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The Emerging Computerized Global Economy:
A Challenge for Nigeria
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The world is in the midst of an electronic communications revolution. Electronic information flows across national boundaries despite attempts by some groups to control it. But not every nation is in this information technology jamboree. Many people in Nigeria for reasons of technology, infrastructure, or socioeconomic status do not have access to electronic information.
Telecommunication has changed the speed and method of doing business all over the globe. It has transformed the world into a computerized global village. Thus, information technology is an inevitable tool in the 21st Century. Along with the new information technologies come new challenges in getting accurate and reliable information from around the world. It is therefore a challenge for Nigeria to haste and computerize her economy so that she can compete effectively in the global market place.
It will be erroneous to argue that modern technology is the answer to all of our problems. And it is unassailably true that our problems are not from the 'harsh-ness and the niggardliness of nature' (Keynes, May 1932). Obviously, our attitude is a major part of the problem. In fact, a big chunk of it lies, in my opinion, on how to restructure the society so as to make democracy work. In addition, our problems emanate from our inability to use our resources efficiently and effectively to ensure a good return to investment. In other words, the incompe-tence and wrong policies of our leaders have hindered (and will continue to hinder) us from making proper use of the bountifulness of our natural resources if changes are not affected.
In retrospect, with the prevalence of the computers and information technology (IT) around the globe, people can now communicate with one another faster, and with less restriction. Distance is no longer an obstacle to human interaction. This paper posits that the paucity of information, coupled with lack of good information management adversely impacts governance and retards our economic growth. Nigeria is therefore urged to take part in the information technology race that is now common in every serious society. Without this, the world will leave her behind.
Computer and Information Technology
The Internet (connected computers) has changed the way almost every thing is done the world over. Information technology will determine the nature of human activities and to shape the world in future. Like individuals, businesses now communicate much faster than they could about a decade, or so ago (Blinder & Ouandt, Dec. 1997). Presently, many businesses serve their customers with automated devices, and reach their customers all over the globe irrespective of their physical locations. For example, financial institutions in advanced economies have automated teller machines (ATMs) for after-hour banking services; Internet-based banking is now common, not to mention voice mail, electronic mail, and web sites. Yet, many other information-on-demand services are being developed.
Regrettably, many of them only care about what they would squeeze out of their customers at the first encounter. This attitude will not augur well in the global competitive economy, where the unwritten rule is 'if you cannot deliver another person will.' Therefore for them to compete effectively and survive in the emerging global economy, the Nigerian business community should learn to develop a "religious focus on business customers" (Sidgmore Dec. 5th -11th, 1998). In other words, they should learn to cuddle up customers.
Obviously, the economic survival of Nigeria 'in this world without boundary' lies on her investment in information technology and information management (see Udeala, October 22, 1999). In addition, the nation should be concerned about job creation, boosting workers morale, feeding, clothing, and educating our teaming population, to enable them function well in the 21st century economy. If the United State, which is already an enlightened community is still investing on the computers and information technologies, how about Nigeria that is still in the stone age?
Given the fact of our relative poor income, how can our economy expand if the people are without the means to purchase the goods and services produced in the society? This takes us to the issue of the establishment of credit facilities and national identity system in the society. The computers and information technologies would make it easier for Nigeria to establish and manage a national identification system. The lack of a national ID has negatively impacted our economic planning, revenue collection, census, and security. In addition, it has retarded our war on corruption and other fraudulent practices.
A national identity would assist the society to develop and manage a database for the population (birth and death); keep driving and criminal records, among others. (It is proper to acknowledge that Nwankpa, in a January 20, 2000 article in the Guardian newspaper mentioned some of the benefits of a national identity. He noted that the issuance a national identity card would start in Nigeria in August 2000). But how serious is Nigeria about this? The national ID project has been lauded in the society for sometime now, and like other things in Nigeria, it has gulped billions of Naira, and still has not seen the light of the day. Perhaps, our corrupt leaders would not like the nation to get organized, as they feed on the chaotic nature of things in the society.
It is proper to point out at this juncture that the introduction and expansion of credit facilities would enable those with good credit to satisfy their needs even if they are unemployed. This will "increase demand for goods and services" (Aladesuyi April 21, 1999). Industries in the society would 'mass-produce' in response to demand. At last this will translate into more jobs, less poverty, and probably less crime in the society. The development and management of all these are possible with the computers and information technologies, which are regrettably at the rudimentary stage in the society.
