2017 LEAD PAPER

STRENGTHENINGICT AS CHANGE AGENT FOR A RECESSED ECONOMY IN A PLURALISTIC WORLD

A LEAD PAPER PRESENTATION

DELIVERED AT THE 2017 ANNUAL NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF SCHOOL OF SCIENCE, ADEYEMI COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, ONDO

BY

DR. ALEXANDER CHINYERE NWANKPA.

Department of Physics,

Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo

 

Introduction

It is with great pleasure and singular honour that I accept your kind and generous invitation to deliver a lead paper on the theme ‘Strengthening ICT as change agent for a recessed economy in a pluralistic world” at the 2017 Annual Conference of the School of Science, Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo.

ICT, or information and communications technology (or technologies), is the infrastructure and components that enable modern computing.  According to Pepper and Larson (2006), ICTs can be referred to as a wide range of both simple and complex technologies that facilitate communication. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) comprise a complex, heterogeneous and interrelated set of good, applications and services used to produce, process, distribute and transform information (Chat et al, 2005).

Although there is no single, universal definition of ICT, the term is generally accepted to mean all devices, networking components, applications and systems that combined and allow people and organizations (i.e., businesses, nonprofit agencies, governments and criminal enterprises) to interact in the digital world (World Bank, 2011).

ICT encompasses both the internet-enabled sphere as well as the mobile one powered by wireless networks. It also includes antiquated technologies, such as landline telephones, radio and television broadcast -- all of which are still widely used today alongside cutting-edge ICT pieces such as artificial intelligence and robotics.

ICT is sometimes used synonymously with IT (for information technology); however, ICT is generally used to represent a broader, more comprehensive list of all components related to computer and digital technologies than IT.

General Overview

(a)Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimate of the worldwide ICT market in 2002 was almost $2.1 trillion, which they segmented as Telecom Services (39%), Software and services (31%) and Hardware (30%).  This comes to nearly 6.6% of the Gross World Product. Surprisingly, in developing countries, ICTs share in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is not low.

ICT can be considered to be built on the 4 C’s – Computing, Communication, Content and human Capacity. When considering the use of ICT for development, conventional wisdom is that even if the hardware is free (e.g. donated), communications, software and training make ICT expensive. ICT is much more than computers and the internet or even telephony, even though the digital divide and issues of internet governance were much of the focus of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

Applications of ICT can be divided under two broad categories. The first are those largely dependent on traditional telecommunications networks (including the internet) that enable on-demand communications to provide information tailored to the user’s convenience and needs. ICT tools have helped people find, analyze, exchange and present information without discrimination; and can provide quick access to ideas and experiences from a wide range of people, communities and cultures (Dakwa, 2010).

The second group of ICT applications is the Human Independent, where information is processed and decisions are arrived on the basis of present criteria without human intervention at the time of decision making. Examplesinclude sensor-based networks that determine automated climate control for buildings today or in the near future sensor networks for malaria larvae detection.

For businesses, advances within ICT have brought a slew of cost savings, opportunities and conveniences. They range from highly automated businesses processes that have cut costs, to the big data revolution where organizations are turning the vast trove of data generated by ICT into insights that drive new products and services, to ICT-enabled transactions such as internet shopping and telemedicine and social media that give customers more choices in how they shop, communicate and interact. The United Nations considers one of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to "significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the internet in least developed countries by 2020."

(b) ICT and Developing Countries.

The birth and the growth of the internet were in the United States, and this has led, to large distortions in connectivity between the developed and developing nations. However, economics remains the obvious reason for the continuation of the divide. Data from the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) shows that the internet is overwhelmingly concentrated in a few locations. An exception is the East Asian developing countries, notably South Korea and China. In the last few years, these countries have been aggressively building next generation networks using the next generation of Internet Protocol, IPv6

