse applications. Earning its name from the unique combination of social sharing, social networks and media attributes, social media allows the user to pull and push information through the convenience of mobile devices and more. Popular social media platforms include multipurpose Facebook, with 1.2 billion monthly active users globally and 11.4 million in Nigeria alone; micro-blogging platform, Twitter; picture sharing application, Instagram; video platform, YouTube; and much more. The power of social media has been seen in business, media, politics, business, education and more. The question, though, is: are you plugged in? Are you taking advantage of social media? Let me quickly share three ways you should take advantage of social media.

News and Updates: How do you get your news and updates on events that interest you or matter to your business? If you’re the type that still waits to read yesterday’s news in today’s newspaper, you can be sure that your competition is way ahead of you. With social media, you can follow the news and get updates by subscribing to people and organisations that are likely to share news and/or updates that matter to you.

Information Sharing: It’s not just about getting, it’s also about giving. I’m sure there is a lot you can’t wait to share. From new products to opportunities you want others to know about – and to some not-so-serious updates you’d like to talk about – and more, social media allows you share and gain loyal following so people can return for more. And trust me on this: you’re not the only one who would be sharing information about opportunities, so you might want to watch out for opportunities that you can benefit from too.

Research and Feedback: When you have a quick question about traffic in Lagos, a service you can’t find in the Yellow Pages (wait, there’s none on your coffee table) or you need feedback on any topic, social media is a space that begs to give answers. When I arrive in a new city these days, I take advantage of social media to get recommendations – restaurants, places I must visit, hotels, etc. Why pay an agent when your social media followers are willing to give you information at no cost?

This article first appeared in The Woman Leader Magazine

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