Truly, the provision of credit facilities in the society is possible only with the establishment of a national identity system. For instance, how can a financial institution give out loans to individuals whose identity it cannot verify? Since the society does not operate a national identification system, there is a tendency for some people to move around with multiple names; one could bear Okeke here and would then turn around to become Okeafor there (this phenomenon is not peculiar to Nigeria alone). Thus, it is near an impossibility to locate an individual in Nigeria when one leaves his/her residence (moreover in the urban areas). But in some countries (for instance, the United State), one cannot operate without an identity; and criminals could be located without much difficulty.
Indeed, Nigeria should join the information technology race, or the world will leave her behind. This process should begin with equipping our educational institutions with the necessary instructional technologies, especially the computers, and connecting them to the Internet through the local area networks. But technological links should not substitute for human connections that are central to effective teaching and learning.
Educational and Instructional Technology
Much has been written on the utility of instructional technology in the academic arena. While no one argues against the importance of the computers, this section shall concentrate on the importance of well-trained on-site technical support in this information age. With the provision of educational technologies (and some positive changes in the conditions of service), technical assistants could assist our students and teachers to become "skilled and literate users" of the technologies that are available in our schools and at the new-technology workplace (Barrett, May 1999, p. 16).
Moreover, educational technologies would enable the students to acquire the skills necessary to become more productive citizens, and to compete effectively in the computerized international labor market. Through the Internet one could send out curriculum vitae/resume to prospective employers, or post it on the Web for those employers who shop for applicants on the Internet to access.
Thus, educational technologies would 'provide a foundation for creating an innovative learning environment where students and teachers could reach beyond the confines of a single school building for information, interaction, and enrichment.' Obviously, the primary goal of any educational institution is learning. But this noble objective would be difficult to accomplish without the necessary learning tools.
A host of technological devices provides multiple ways to connect an educational institution to the learning community. They are computer systems ñ through the local area networks, electronic mail, cable and satellite hookups, 'electronic whiteboards and presenter stations' (Barrett May, 1999, p.18). The two-way audio and video communication equipment is another important teaching tool. All these would enable our schools to get valuable information from renowned insti-tutions all over the globe.
Truly, to thrive in today's world and tomorrow's workplace, Nigerian students (like students in the United States and other Western nations) "must learn how to learn, learn to think and have a solid understanding of how technology works, and what it can do" (CEO Forum, Oct. 9th 1997, p.5). The student who is information literate recognizes that having good information is central to meeting the opportunities and challenges of day-to-day activities. And the student who contributes positively to the learning community, and to the society at large, is information literate and recognizes the importance of information to a democratic society (AASL & AECT 1998, p.9). Perhaps, the lack of appropriate information had contributed to the elusion of democracy in the society in the past.
Although our schools are not yet equipped with modern facilities, it is not my intention to advocate for the provision of modern instructional technologies in our classrooms simply for the sake of technology. The acquired technologies must be maintained and put in proper use to enhance teaching and learning. Educational technologies, in combination with traditional teaching methods, would provide our students a window of opportunity to gain from the unprece-dented opportunities technologies offer.
In addition, information and instructional technologies would ensure that students maintain currency with the latest technological development. With this, current knowledge and research findings would be communicated to the public. And through the Internet, our teachers (and even students) could access many foreign academic journals without even being members. This would enable our scholars to look around the world to see what is new and respond with changes in their educational programs at home.
As a way to define the construct, instructional technology "is the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning." This definition of technology, according to Seels & Richey 1994, is designed as a process rather than as only a product and resources to enhance learning and to manipulate data (Seels & Richey 1994, p.1; AASL and AECT 1998, p.54). As previously mentioned, instructional tools should be made available at all levels of our educational institutions. In fact, our children should start to build up their technology skills from primary and secondary schools. However, primary and secondary schools in Nigeria would continue to be a mess, and universities absolute disaster, if our educational institutions would remain in their present sorry states, and without teaching resources.
