Wednesday, July 07, 2010

FUTO endorses Internet for Jobs scheme


Few weeks ago, the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) played host to the Internet for Jobs (I4J) initiative of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG). Remmy Nweke, who was there reports it was an eye opener for the students.

Recently a one-day seminar was hosted at the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), Imo State on Internet For Job (I4J) with the theme “Building Capacity to Create jobs Using the Internet.”

Organized by FUTO directorate of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) lead by Prof. Chidi Akujor and Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) under the groups I4J initiative, the seminar was supported by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Welcoming participants to the event, the Vice Chancellor, FUTO, Prof. Celestine Onwuliri, described the Internet as the most efficient means of communication for man in this century, stressing that issues relating to globalization have been made easier to comprehend because of the availability of Internet in all parts of the world, which tends to confirm the ‘global village’ theory.

Onwuliri also said that the Internet is one innovation of science and technology that has attempted to redefine human activities and functions, noting that like all inventions and innovations, the Internet has its strengths and weaknesses which could be explored fully to man’s benefit or his disadvantage.

Some of the demerits of the Internet, he enumerated, include the copious expression in its use for various kinds of theft of personal information such as scams, spamming, virus threat, unrestricted platforms for online pornography and cybersex, which he said, is doing much harm to many users especially the mental health of adolescents.

Conversely, he said, the internet as a resource tool has several advantages, which could be explored for man’s political, socio-economic, cultural, educational, religious and recreational developments.

He cited an instance that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) must also be anchored on this premise among other issues that relate to good governance, rule of law, transparency and accountability. Onwuliri, thus, challenged participants to deliberate on ways and means of building capacity to create jobs using the internet.

“I, therefore, wish to sincerely commend the organizers of this seminar for their thoughtfulness in putting together today’s occasion ...,” he said, disclosing that FUTO has entered partnership with Afri-Hub for the development of a mega-digital centre in the university community and the achievement of the Computerize Nigeria Project (CNP) with Zinox Technologies, have enabled some staff to own laptops for enhanced service delivery.

FUTO, according to him, presently maintains two official websites, www.futo.edu.ng and www.futongr.com in addition to a portal www.futoeduportal.com which have been deployed for various service delivery such as staff internet browsing, online course registration, payment of school fees, administration of post university matriculation examination (PUME) screening exercise to name a few.

The special guest and Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Sylvester Anyanwu told participants that aside from the on-going amendment on the Nigeria Communications Act of 2003, the National Assembly has advanced actions on four Bills to boost cyber security and data protection agencies in the country.

Anyanwu outlined these Bills already receiving attention at the Senate to include the Bill for the Protection of Electronic Fraud in All Electronic Transactions in Nigeria and other related matters; Bill for Act to provide Legal Recognition of Electronic Messages in Commercial Transactions; Bill for Act to Provide for the security, facilitation and regulation of electronic communications; and Bill for Act to Establish a legal and institutional framework for securing computers and networks and protecting critical information infrastructure in Nigeria and for matters connected therewith.

He singled out the Bill for Act to provide legal recognition of electronic messages in commercial transactions, clarifying that the use of electronic messages to fulfill legal requirements and to enable as well as facilitate commercial transaction through the use of electronic means and other related matters is crucial.

Equally, he said, when these Bills are finalized and passed into law, they will go a long way in putting an end to cyber crimes, thereby helping to grow businesses and investment in the country.

“A primary concern of the legislative arm is to ensure that our environment is safe for both investors and consumers,” he said, stressing that cleaning up the internet and the entire cyberspace will be the first to achieving this.

Also he noted that Internet would be more effective in creating employment and alleviating suffering when all stakeholders work together to encourage enabling operating environment, support infrastructure most specifically, the electricity power supply policies and collaborative framework.

In his address at the occasion the president of Nigeria Internet Group and chief executive of PiNet Informatics, Mr. Lanre Ajayi, noted that today in Nigeria, there is hardly any family without an unemployed person and it is in this stead that NIG came up with the I4J Initiative to empower Nigerians positively online.

He said NIG through I4J is determined to help in combating this menace called unemployment with two-phased approach.

“One is sensitization through seminars like this and secondly, by giving out a grant of N1m to startup a company, web application and marketing,” he said.

In his presentation to the occasion, the newly elected president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu said that Nigeria needs to introduce typing at the primary school levels. According to him, this is important in the face of the fact that typing has become a way of life in this era of ICT where every actor needs to key in whatever they wish to communicate to one another; be it a Short Messaging Service (SMS), electronic mail (email) and usage of computers for data gathering and dissemination.

Dwelling on “Unfinished business of the ‘Learning to Earn’ Campaign in Nigeria” Omo-Ettu said that the time has come for the government to make typing tutorials compulsory beginning with primary schools. He commended NIG for its crusade on positive application of ‘access’, especially NIG president, Mr. Ajayi and the likes of Mrs. Ibukun Odusote among others who made the first move of bringing Nigeria into the internet knowledge.

At the beginning, about 15 years ago, he said, stakeholders were more interested in awareness and Information Technology (IT) appreciation, noting that Internet has simplified, faster, clearer and potentially cheaper information transfer tool.

