Tech-MODE in Nigeria

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Executive summary

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) wishes to expand technology-mediated open and distance education (Tech-MODE) for agricultural education and improved livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa by identifying opportunities for a complementary and catalytic role, preferably in collaboration with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). For this purpose, this rapid survey was conducted to assess the status of information and communication technologies (ICT) in relevant institutions in selected countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria.

Agriculture is the key to sustainable livelihood in Nigeria engaging about 60 to 70% of the population. Agriculture therefore has great potential for micro- and macro-economic growth and development in Nigeria. But due to governmental neglect of agriculture with the emergence of the oil industry, agricultural development experiences a major decline. Tech-MODE activities are necessary to give fillip to this sector.

The country study indicated that the political climate in Nigeria is supportive of Tech-MODE activities. Nigeria has an agricultural policy that supports the use of ICT and an ICT policy that aims at tapping the advantages of the technology to improve livelihoods. Besides, the Nigerian government has set up different agencies to implement activities in ICT guided by the policy and has fostered a good telecommunications climate. All these have synergistically fostered a climate conducive for Tech-MODE activities in Nigeria.

The country study further revealed that potential partners for Tech-MODE exist in the public and private sectors in Nigeria. Several universities have basic equipment to undertake Tech-MODE, but few are carrying out any research and development work in this area. The few that are exploring the possibilities under Tech-MODE do so only to stretch their distance learning degree awarding programmes. Many of these programmes are not currently in the area of agriculture.

The National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) is the only research institute that combines capacity with experience in Tech-MODE programmes for improved livelihoods. The only civil society organization with considerable capacity and experience in the use of Tech-MODE for educational and improved livelihoods is the Total Development International Foundation (TODEV) which works in such areas as agriculture, adult education, and vocational training. The University of Ibadan has recently approached TODEV to jointly explore the use of their facilities for degree-related distance learning programmes.

We recommend that COL and FARA consider working with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) for policy and macro projects, some universities for distance learning, and with NAERLS for continuing education in agriculture especially for extension officers. TODEV is the most important potential civil society collaborator for all aspects of Tech-MODE for promoting agricultural development.


Executive summary  
Principal acronyms  

 1  Importance and status of agriculture in Nigeria  
 2  Policies and strategies on agriculture and education  
    2.1  Formal agricultural Education 
    2.2  Continuing Professional Education 
    2.3  Lifelong learning for farming communities 
 3  Facilities, capabilities and potential to implement Tech-MODE 
 4  National information technology policy 
 5  Tech-MODE and improved livelihoods in Nigeria 6Making Internet service affordable  
 7  Potential partners and government support for implementing Tech-MODE  
 8  Conclusions 
 9  Recommendations 
10  References 
Related information 

Principal acronyms

COL        Commonwealth of Learning 
FARA       Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa 
ICT        Information and Communication Technology(ies) 
IT         Information Technology (ies) 
IFANET     Information Network 
IITA       International Institute of Tropical Agriculture 
NAERLS     National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services 
NASRDA     National Space Research and Development Agency 
NCC        Nigerian Communications Commission 
NITDA      National Information Technology Development Agency 
ODL        Open and Distance Learning 
Tech-MODE  Technology-Mediated Open and Distance Education 
TODEV      Total Development International Foundation 
VSAT       Very Small Aperture Terminal 

1 Importance and status of agriculture in Nigeria

Nigeria has a land area of 983,000 km2, out of which only 740,000 km2 are suitable for agricultural production. Currently, about 392,000 km2 are under permanent pasture, with another 28,000 km2 under permanent crops. Only 279,000 km2 are used for arable crop production. Cropping intensity is high with respect to arable land used with about 250,000 km2 (25 million hectares) cultivated each year by small land holders.

Nigeria is a populous country. Figures from the census conducted in 2007 put the current population at 140 million people. About 60 to70 % of this population, which lives in rural areas, is directly or indirectly engaged in agriculture.