Permit me to digress a little. Considering the skyrocketing cost of educational materials in Nigeria (many of our instructional materials are imported and the cost of maintaining a child in school is approaching beyond the reach of the poor), serious students from less privileged families should be assisted to make up their financial deficiencies. Therefore, to prevent the poor from being frozen out of higher education (and even primary and secondary schools), the establish-ment of an effective student's loan program (and scholarship for those who are qualified and the needy) would be appropriate, at least in higher institutions. But I would like to suggest that loans should not be made available to students who are academically not prepared, and lazy. The government should monitor the loan programs to avoid abuse, and the method of re-payment should be defined before a loan is disbursed.
Toward this end, the Universal Basic Education (UBE) program recently lunched by the Obasanjo administration (to provide free and compulsory education to our children up to the junior secondary level) is appropriate. But if the fundamental problems bedeviling our educational institutions (creaky school buildings, poorly trained and inadequate teachers, poor working conditions, lack of teaching resources, among others) are not resolved, the program will not achieve its objective (see Ebosele and Bamidele, January 20, 2000). It will be recalled that these problems adversely impacted a similar program, the Universal Primary Education (UPE) of the 1976.
In addition to the UBE program, the government should establish vocational institutions across the land where people would go to update their skills, or pursue some training for new job. This program, which should be geared towards technical education, would emphasize less on diploma and more attention directed to skills building. In other words, this training should be application-oriented, and with less emphasis on theory. In industrialized nations opportunities abound for those who possess technical expertise and problem solving skills.
Technology, education, and training, as we all are aware, have vital role to play in any sustainable economic development process. According to Malcolm G. Scully, the definite definitions of the term 'Sustainability' are difficult to come by, but the definition "put forward in 1987 by the United Nations' World Commission on Environment and Development" would suffice here. 'Sustainability,' therefore, means "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs" (as cited in Scully, January 28, 2000, p. B9). As this definition has alluded, nations should not deplete their natural resources for short-term economic benefits.
In retrospect, given the poor conditions of our schools, the modernization of our school facilities (rehabilitation/ renovation) and building of new facilities should be given a priority attention. I would like to suggest that adequate funds for facility renovation should be made available to school that are 15-20 years old or more. These preventive maintenance activities should be continuous, and performed at scheduled intervals. The rehabilitation activities should be moni-tored and reviewed periodically to determine its effectiveness and to eliminate waste.
It is appropriate to note that learning environments and teachers working conditions affect students' rate of understanding. If the environment is not conducive, teachers' productivity declines. As it were, teachers' effectiveness would reflect on the performances of their students'. In other words, their effectiveness should be determined by the quality of service (education) they provide our children.
To revamp our higher institutions, university professors should be encouraged to spend more hours in the classroom during an academic year and to conduct research. With information technology scholars are becoming 'increasingly global in their outlook.' Research coming out from one country could shed light on the problems in another society. In fact, "the most powerful force behind scholarly globalization is the Internet." A scholar in one country who needs information from a scholar in another country could look up the "scholar's e-mail address" on the Internet "instead of mailing a letter" which might take weeks, if not months, to get to its destination (see McMurtrie, Jan 28, 2000, p. A53). Thus, our teachers should not work in isolation at this period of information technology revolution. With the provision of instructional resources, coupled with cooperation with scholars across the global, our schools could turn around for good.
Nonetheless, Robinson (1991) has argued that technology would not resolve all instructional problems unless teachers (the users) are involved in the technology decision-making process (Robinson 1991, pp. 11-12). For this, faculty members should be given a greater say in governance, if we want our schools to rank among the best in the world. And we must begin now to invest on educational technologies for the future. As the saying goes, 'April showers bring May flowers.'
Carlin (Nov 5, 1999) has noted that with the necessary tools schools which serve as laboratories in serious societies, would begin to "produce bold, innovative solutions" to the problems facing the world today (Carlin, Nov. 5, 1999, A76). As Albert Einstein stated many years ago, 'The specific problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.' While the government should invest more on information-technology improvement, we also need new framework of thinking to solve the problems facing our society today.
At this juncture a caveat is appropriate: The mere provision of the computers (and connecting them to the Internet) would not solve Nigeria's educational problems. Technological links should not substitute for human connections that are central to effective learning and teaching. Nevertheless, for educational technologies to serve their purpose teachers should be trained in their use; and this training should be continuous. The provision of well-trained on-set technical supports at our educational institutions would help teachers and staff to take care of their day-to-day computer and other technical problems.