Maintaining that Nigeria’s campaign teams at inception for IT applications did a good job with several parts of the crusade including the articulations of demands to be fulfilled by the government, yet many were still indifferent.

“A lot were not even touched at all,” he declared, observed that part of what they said at the time of commencing internet awareness in the country included that IT would make things faster, better, and cheaper as well as that jobs would be provided on a larger scale.

Omo-Ettu pointed out that there was unlimited access to global information and therefore, there is market, the opportunities would be unlimited; IT skills were critical and desirable as well as that government should invest in IT resources.

Unfortunately, he noted then, they did not stress that skills from fundamental levels were critical, hence, giving impression that once anyone is IT-literate, manna could fall from heaven for such a person, underscoring the fact that they had stressed literacy and not proficiency.

“We did not stress typing in primary schools but we asked that computer training be introduced in schools. We did not ask for change of content of engineering curriculum, for instance, to veer towards business but we asked that computing processes be emphasized,” he asserted.

Omo-Ettu also said they had clamoured that content of education had to change to underscore productivity, just as they did not tell the governments that attitudes matter and even essential to growth.

This, he attributed to the government officials reacting ‘positively’ by buying computers, a lot as furniture for their offices; schools, where IT was emphasized, talked about computers and browsing.

“Yet, they did not emphasize the art of typing to skills level,” he said, maintained that tool be seen as a solution but not an end in itself, insisting that 15 years after the campaign begun, Nigeria still produce graduate journalists who cannot type their stories and graduate engineers who cannot solve problems.

“We still produce lawyers who write their drafts long hand for others to type out,” he lamented, underlining the fact that the time for change is now because jobs presently require that skills be available.

He further defined job as “‘solutions’ not mere ‘presence at a desk’” urging Nigerian school system to teach ethics which hitherto was called civics.

“Let all school children type before leaving primary school and let our graduate engineers know business; Let the need for a tool precede the acquisition of the tool,” he advised.

Delivering his key note address, the guest speaker, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem who also is the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Teledom Group, noted that science and technology are divine tools for man to conquer the world.

He also said that in science man seeks to know and unravel the mysteries by “piercing the cloud of the unknown, defeat ignorance, conquer fear and superstition and at the end when applied to technology gives a better live.” Every second, he said, something new is known, describing economy as “practical administration and/or adjustment and/or organisation and management of resources to deliberately ensure sustainable growth and development of a society and better the lot of the citizenry.”

Ekuwem said that ICT progressively engenders a competitive edge for any society that accepts and adapts it to their advantage. Noting that production has become proactive actions that could be relevant terms for stages and progress of human civilization of people, society, thus, production as an economic activity aids growth.

He said, economic development at this century has become competitive globally, since ICT has made the world a global village, so there is no longer local economy, which must strive to satisfy the well-being, human needs, food, shelter and health. Urging participants to remember the Biblical divine order “go and multiply and subdue the earth,” stressing that civilization is a divine mandate and a such, science and technology are divine tools as well as common heritage. Just as he reminded that education means liberation from ignorance.

Knowledge of the present, Ekuwem said, provides the building blocks for the future to discover new knowledge. Hence, a living society is necessarily dynamic in the sense that a social system of continuously available new knowledge is crucial for human development.

The present body of knowledge, according to him, is cross-sectoral, therefore, it is about all of human life, noting that knowledge in one component of life can be applied in others.

“There are therefore as many ‘small or tiny’ reservoirs of knowledge as there are human beings and human settlements scattered all over the world.”Hitherto, these “tiny” reservoirs of knowledge existed in isolation in manual and physical forms and could only be accessed by physical human movements to their locations.

Ekuwem maintained that there would be as many physical routes to these knowledge locations as there are human beings and human settlements. But for progress of civilization, academia offers the process of knowledge transmission and acquisition is institutionalized and made sustainable in very conducive environments.“… From the teachers to the students who can in future become teachers,” he asserted.

Ekuwem, who was a former NIG president, equally said that in research and development of body corporate, this process is directed not at teaching but at targeted business interests, proving the impetus that “Knowledge is power, mainly because it empowers the possessor and these “tiny” reservoirs of knowledge, isolated and scattered all over the globe were accessible to very, very few.”

Pointing out that because of the isolation, their updates and refreshments were not made very often, with external access being difficult if not impossible, hence leading to many instances of “re-invention of the wheel.”

Other presentations were made by the chief executive of Icecool Contracts, Mr. Destiny Amana, President, Internet Marketers Association of Nigeria (IMAN) Mrs. Olakitan Wellington among others.

However, in his closing remarks, Prof. Akujor urged students to take advantage of Internet so as to be self employed on graduation.

But the fact remains that Internet holds the key to provision of small scale jobs for those youths who want to be creative and with the endorsement of the NIG’s Internet for Jobs Initiative by FUTO, one expects that graduates of the university from onward should take advantage of Internet and who says a student should not be more intelligent in certain areas than his teacher; after all, it would keep the teacher on his toes in terms of current offering to the students.

Other institutions at the tertiary level need to take a cue from FUTO, if the youths must be fully engaged and the society witnessing less graduate unemployed.

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