Much of this divide is due to legacy reasons and locations of hosts and users. A consequence of this is the dominating use of English language in the internet, with content largely hosted in the United States. This has profound implications on not only network design, but also on economics. International connectivity is a major expense and bottleneck for most developing countries. In some countries, even a few megabits of connectivity costs hundreds of thousands of dollars annually!(Dutta andPaua, 2004). Most trans-oceanic optical fibers interconnect only at specific locations in developing countries, and the capacity is largely used for voice communications, which is more lucrative and commercially predictable. In many African nations access costs are well over 100% of the average annual per capita Gross National Income (GNI). A detailed analysis shows that this is not only due to low earnings. The absolute cost of Internet access is very high, due to technology choices/design, limited economies of scale, policy issues such as licensing fees for Internet Service Providers (ISPs), high uplinking costs and local phone calls charges. For example, in India the hourly phone charges are several times higher than the ISP charges for dial-up connectivity. Based on the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) report, an estimated one-third of the world has never made a phone call, and only one tenth have used the internet.

 

(c) Recessed Economy.

The word economy denotes the relationship between production, trade and supply of money in a particular country or region. It involves the use of time, money and other resources that are available in a way to avoid waste (Hornby, 2010). According to Adebakin and Raimi, (2012), a nation’s economy is a function of many variables namely its natural resources, human resources, leadership style and management efficiency.

A recession is when the economy declines significantly for at least six months. That means there's a drop in the following five economic indicators: real GDP, income, employment, manufacturing and retail sales

People often say a recession is when the GDP growth rate is negative for two consecutive quarters or more. But a recession can quietly begin before the quarterly gross domestic product reports are out.

 A recession is usually underway when there are several quarters of slowing but still positive growth. The first sign of an impending recession occurs in one of the leading economic indicators such as manufacturing jobs. When manufacturers stop hiring, it means other sectors of the economy will slow.  A fall-off in consumer demand is normally the culprit behind slowing growth. As sales drop off, businesses stop expanding. Soon afterward they stop hiring new workers.

A recession is destructive. It creates wide-spread unemployment, sometimes as high as 10 percent. That's when it affects most people. As the unemployment rate rises, consumer purchases fall off even more. Businesses go bankrupt.In many recessions, people lose their homes when they can't afford the mortgage payments. Young people can't get a good job after school. That throws off their entire career. The government will not be able to provide the basic human needs, the economic and infrastructure development will be slow and the empowerment of the citizenry will decline (Kimberly, 2017).

According to the IMF, there have been four global recessions since World War II, beginning in 1975, 1982, 1991 and 2009, respectively. The last recession (Great Recession) was the deepest and widest of them all. As a result of the Great Recession, the United States alone shed more than 7.5 million jobs, causing its unemployment rate to double. Further, American households lost roughly $16 trillion of net worth as a result of the stock market plunge.The “Great Recession” lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, and the ensuing global recession in 2009.

Greece was in a period of recession between the third quarter of 2008 and the second quarter of 2014.Between the first quarter of 2012 and the second quarter of 2015, Japan experienced negative GDP growth in six of 14 quarters.From 1991 until 1999, the new Russian Federation experienced a period of remarkable economic upheaval.

The Italian economy officially pulled out of the recession and posted positive GDP data in the third quarter of 2009, but two years later, it spun into a 27-month long productivity drain. Productivity per person in Italy is lower in 2015 than in 2007 (Sean Ross, 2015).During the Great Recession years, global productivity dropped substantially. Total global gross domestic product (GDP) slid in 2008, but it actually became negative in 2009, bottoming out at a -1.7% annual growth rate. 2009 was the only year in the post-World War II era with a net negative global GDP.  Global GDP has rebounded tepidly, but some countries aren't participating in the recovery, especially in the developing countries such as Nigeria.

There is in Nigeria today a glaring case of localization to petroleum, crude oil exploration and exploitation. There are other areas of natural resources which are viable enough to boost her economy to a global dimension such as agriculture, mining, robber, logging, groundnut oil, food processing, hides and skin, textiles, cement, iron and steel, palm oil, consumer goods, foot wears, agric. chemical, fertilizer, printing press, boat and ship construction, film industries, telecommunication, banking, animal husbandry and merchandize trade. It is still a disheartening truth that some of these industrial units are distressed and exists almost below subsistence level (Salokun, 2015).