With my position as a technology coordinator in a public school I have observed that academe is rife with anxiety caused by computer problems. Complaints are rampant as new technologies have rendered the skills of the older teachers obsolete, and at institutions lacking on-site technical support. Therefore, without technical support the computer would become a clog in the wheel to teaching and learning. This is because teachers and student could spend hours in vain trying to solve hardware/software problems, instead of teaching and learning. Moreover, some students could be discouraged from using the computers if there are no technical personnel to instruct and guide them. For this, educators and students should ask for technical support so that they would understand how technology could assist in teaching and learning.
In addition, technical support would enable them to determine what technologies are right for what applications. Technical personnel must understand that people have different rate of understanding. For the reluctant and the slow-at-learning individuals (and those who think that one has to be a 'rocket scientist' to master the use of the computers), effective use of the computers would depend on the quality of technical support an institution provides.
It is surprising, but not strange, to note that some faculty members in advanced nations are reluctant to incorporate instructional technology in their curricula (his is however common with the older generation of teachers). In fact, some of them complain that computer slows them down. But the fact remains that at this age of information revolution one cannot accomplish much without the basic knowledge of the computer. In other words, "information literacy ñ the ability to find and use information ñ is the keystone of life long learning" (AASL & AECT, 1998, p.1).
For information technologies to function properly, their hardware, software, and operating systems should be upgraded at scheduled interval. Unlike much industrial equipment, computer software is easily rendered obsolete (we have observed the ease with which Microsoft, Apple, and other computer giants churn out new software and operating systems). And like every other system, their parts fail from time to time.
The maintenance of the computers and networks (in business and educational sectors) are prerequisites for being in good operating conditions. Given Nigeria's poor maintenance culture, preventive maintenance is likely to pose a problem. In fact, it is already a problem in the society. For example, in some educational institutions that are lucky to have acquired some computers, an e-mail server could go down and remain unattended to for months. Under this condition, communication would be disrupted and activities crippled. This type of mentality would be unthinkable in serious and information conscious societies. Since information technology is now the live wire of modern enterprises (in terms of communication), technical staff should constantly monitor network activities, analyze calls from users, and resolve computer and network problems as they come up without delay (Cole 1990, p. 1; p.206).
With globalization computer networks (networking is concerned with switching systems and making systems inter-operate) has become "more important, or essential, to the operations of an enterprise." Some educational institutions are already on-line, and others are thinking of doing so. Because of our technological deficiencies, our educational institutions should not begin now to offer courses on-line. No! We should first develop a standard, provide the necessary infrastructures, train the users, and master the basics before venturing on-line. As it were, a child has to learn to crawl before walking! Thus, for any investment in the computers to bring the desired return to investment, adequate provision for 'on-site' technical support is necessary. Without this, the computers in our classrooms and businesses would be left to rot away like our roads, NEPA, refineries, school buildings, and other facilities in the society.
More importantly, the technical support group must be properly trained and have the driving desire to help computer users. The training of network technicians is likely to present a considerable challenge to Nigeria as computer usage and network management is relatively in rudimentary stage in the society. The nation should therefore invest copiously in the training of technicians to take care of the computer networks in the society.
With the aid of information technology and telecommunications classes are being conducted in computer- equipped classrooms and laboratories in technologically advanced societies. For that, students in these nations live and learn in a world that has been radically transformed by the availability of vast information stored in varied forms. Most of them are stored in the electronic media (the Internet). But a student could only access the information if the technology is available, efficient, reliable, and affordable. An affordable telecommunications system is an unavoidable foundation for rapid socioeconomic and political development in any nation. Bill Bradley pointed out in one of his campaign speeches that in a world of interconnectedness, one of the essential elements is technology; others are trade and the environment (Bradley, as cited in US Today, Dec 6, 1999, p. 31A).
Undoubtedly, the transformation of Nigeria into a computer-literate society would require funds, seriousness, and dedication. But the unavailability of funds would be discouraging to institutions where programs for upgrading telecommunication systems are hamstrung by budget constraints.