After oil, agriculture is the most important economic sector in Nigeria, contributing about 42% to the GDP. Nigeria has tremendous agricultural potential. Rural Nigeria is divided into the following seven agro ecological zones:

  • a semi-arid zone found only in the northern region,
  • the savannah found in the northern and middle regions,
  • a small highland area found in the middle and southern regions,
  • a larger transition environment of savannah derived from the forest overlapping the southern and middle regions,
  • mangroves in the Niger Delta,
  • fresh water swamps in the Niger Delta,
  • lowland rain forest in the south.

The agro-ecological setting and technology base, in principle, determine the production systems. Two production systems dominate these zones. The first is the traditional production system, which is found in all parts of the country consisting of land holdings of less than 2 hectares with a variety of food crops intended mainly for consumption purposes. The second is the improved irrigation system which comprises the improved small scale irrigation using low lying or water logged areas for crop and livestock production as well as large scale mechanized and commercial irrigation farming schemes.

Soils and climate in Nigeria allow the cultivation of a wide range of crops including cassava, yam, and cowpea (of which Nigeria is the largest world producer), millet, sorghum, maize, soybeans, groundnut, cocoa, cashew, potatoes, oil palm and others.

Nigeria Map.jpg

Fig 1. Location of Nigeria

Over the years, agriculture in Nigeria has suffered a decline in its contribution to the total exports. It declined from an absolute contribution of 70% in 1960, when Nigeria obtained independence, to about 2%. The decline was largely due to the discovery of oil in the coastal region and the phenomenal rise of oil shipments. This corresponded with a fall in the production of traditional export crops like cocoa, palm oil, rubber, and ground nuts, of which Nigeria was once a world leading exporter. For example, production of cocoa, currently Nigeria’s biggest non-oil export earner, has remained around 160 000 tonnes per year since 1995 compared with an annual average of 400 000 tonnes at its peak before the oil boom. The government has been making some efforts to encourage private investment in agriculture and agro-industries by providing incentives including tax relieves, finance credit and extension services but without much success.

Growth of the agricultural sector has been low partly due to the inadequate level of support. During 1993-1997, growth in the agricultural output averaged 3.5%. This was higher than the population growth rate which was estimated to be 2.7. The agricultural growth rate at this period compares with a period of stagnation in the first half of the 1980s when the growth averaged just over 0.5%. Low agricultural growth rate in the early 1980s was due largely to low produce prices, marketing restrictions and a drought which occurred at the time. Agriculture picked up a little after the economic reforms that were introduced in 1986. The reforms included trade liberalization, dissolution of marketing boards, and improved producer prices facilitated by the devaluation of the currency.

This stage also coincided with the period when the World Bank supported agricultural extension services and research activities, which synergistically helped the farmers to increase their productivity. From 1986, the agricultural sector in Nigeria grew steadily. Growth in the sector averaged 3.8 % during 1986-1992, 4.25 % in 1997, 4.5 % in 1999 and 4.74 % in 2001. The cash crop sector which had been abandoned for several years also benefited from this fillip as many farmers reactivated their previously abandoned fields.

Unfortunately, this renewed interest was not sustained, nor did it result in increased investment in cash crop production or in agroindustries using cash crops. Increased food crop production at this period contributed to a sharp fall in food imports from 19.3% in 1983 to 7.1 % in 1991. Much of the increase in agricultural output in recent years resulted from an expansion of the area under cultivation rather than from increased productivity.

In general terms, the agricultural sector in Nigeria has been hampered by inadequate access to information about improved technologies of production, processing and marketing, lack of access to inputs and output markets and lack of investment in the development of improved farming technologies.

Land degradation is a major environmental issue in Nigeria. Degradation of the natural resource base resulted in a reduction of economic, social and environmental benefits. Land degradation is due to several factors including erosion, desertification, poor agricultural practices, and socioeconomic factors. Natural hazards are due to biophysical conditions, which act as predisposing factors for land degradation. Poor agricultural practices like deforestation and removal of natural vegetation, over-exploitation of vegetation and over-grazing contributed to degradation.

