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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Effects of strikes on Info Society

Features of the week:

Nigeria’s chance of catching up with the globalised society is being hampered by the persistent strikes in the country, reports REMMY NWEKE.

AS nations of the world continue to strive to stabilize their economies, the effect of industrial action of any kind negates the aim of the evolving Information Society (IS).

Though IS may mean different things to different people, the generic understanding connotes that it is a society in which all citizens of the world are recognized as human with access to use of information resources for sustainable, economic and social development. This is especially so, now the world has been reduced to a global village through deployment of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

Like the Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Mr. Yoshio Utsumi, who is the chief host of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS), noted recently, though technologies through ICT could bring human beings together, to share veritable information to better their lives, it would not bring food on our tables, but humans could.

Governance should, therefore, encourage good living both economically and socially of their citizens to bear on decisions and actions taken by leaders of the world culminating into good governance and transparency.

This brings to mind the issue of industrial actions in a third world country like Nigeria at this time in point.

Strike as it is also known is defined as a period of time when a group of workers deliberately stop working because of a disagreement about pay, working conditions, according to the new edition of Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.

Strike in Nigeria dates back to the pre-independence era when Nigerian workers led by Pa Michael Imodu, went on strike to protest poor treatment by the then colonial masters. This has since become a frequent occurrence especially in this dispensation.

The impact of strikes to a third world nation like Nigeria, would not only devalue her economic system, but widen the digital divide which Information Society attempts to bridge by encouraging ICT deployment and recognition of equal rights as enshrined in almost every constitution of most nations in the world today and Human Rights Declaration of the United Nations.

To some industry analysts, strike does not just occur, it takes literarily poor leadership of governments in military and civilian dictatorships settings to occur.

This is because, dictators are known to always have their way no matter whose goose is gored. This was one of the reasons why the United Nations encouraged democratic governments all over the world.

Therefore, it sounds very absurd that Nigeria, for instance, after the seemingly actualization of democratic rule in 1999, that five years on, the nation has witnessed over six strikes and the seventh threat by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Civil Society Coalition, recently aborted due to the last minute reversal to N49 per litre of petrol by government.

Though, NLC described the episode as “insensitivity of those in government” based on increases in fuel prices. Economically, an increase in the fuel price from any amount to the next figure affects all aspect of the economy, including ICT.

For instance, the recent increase from about N43 to N52 per litre of fuel, gave rise to the new charges by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as cyber cafes increased rates on per hour of Internet browsing from about N60 to N120.

These operators, have to fuel their generating sets most of the times, due to epileptic power supply by the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA).

It is on record that Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) operators, spend several millions monthly on petroleum and allied maintenance of their generating sets to keep services to the populace afloat. To an extent some of them even have two sets per cell-sites.

This is very worrisome to the ICT sector as the President of the Information Technology (Industry) Association of Nigeria (ITAN), Mr. Willy Anyaegbunam, advocated complete hands-off on petroleum by the government while speeding its privatization and deregulation processes.

For him, privatization or deregulation devoid of the people is incomplete and would fail.

Speaking to Champion Infotel on the effects of strikes on the industry, Chairman, Council for West Africa Information Technology Professionals (WAITP), Mr. Chris Uwaje, linked the frequent fuel crisis in the country to the absence of national database warehousing and knowledge-based economy.

Database warehousing is an electronic information storage formulae for future planning to avert adverse socio-economic occurrences. Whereas knowledge-based economy and governance is a society driven by Information Technology (IT).

Mr. Uwaje, who is also the chief executive of Connect Technologies Limited in Lagos, said the absence of national database warehousing at all levels of the country’s governance was responsible for her inability to organize and manage God’s given natural resources to the benefit of the citizens.

“We presently live in an information-intensive distorted environment and governance is an open book,” he declared.

WAITP boss pointed out that the nation needed to identify and locate its sources so as to deliver “simple but functional solutions for our sustainable development”.

Stressing that the reasons for the nation’s slow pace in development were distorted and unstable development within the context of organizing, standardizing, administering as well as in managing her data and information structure.

“A symptom that has trailed our under-development scenario for many decades,” he lamented.

Noting that the lingering fuel crisis is a concentrated feature of traditional muscle society, saying “it’s a myopic tendency find in the short-comings of most anti-knowledge models of governance”.

On alternative solution to what he described as “information-clot crisis” he said the nation needs intensive knowledge incubation and development at all levels.

“This symptom would continue until we stop to pay ignorance, the wealth that belongs to knowledge,” he asserted, advocating that the best solution should be to consciously agree to reserve the position of the President of the nation for the next 30 years, to men and women of not more than 45 years old, who must not have had military instinct.

He emphasized that what stakeholders had lost during the strikes, amounts to wasted opportunity to develop and progress in the midst of plenty, warning Nigerians to be conscious of the fact that indeed the resources are not meant only for those living now, but also held in trust for generations yet unborn.

“The waste may run into many billions of any respectable currency. Correct projection to the waste can be made with the use of Information Technology Models, but again, we do not recognise the importance of Research and Development” he said.

Uwaje maintained that the loss is not only in terms of money, but in human disaster, even lives were lost and the impact of the experience to the Nigerian youths will accelerate their urge to take flight and break away from the vicious cycle.

Obviously, strike as it is, does not favour the down trodden in any society neither does it favour the so-called rich, rather it worsens the general socio-economic status of every individual within the geographic region where it has existed and even beyond.

As such, the lack of increasing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), would continue to elude the nation no matter the number of trips the president and his officials may embark on.

Therefore, leaders at all levels, must strive to make their leadership that of the people to avert any manner of strike, even as the recent move to de-centralise NLC, would have ushered in dooms than solutions.

This is because, as much strikes that take place in the polity, would become uncontrollable and the more the gap of digital divide; between the developed nations and the world continues to get wider.