Nevertheless, for students and teachers to work and function in technology environments positive changes are necessary in the learning community. The learning community begins with the students, teaching staff, and administrative staff; it extends to parents and families, states, to regional or local community members, educational offices and agencies and professional associations. Ultimately, the learning community encompasses international institutions (AASL & AECT, 1998, p.122). To create and link these groups, one has to have the skills and the necessary resources.
As it were, societies, like individuals, evolve at different rates (periods of learning, adopting, adapting of ideas). Relatively speaking, Nigeria is still a learner in the area of information technology. Since information technology can dramatically enhance an educational institution's ability to prepare students for the realities of the new workplace, Nigeria's academic institutions should get connected to the information network so as to ripe the benefits of the global economy. This is because "developing countries can no longer...base their development on their comparative labor advantage ñ that is on cheap industrial labor" (Drucker, November 1994).
I would like to recommend that our would-be teachers in teachers colleges should be trained to face the challenges and implications of technology-based instructions in this 21st century. Anything less would be counter-productive!
It is proper to note that information technology promotes the growth of "open society" (this is a way to describe the positive aspects of democracy). The term "open society" was said to have been coined by Henri Bergson, in his book The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1932). But the term was made currency when Karl Popper lunched his book, The Open Society and its Enemies in 1945 (see George Soros, Jan. 1998 & George Soros, Feb.1997).
Information Technology and Democracy
The pace of technological development, as I have lamented, embarrassingly too slow in Nigeria, while it is bewilderingly fast in the developed world. For instance, fixed public telephone is still a novelty in the society; the use of the computers, the Internet, and fax machines are not yet common. These gadgets, if put in proper use, could reduce the mind-boggling election mal-practices that dot our sociopolitical landscape.
Effective government has never been needed more in Nigeria than in this highly competitive and fast-metamorphosing world of the 21st century. As some writers have noted, the INEC should begin now to assemble the necessary "telecommu-nications facilities" if it wants the year 2003 elections to be "fraud-proof" (Oloyi, Nov 2, 1999). Although information technology could be used for anti-democracy purposes, such as 'surveillance' to invade people's privacy, technological innovations could save our nascent democracy, and indeed, the future of our great country.
As a nation, Nigeria is still suffering from a confused image, as the West has painted the 'blackest colors' of the society. Until recently, the story of Nigeria, as sporadically played out by the international media, was largely in terms of unbridled corruption, wild spread extravagance, brutal dictatorship, and elusive democracy. Consequently, the world began to see Nigeria as a bunch of rouges; and relations with the rest of the world had been souring. The people were frustrated and helpless to prevent this situation. This ugly situation was caused by no other thing than our 'two evil geniuses' ñ Generals Babangida and Abacha. With their reckless mismanagement and profligate dissipation of our resources they destroyed the society. Through their horde of security personnel they took delight in harassing the entire population. In fact, they had absolute power of life and death over everybody in the society.
During that dark period, Nigeria was like 'a closed society' ñ a place where there was only one blueprint, which was foisted on the society. It is proper to note that in an "open society" each person is required to think for himself (Soros, February 1997).
Although the benefits of information technology could be found in economic arena, it has been noted that its "primary pay-off" might be found in the "new and better democracies." This is because in an 'open society' information is readily available to the population. But the authoritarian systems would only survive because information is restricted, and the people are prevented from "under-standing and sharing in the decision-making that affects their lives" (Blinder & Quandt Dec 1997).
Evidently, the ease with which individuals can now access public information, exchange private e-mail messages, or log into remote servers, in this age of information technology make the flow of information unhindered, free, and vast. Thus, "the Net allows users to take charge of information, experience, and resources in some unprecedented ways. It gives people the opportunity to gain more control over what they read and learn, whom they interact with, and even how they participate in commerce and politics" (Dery July 22, 1999). For example, school children from Britain can now chat on the Internet with students in the United State, Israel, or Russia. They can even read new-letters posted on the Internet. As a result, official falsehoods of the evils of democracy played out by the former Soviet Union and other Soviet bloc during the cold war would not hold any more.
Certainly, the prevalence of information technology would refine the way our politicians communicate with their constituencies, and how the press and the public interact in the society. For instance, the profile of our political leaders and those aspiring for public offices would be available (we need the Freedom of Information Act passed by our congress to make this possible). With this, necessary information would be available to people to make informed decisions on political matters.