Strengthening the Information and Communications Technology(ICT)

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) brought to the forefront the role of ICT for development. Organized by the United Nations in conjunction with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), this Summit emphasized the growing relevance of ICT in the global domain and ways to strengthen it worldwide. A summary of the development/strengthening targets is giving as follows, (Weigeland Waldburger 2004)

1. to connect villages with ICTs and establish community access points;

2. to connect universities, colleges, secondary schools and primary schools with ICTs;

3. to connect scientific and research centers with ICTs;

4. to connect public libraries, cultural centers, museums, post offices and archives with ICTs;

5. to connect health centers and hospitals with ICTs;

6. to connect all local and central government departments and establish websites and email addresses;

7. to adapt all primary and secondary school curricula to meet the challenges of the Information

    Society, taking into account national circumstances;

8. to ensure that more than half the world’s inhabitants have access to ICTs within their reach

 

 

ICT as Change Agent for a Recessed Economy in a Pluralist World.

ICT is leveraged for economic, societal and interpersonal transactions and interactions. ICT has drastically changed how people work, communicate, learn and live. Many countries have recessed economy today including Nigeria, even with all her oil resources. The Nigerian governments, both at the State and the Federal levels have looked inward and discovered that the easiest panacea to our distressed national economy is the Agriculture (Nwankpa, 2017).  The importance of ICTs in agriculture and rural community development cannot be overemphasized because it has become a supportive input for any sustainable programme by the government. There is realization that ICTs should be integrated to be effectively used in agriculture development as facilitating tools to boost its impact to the lives of farmers. ICTs would help farmers to adopt current improved agricultural practices, determine commodities price in adjacent market and improve marketing efficiency, have relevant information on weather forecast and agricultural materials, improve health and household welfare, secure assistance from extension workers and researchers etc. The role of ICTs to improve agriculture, enhance food security and support livelihoods is increasing day by day among farmers because it improves marketing efficiency and aids in the improvement process of customers services (IICD, 2006).

In 1967, Nyerere stated that,” while other countries in the world aim to reach the moon, we must aim for the time being at any rate to reach the villages by providing them with necessary information. But if well-articulated it could eradicate ignorance and give enlightenment on how to achieve economic, educational, social, political and cultural objectives towards the sustainable development of the entire community”. According to Adeleke et al, (2017), lack of access to adequate and right information at the right time to the rural communities undermines the efforts at improving the living conditions of the rural people by both governments and non-governmental organizations. This signifies that no community in the world can develop without knowledge, and a community can only become knowledgeable if they recognize and use important information within themselves in order to achieve reasonable development.

Moreover, ICT continues to revolutionize all parts of the human experience as fast computers and now robots do many of the tasks once handled by humans. For example, computers once answered phones and direct calls to the appropriate individuals to respond; now robots not only can answer the calls, but they can often more quickly and efficiently handle callers' requests for services.

ICT's importance to economic development and business growth has been so monumental, in fact, that it's credited with ushering in what many have labeled the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

ICT also underpins broad shifts in society, as individuals en masse are moving from personal, face-to-face interactions to ones in the digital space. This new era is frequently termed the Digital Age.

For businesses, advances within ICT have brought a slew of cost savings, opportunities and conveniences. They range from highly automated businesses processes that have cut costs, to the big data revolution where organizations are turning the vast trove of data generated by ICT into insights that drive new products and services, to ICT-enabled transactions such as internet shopping and telemedicine and social media that give customers more choices in how they shop, communicate and interact.