Some of the socio-economic circumstances that contributed to environmental degradation include land pressure and poverty, manifesting in farming systems characterized by small sizes, and in risk reduction objectives rather than profit maximization. Other factors include imperfect markets and poor access to inputs, both of which make expansion difficult.

2 Policies and strategies on agriculture and education

The first national policy on agriculture was adopted in 1988. It was adopted after the results of many years of neglect of the agricultural sector had become obvious. This policy was reviewed in 2003. The Nigerian agricultural policy aims at the attainment of self-sustaining growth in all the sub-sectors of agriculture and the structural transformation necessary for the overall socio-economic development of the country as well as the improvement in the quality of the life of Nigerians. The broad policy objectives include:

  • Attainment of self-sufficiency in basic food commodities with particular reference to those which consume considerable shares of Nigeria’s foreign exchange and for which the country has comparative advantage in local production.
  • Increase in the production of agricultural raw materials to meet the demands of an expanding industrial sector.
  • Increase in the production and processing of exportable commodities with a view to increasing their foreign exchange earning capacity and further diversifying the country’s export base and sources of foreign exchange earnings.
  • Modernization of agricultural production, processing, storage and distribution through the infusion of improved technologies and management so that agriculture can be more responsive to the demands of other sectors of the Nigerian economy.
  • Creation of more agricultural and rural employment opportunities to increase the income of farmers and rural dwellers and to productively absorb an increasing labour force in the nation.
  • Protection and improvement of agricultural land resources and preservation of the environment for sustainable agricultural production.
  • Establishment of appropriate institutions and creation of administrative organs to facilitate the integrated development and realization of the country’s agricultural potential.

The main features of the policy include the evolution of strategies that will ensure self-sufficiency and the improvement of the level of technical and economic efficiency in food production. This is to be achieved through formal and several types of informal education.

2.1 Formal agricultural education

Agriculture is a compulsory subject in the new nine-year basic education curriculum for primary and junior secondary schools. To complement the theoretical base, primary schools in Nigeria are mandated to establish agricultural gardens where crops and livestock are to be kept for practical hands-on experience for school pupils. This however is more practicable for schools in rural areas where land is not a constraint.

At the secondary school level, students can pursue their areas of interest by taking the subjects at the school certificate level. There are further opportunities at the diploma and degree levels in agricultural colleges, universities and faculties. Middle level teachers are produced through the colleges of education.

The Federal Department of Agricultural Sciences oversees agricultural research in Nigeria through the recently established Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria. The Agricultural Research Council coordinates the activities of 18 National Agriculture Research Institutes (NARI) and 20 Federal Agricultural Colleges. Selected commodities are assigned to different institutions which carry out basic, applied, adaptive and farming systems research on the assigned commodities. They are also responsible for the production of breeder seeds for bulking. Four of the institutes are university-based: the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T) of the Obafemi Awolowo University, and the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), the National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), and the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), all associated with the Ahmadu Bello University.

The National University Commission (NUC) in Nigeria coordinates the activities of the Universities of Agriculture and other Universities having faculties of agriculture. Nigerian universities offer facilities for post graduate courses in all aspect of agriculture.

2.2 Continuing professional education

The Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI) offers opportunities for continuing professional education in the area of agriculture and rural development in Nigeria. ARMTI is a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Federal Government of Nigeria. An Act of Law established ARMTI in 1980. Its mission is to improve management practice in the agricultural and rural sector through appropriate management interventions for poverty alleviation. In this regard, ARMTI has been mandated to conduct special studies and research into management needs and problems in agricultural and rural sectors; conduct training needs analysis; provide management training as part of interventions for identified needs and problems (including gender, ICT and youth related issues); provide consultancy services towards improving managerial effectiveness and efficiency in the sector; disseminate agricultural and rural information and contribute to policy development for effective management.