However, in the present war against corruption in the society (a struggle to regain control of the society from the crooks), the people are likely to be victorious. Some people are already on trial: Ismaila Gwarzo, former national security adviser; and Hamza Al-Mustapha, former chief security officer to Abacha; Mohammed Abacha, the son of General Sani Abacha; Ibrahim Coomaise, former inspector general of police, among others (see Janet Mba-Afolabi, Newwatch 1999). Others are either on the run or praying that the net cast far and wide in the society would not catch them.
Every criminal should face the laws of the land, be him a "common soldier or officer, low or high official or judge, leading or subordinate official of the party, worker or employer" to the letters (Shirer 1960, p.1135). This social war is a rude awakening for the brigands; and without any reservation the rouges should be struck down and not allowed to rise again.
The huge problems of our era (corruption, hunger, unemployment, decays in our educational institutions, elusive democracy, etc) have been inflicted on us by our greedy military rulers, and our political class who let politics become a mania. A politician is supposed to be a servant and not a master of the people who voted him or her to power. But in our society a politician plays gods. It is almost inconceivable, but nevertheless true, that the men who supported Abacha and his devilish regime (for all the bad reputation they had, and with all the evidence against them), could run and win elections to the lower and upper houses of assembly in the last transitional program. It is obvious that money played an important role in determining the people's choice of candidates in that election.
After putting the puzzles together, I finally reached the conclusion that the problem with some of our people is ignorance. Many of them lack the necessary information to make sound political judgements. As a result, many have in the past voted for candidates with the biggest bag of money. It is therefore expected that with information technology and globalization (and with our past experiences - if we have learned any lesson), the year 2003 elections is likely to be much better. Undoubtedly, easy access to information and globalization has shown us how democracy operates in other countries.
Information Technology and Globalization
The world has been transformed into a global village by information technology. And with globalization the world has opened up endless possibilities. For instance, the Internet has created many businesses and services. We now have e-commerce (businesses transacted on the Internet) and e-customers need 24 hour service. Virtual universities (schools without wall) are springing up here and there (some college courses are now offered on the Internet), and traditional students' services (e.g., class registrations) are now being conducted over the Internet.
Because of the nature of our underdevelopment, Nigeria would not gain much from the e-commerce and globalization. But the industrialized nations ñ that is the 'knowledge' societies have limitless opportunities. By definition, "a knowledge society", among other things, is "a society of mobility." It "is a society in which many more people than ever before can be successful." As Drucker (Nov. 1994) and other social scientists have rightly noted, "people no longer stay where they were born, either in terms of geography or in terms of social position and status. And "people no longer have a neighborhood that controls what their home is like, what they do, and indeed, what their problems are allowed to be" (Drucker, November 1994). Where is Nigeria in this picture? Sadly, the society is still Balkanized by ethnic and religious sentiments; and there is no easy solution to this in sight.
Nevertheless, globalization has its ills. Many traditional jobs would be wiped out, but new ones could be created. We might have less "bookkeepers but more data-entry clerks" (Blinder & Quandt December 1997). In addition, we might have less office messengers, but more electronic mail technicians; and local farmers might wither due to competition.
What then is globalization? This term connotes a world without boundary. Formally, globalization means the rapid integration of the world economies, trade, financial services, etc, through information technology. The process of globalization and the new communication media (especially the Internet) has created the economic and technological foundations that make possible the existence of a transnational community (Alvarez, et. al, 1998, p.21; p.326).
As experts in this area have noted, globalization is no longer a matter of choice, but rather a part of the operating environment in the new millennium. Therefore to ripe the benefits of the global economy, it is now a challenge for Nigeria to bountifully invest in information technology and transform the nation into a mobile society.
In fact, one of the "toughest" challenges "facing African countries," according to The World Bank Annual Report ñ 1998, is the building of "skilled" labor force "in order to compete in the global economy." But for any meaningful changes to occur in the area of information technology, we must realize the importance of a dependable, regular, and uninterrupted power supply in the society. Constant power fluctuation or interruption would disrupt communication, or even damage electronic equipment.
