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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Typing, a prerequisite for ICT literacy

Features of the week:

Computer literacy has been canvassed as the root for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) emancipation and the need to catch them young for the 21st century has driven calls for computer literacy to begin at homes and at early ages, reports REMMY NWEKE.


Illiterate workforce:

Ms Hope Bamgboye is a working media practitioner in her late 20s, every other day at work she would depend on a colleague, Mazi Nebife, whom she met during their employment interview, to help her access an electronic mail he had created for her since both joined the company few months back.

One sunny afternoon, Mazi Nebife was busy when Ms Hope called on him to assist as usual to access her mail and other Internet related operations. This particular day, Mazi Nebife decided to tell her the home truth by first informing her of his being extremely busy and second, by giving her a keyboard to study, advising that it is the key to the future.

Nebife also made it clear to her that if she really wants to remain viable on the job, she must know how to use the keyboard, moreso as a media practitioner.

He went on to give an instance when at an international conference, reporters had not only to access their mails by themselves but also work on their stories and send it online to their local offices.

PC @ homes:

In order to avert the supposed embarrassment Ms Hope received, coupled with what he saw at the Internet cafes in the country, whereby children of school ages, who happen to be Internet savvy pick on the keyboard to write or reply to messages online, chairman, The Executive Cyberschuul, Lagos, Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu cried out to mothers to take advantage of the federal government’s assisted purchase programme (GAPP) to ensure that they have Personal Computers at homes.

In addition, Mr. Omo-Ettu suggested that they should use it to teach the younger ones during what could be tagged ‘home studies,’ at least, for them to master the keyboard, which he described as the first real step in today’s adaptation to ICT tools.

As postulated by him, given the number of women in our 21st century society, mothers should be able to impact on the younger ones how to manipulate the keyboards while they are still at elementary schools.

Digital mothers:

Speaking at this year’s annual gathering of spouses of Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Mr. Omo-Ettu in a paper entitled “Digital Mothers” said that it is baffling to see the number of youths accessing the web at cybercafes, saying he was not particular on what they do but how they do it.

“I can sleep with the idea of people of my age picking their ways on the key board like albinos do in the sun but I get angry when young people in their teens and twenties do no better,” he lamented.

He pointed out that this was much visible in spite of the remarkable impact Nigeria has made in the campaign on awareness of the Internet in the last ten years.

“We apparently made the mistake of not specifying typing as a prerequisite for our youths’ formal education and from toddler ages,” he declared.

Typing, a prerequisite:

As said by him, stakeholders often talk of computer literacy without stressing to the governments that such literacy actually begins from ability to type proficiently on the keyboard.

He said lack of this was the bane of proper empowerment of professionals in today Nigeria, stressing, “That is why we have ended up producing engineers, doctors and journalists who use one finger to pick their ways on keyboards.”

Mr. Omo-Ettu expressed optimism that this generational error could be reversed in no distant future.

“I feel passionately about the subject, I must confess. And I believe we can reverse it completely in the next 10 years if we face it squarely,” he asserted, advising that the school curriculum must correct it firmly and that should be the message this time around.

The political class, he charged, should assume the responsibility of making computer literacy a 100 per cent campaign concept as the nation’s general election draws nearer.

“Whoever among the politicians is unable to deliver 100 per cent literacy in two terms is not fit to lead us,” he submitted.

Catch them @ 3yrs:

He emphasised that by 2015, if every child of school age could type proficiently at the age of 11, the nation would be the best for it.

“Thus able to surf the web – not by picking letters on the keyboard but by typing skillfully even if blindfolded. This is fundamentally important because if children grow up to see computing and its applications as part of their daily lives - just like the television, digital video display (DVD) player, mobile phones, and maybe iPods for some; and not as another piece of technological innovation, the nation can groom a new generation of youth who can favourably compete with their peers, globally,” he said.

For the Managing Director, New Horizons Limited, an IT training outfit, Mr. Tim Akano, while lauding GAPP known as Computer for All Nigerian Initiative (CANi), said that the best option for the nation is to ensure that computer literacy begins at the ages of three and four. He stressed, “Just get the magic box – computer system, for the kids to start.”

The Programme Director, CANi, Mr. Soji Romeo also agrees that improved computer literacy skill and knowledge in the country would increase productivity and reduce cost to employers and staff turnover level in the country.

For the chief executive, PiNet Limited, Mr. Lanre Ajayi, there are lots of educational materials available online and off line accessible through the use of computer, which could be applied at different levels of education. Advocating that kids must take advantage of these resources if possible at the age of 2 or even below.

He stressed that the importance of typing in today’s ICT literacy drive, is the most popular input devise to computers these days, thus, “Ability to type and to type quickly gives an advantage in interacting with the computer much better.”

Nigerian keyboard layouts:

Equally nowadays, there are localised Nigerian keyboards that could be deployed in pushing this dream further in the event of the potential user not being conversant with English.

Numerous efforts were made in the past centred on keyboards comprising ALT-I Yoruba Keyboard, Paradigm Lingua Software, Konyin keyboards, YorubaOK, NITDA keyboard driver, among others.

For instance, the www.learnyoruba.com/keyboard.htm enables Bis Bus International, the promoters to engender growth in the use of the Yoruba language in a multimedia format on the World Wide Web (www). This was a goal being pushed by Mr. James Kass in collaboration with Dr. Adebusola Onayemi, resulting in the release of freeware font - YorubaOK.ttf; designed for typing Yoruba text on the computer keyboard thus making it achievable to render Yoruba in its full acceptable orthographic form that is complete with all the characters of its alphabet, accent cum diacritic marks inclusive.

Also in early 2005, Lancor, a Nigerian-based Information Technology (IT) marketing firm led Mr. Ade Oyegbola as the chief executive, introduced Konyin developed by a United States-based Nigerian engineer. It offers a range of keyboards for Latin-alphabet and African languages, with an QWERTY layout model of keyboard. Konyin could serve as the bridge for languages used officially in various countries in the continent, beginning with Nigeria, which has over 250 languages but has written English, Edo, Efik, Hausa, Fulani, Igbo, Kanuri and Yoruba.

Konyin, a keyboard technology that represents a compelling replacement of the standard 104-key boards, could be find at www.konyin.com/products/nig/konyin.

Typing tutors:

An online search on Yahoo would probably reveal over 1,030,000 topics on typing tutor; from Mr. Kent to Typing Master, Free Touch Typing Programmes down to Typing Web, to name a few, but this shows the importance of typing in 21st century; be it typing on PCs or sending a Short Messaging Service (SMS), typing has assumed a unique position in today ICT evolution.

Days are gone when those who attended what is known as ‘commercial colleges’ bemuse their luck in being among those blessed with the ‘skills for the future.’

The fact, expert said is that those who were fortunate to attend commercial colleges have a better opportunity of doing well in typing, which is seen as a core subject in such schools, therefore positioning them to take over from those who call themselves ‘mere professional.’

It is no surprising therefore that no matter what the professionals may do, commercial college graduates act as their secretary, thereby having the so called professionals’ future in their fingertips.

The earlier the Ministry of Education-led by Dr. (Mrs.) Oby Ezekwesili understands this fact and makes haste to inculcate same in the system and school curricular by making it a compulsory subject, the better for the nation and this could be a mile stone for the government.



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