There are numerous areas where ICT could make major impact on various areas of human and economic development in a recessed economy:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger: ICTs will increase access to market information and reduce transaction costs for poor farmers and traders. Increase efficiency, competitiveness and market access of developing country firms and enhance ability of developing countries to participate in global economy and to exploit comparative advantage in factor costs (particularly skilled labour)(Prahalad and Allen, 2002)

2. Achieve universal primary education, Distance and e-Learning, and Digital libraries: There will be increase in supply of trained teachers through ICT-enhanced and distance training of teachers and networks that link teachers to their colleagues. It will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of education ministries and related bodies through strategic application of technologies and ICT-enhanced skill development. Broaden availability of quality educational materials/resources through ICTs.

3. Ensure environment sustainability: Through ICTs, remote sensing technologies and communications networks permit more effective monitoring, resource management andmitigation of environmental risks. Greater transparency and monitoring of environmental abuses/enforcement of environmental regulations.

4. Promote gender equality and empower women: The use of ICTs would deliver educational and literacy programmes specifically targeted to poor girls and women using appropriate technologies. Using a range of ICTs will influence public opinion on gender equality through information or communication programmes (Gurumurthy, 2006).

5.  Reduction of child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases: The use of ICTs will enhance the delivery of basic and in-service training for health workers. It will increase monitoring and information –sharing on disease and famine,increase access of rural care givers to specialist support and remote diagnosis,increase access to reproductive health information, including information on AIDS prevention, through locally appropriate content in local languages.

6. Advanced urban transportation: ICTs increase access to information on transport networking.

7. Electricity efficiency and loss/theft reduction: With ICTs, there will be efficient production and management of electricity. This increases access to monitoring and general surveillance in private and public sectors.

8. E-Governance (National and Global inclusiveness): ICTs facilitate knowledge exchange and networking among policy makers, practitioners and advocacy groups.

9. Drip and Advanced Irrigation: Increase access to/awareness of sustainable development strategies, in areas such as agriculture and water management.

 

Challenges/Constraints Facing ICT.

There are various constraints facing the use of ICTs in our communities today and they include:

 

1. High purchasing cost and non-availability of ICT facilities: All ICT usage together should, ideally be only a few percent of one’s income (under 10% maximum on average); this covers life-cycle costs, spanning hardware, software, connectivity, education, etc.

2. Lack of qualified ICT personnel and high cost of ICT personnel if available

3. Lack of awareness about the ICT benefits: People must know what can be done with ICT, they must also be open to using ICT.

4. Lack of computer centres: ICT must be offered within reasonable proximity, with appropriate hardware/software.

5. Limited internet access: While mobile telephony is improving worldwide, it remains expensive, limited in rural areas and poor at providing data connectivity.

6. Problem of erratic power supply

7. Unrealistic service providers (MTN, GLO, ETISALAT AIRTEL etc)

8. Low level of computer training schools: Users need to be aware, literate and innovative to harness the power of ICT. They also should be empowered to use ICT, both by the society and by the state.

 

The Negative Aspects of ICTs.

ICT has also created problems and challenges to organizations and individuals alike -- as well as to society as a whole. The digitization of data, the expanding use of high-speed internet and the growing global network together have led to new levels of crime, where so-called bad actors can hatch electronically enabled schemes or illegally gain access to systems to steal moneyintellectual property or private information or to disrupt systems that control critical infrastructure. ICT has also brought automation and robots that displace workers who are unable to transfer their skills to new positions. And ICT has allowed more and more people to limit their interactions with others, creating what some people fear i.e. a population that could lose some of what makes it human.

Conclusion.

We have observed that ICT is a change agent for a recessed economy as it provides access to market and business information, it brings financial services to the hands of consumers, it helps communities/nations organize and link themselves, and, through the connection with others, it exchanges know-how and ideas ICT has been found to have the capacity to generate new business opportunities and idea. It improves the business environment by reducing transaction costs and improving the investment climate. In fact, by the connection of rural areas to national and global information, through the social networks, new mobile technology motivates young entrepreneurs to stay in rural areas. The critical problems facing the developing countries of the world particularly Africa, are the challenges and opportunities presented by information and communication technology revolution and particularly the phenomenon of the internet. Therefore, it is recommended that there is the need for refocusing on the role of information and communications technology as change agent in a recessed economy of any nation.

 

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