Nigeria should study carefully and replicate the methods utilized by the south East Asian tigers (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysian, and Vietnam) in their quest for technological and economic develop-ment. The speed of change in other parts of the world means that Nigeria should not play the 'ostrich.' The society should build attractive business environments that could lure and encourage private and foreign investments and economic growth so as to close the gulf that exists between her and the developed nations. This could resuscitate the waning (or complete) disappearance of the middle class in the society. We are aware that the middle class is the engine of development in any nation. Thus, it is a challenge for Nigeria to shift away from public sector activities to market and non-profit activities so as to create more opportunities for her citizens.
Kindly permit me to shift a little again from the direction we have been going. With due respect, I would like to suggest that our Reverend Fathers in the society, like any other persons in any vocation, should take up paid employment in non-profit institutions, such as schools or foster homes, instead of being full-time priests. As the world is getting smaller and smaller, I think it is time for us to change from our sordid past! This mode of treatment and behavior whereby the priests depend on the people (many of whom are in wallowing penury and could not meet their basic needs) for livelihood is common in Nigeria. This is a part of the whole system of fraud and inhumanity that is prevalent in our society; and this should stop! The priests are educated, able, and capable human beings; for that they should go out and earn a living, instead of depending on the people they are supposed to help.
I do not have the slightest doubt that those who abhor change would brand this suggestion radical. But the fact remains that the involvement of our highly respected priests in our schools (as they would serve as good role models for our youths) could help to improve the morality of our youths. It could also save the communities that have been supporting them (e.g., providing their transportation through local contributions) the needed funds for community development. Moreover, this would show our commitment to eliminating wasteful subsidies to government owned corporations and nonprofit institutions, and direct the funds toward the establishment of necessary social services for our teaming popula-tion. At last this would translate into more competition, more goods and services, more employment, and the ultimate growth of the middle class.
Finally, we should work harder to re-establish our ethical and moral capacity and credibility by opposing bad policies, because without good policies our society would not progress. We have the choice to find real solutions to our social problems, or remain as we have been. As it were, the whole of life is a life of choosing, and differentiating among optional actions precisely on value grounds. As Thomas Aquinas has been credited to have said we see life in terms of ought and ought not and aim to "do good and avoid evil" (as cited in Quade, April 22, 1998).
Thus, in search of answers to the swarm of problems facing our nation we should listen attentively to the voice of Albert Einstein, who states that, 'The specific problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.' Therefore, we need new framework of thinking and ideas to solve the teething problems facing our dear Nigeria today.
Conclusion and Summary
It is fair to say in conclusion that no society can achieve much at this age of the computers, without investing in, and utilizing modern information technologies. The need for accurate information and reliable data management systems is critical at this period. Accurate and reliable information is essential for national planning, and a productive and satisfying life; and the learning community needs accurate and current information to meet learning needs.
Resources for education are scarce in Nigeria, and little, if anything has been done to ratify the situation. The society should to encourage local writers patronizing them. That is not to say that we should not patronize good foreign authors. Since the world is now a place where people gather, plug in, boot up and communicate, we should invest more in information technologies. Without this we cannot communicate and transact businesses with the rest of the world. And this would spell dome for our people in this 21st century. Moreover, Nigeria as a nation would not take part in sharing the bounties of the global economy.
In summary, the society should move away from being a cash-oriented society, and develop some credit systems. The citizens should be educated on the importance and usefulness of credit and banking. This campaign should be directed to the villages where the bulk of our population leaves, and where banking facilities are scarce. Effective and efficient banking and credit facilities would be possible only with an effective identification system in the society.
Historically, without good number of an educated class a nation might not progress meaningfully. In fact, our unfortunate 'culture of corruption' and the neglect of our educational institutions have retarded our economic growth. In other to improve the condition of things in the society, Nigeria should invest copiously in education. This would enable the people to build a solid foundation and a better future for the society.
Finally, and more importantly, morality which is almost extinct in the society, should be rebuilt. It would, however, be fallacious to argue that this would stop corruption in Nigeria. But it is safe to argue that this could reduce the greedy and insatiable appetites of our politicians, and curb the activities of heartless criminals in the society. Moreover, this would give our foreign and local business partners the confidence to invest in our economy. This, without doubt, is a challenge for Nigeria!
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Note: Victor Dike is the author of Leadership, Democracy, and the Nigerian Economy: Lessons from the Past and Directions for the Future; The Lightning Press, Sacramento, California, 1999. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Voice mail: (916) 497-3418.