Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Minister Launches Students PC Ownership Scheme

The Honorable Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson at the weekend launched the students PC ownership scheme with the theme "promoting increased access and utilization of ICTs in education". The initiative was launched in conjunction with National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in Abuja.

Johnson disclosed that the Scheme is a collaborative and mutually beneficial effort between PC assemblers, universities, banks, global technology companies and telecoms companies that has required many months of conceptualising and fine tuning.

"This initiative is entirely technology driven and contributes to the growing number of ecommerce initiatives that will move us to the desired digital, diversified, productive and efficient economy".

She informed participants at the launch that the technology used to power the initiative was developed by a group of extremely talented Nigerian software developers- a testament to the fact that Nigerians can develop a viable and vibrant local software industry catering to the nation's domestic needs but exportable to other markets.

Mrs. Johnson who decried the low PC penetration in Nigeria which is ranked the lowest in Africa, noted that, the affordability and availability of the devices and the slow pace by which ICTs were being adopted for teaching and learning in secondary and tertiary institutions was partly responsible for the low PC penetration in the country. She emphasised that the initiative is in line with two of the mandates of the Ministry of Communication Technology- first, to promote the utilization of ICTs in all sphere of life-with education as a priority, and the second to promote and facilitate the development of the ICT industry.

She stated that, the whole world of knowledge and learning was to be found on the internet and effort should be made to ensure that young students have unfettered access to this world so they can participate meaningfully in the knowledge society. Johnson stressed that being connected to electronic libraries, having access to world class research material, being connected to a network of students and research institutions means that students can also participate as not only consumers of all of this content but also creators of the content through the productivity and efficiency benefits of having their own device.

Mrs. Johnson noted that government in this scheme has moved from the role of the contracting entity to the enabling entity through the efforts of NITDA and the Ministry in conceptualising the scheme and being the 'honest broker' that brought all the parties together.

According to Johnson "On the other hand, we have a fairly well established device assembly industry. Some of the companies that you see represented here today are over 20 years old and have operations in countries other than Nigeria. Unfortunately, our preference of international or global brands who have much better marketing, research and production capacity has led to the poor capacity utilisation of these assembly plants.

Federal and state governments have been their biggest customer which mean that they are dependent on the most uncertain world of government supply contracts. The Ministry of Communication Technology and NITDA saw a very clear window to literally kill the two birds of poor PC ownership by students and poor acceptance of local brands and poor capacity utilisation of our PC assembly plants with one stone.

As you well know, our youth tend to be most critical, vocal and demanding of goods and services they procure. Once they are sold however they will be the greatest advocates of the brand and will demonstrate loyalty well beyond their student years. Providing them with computers that are built to exacting world class standards, designed with Nigeria in mind and aesthetically pleasing will go a long way to earning this loyalty".

Johnson after launching the initiative urged all the partners of the scheme to continue to collaborate to make the scheme a successful one.

She emphasised that "Even as all the parties have worked together over the last few months we must continue in this collaborative manner if this initiative will be as successful as we all hope and pray it will be and deliver the objectives of PC penetration, capacity utilisation, brand acceptance and most of all student participation in the digital economy. The process you have seen today is a chain; a weak link in the chain will compromise the integrity of the entire chain.

I urge all of our partners today not to be the weak link in the chain even during the pilot phase where the scheme and all its components will be thoroughly tested before being rolled out to all tertiary institutions. While students may hunger and yearn for computers they do not have the earning power - so while the demand will be catalysed by students, it will be actualised by willing parents, wards, guardians, mentors and other well-meaning Nigerians who are willing to invest as little as N3,500 a month in the future of the country".

Speaking earlier in his welcoming speech, the Director-General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Prof.Cleopas O. Angaye said that the student personal computer ownership scheme was born out of the dire need to increase PC penetration among the students of higher learning especially in Nigerian Universities.

He noted that it was means of challenging licensed OEMs to boost their productive capacities which would eventually have a multiplier effect in terms of job creation, poverty reduction and increase their market share in the Global competitive economy.

Prof. Angaye enumerated some of the unique strategy adopted for the student PC ownership scheme to include: ensuring sustainability. Continued and increased access; partners with tertiary institutions'; and the student's scheme is self funding.

He solicited for collaboration and partnership with any of the stakeholders to ensure the sustenance of the scheme.

In his vote of thanks, the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Ibrahim Dauduspecially thanked the Hon Minister for her resoluteness in putting this initiative to fruition.

A demonstration on how a student could access the website, which is portal information driven: www.cosportal.com.ng was demonstrated on a slide. However, twelve (12) pilot universities were selected from the six(6) geopolitical zones, and two (2) students from the University of Josnamely, miss Dorcas Danladi and Master Victor Dapam were the first beneficiaries.

The launch attracted several speeches/goodwill messages from stakeholders in the ICTs industry which included representatives of the following companies, namely: Zinox, Veda, Omatek, Brains and Beta Computers, Microsoft and Skye Bank. Others were committee of Vice-Chancellors, Committee of Chancellors and the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Femi Bamiro who all agreed that the scheme was a laudable one and needed to be sustained and extended to lecturers. They all were of one voice in commending the Hon. Minister for her steadfastness.

They called for synergy among the stakeholders in ICTs industry, education and research institutes.

It could be recalled that this scheme was a collaborative and mutually beneficial efforts between PC assemblers, Universities, Banks, Global technology companies and telecom companies.

Prominent among those that graced the launch were top management staff of the Ministry, Postmaster-General, (NIPOST) Mallam Ibrahim Baba, Vice-Chairman NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, Managing Director, NigComSat,Alhaji Rufai and representatives of Ministries of Education, Youths Development, NUC and students from tertiary institutions.

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