The Nigerian Institute of Social Economic Research (NISER) was established as a research and consultancy parastatal of the Federal Government of Nigeria. The functions of NISER as stated in the Act of 1990, establishing the institute, are to provide consultancy services to the Federal and State Governments, their agencies and organizations, in the field of economic and social development, to conduct research into the economic and social problems of the country with a view to the applications of the result thereof, to organize seminars and conferences on problems of economic and social development in the country, whether on its own account or on behalf of the government or their agencies, and to cooperate with Nigerian universities, research institutes and other institutions in the mobilization of the county’s research potential for the task of national development and dissemination of research findings for the use of policy makers.

2.3 Life-long learning for farming communities

Life-long learning for farming communities is coordinated at two levels: governmental and non-governmental. Governmental facilities are coordinated by the Project Coordinating Unit (PCU) of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD). PCU was created in the year 2000 following a merger of two separate departments carrying out project coordination and project monitoring and evaluation functions. PCU coordinates the activities of the Agricultural Development Programs (ADPs) established in each of the states of the country. The ADPs are charged with the dissemination of most agricultural technologies. The ADPs which started in the 1970’s, fuelled with the World Bank money and armed with the Training and Visit System of the World Bank, were introduced to fill the yawning gap between research and end users in the agricultural sector. Minor extension services are also carried out by FMARD.

The Nigerian Civil Service in general and the FMARD, in particular, employ a large cadre of staff in various departments to deliver extension services. These staff members need to be primarily trained to deliver demand driven services for sustainable development. Training intensity has been low for majority of these institutions especially in the last decade. Besides induction courses, most staff do not receive any other type of training. The FMARD conducts training only on an ad hoc basis and as such there is no organized career development for the staff. The ADPs paid more attention to training of staff especially when the World Bank fund was still available. Even in this case, the training programme was decided and delivered in a top down version without taking into consideration the perceived needs at the grassroots. It also paid little attention to the systemic mode of operation of the farming enterprises. Furthermore, it ignored basic principles and concepts that can assist the farmer to see farming as a business and therefore move towards transformation.

All states have agreed to operate a unified extension service in each state through a decision of the National Council of Agriculture. Under this approach, a single village-level extension agent, backed by an appropriate extension supervisor and subject matter specialists, is the farmers’ principal contact for the dissemination of agricultural technologies. Operation of an unified extension system requires proper linkages of national and state agricultural services which are not in place at the moment. Limitation in terms of well trained staff and inadequate logistic support pose a problem, but the bigger challenge is to develop an affordable system responsive to the needs of the farmers. Therefore, developing an effective institutional framework, and having a critical mass of well trained extension staff who will continually access further knowledge, will enhance the responsiveness of the rural and agriculture institutions to meet the needs of the farmers. Tech-MODE has a role to play in this area.

Some civil society organizations have been involved lately in the provision of services to farmers and other members of the society in different parts of the country.

Notable among these is the Total Development International Foundation (TODEV). TODEV works with farmers using open and distance learning (ODL) and ICT to provide valuable services of linking farmers to information to produce, process and market their commodities, linking farmers to inputs and output markets, and providing other tangential services in health, adult literacy and economic development at the grassroots level. TODEV involves research and other tangential agencies including, input dealers, transporters, banks and end users in a network to address farmers problems. TODEV has a website ( and Internet facilities for staff and for the coordination of activities in the created network of ICT and ODL operations.

In this network, there are four remotely placed centres also connected to the Internet and with appreciable ICT facilities through which the work with farmers and rural community dwellers take place. They are planning to have about 20 more of such centres to be established with ICT facilities including the Internet. The University of Ibadan is currently exploring the possibility of using the facilities of TODEV to advance their distance learning project into rural areas.

Information Network (IFANET) is another agency that provides information to the populace. IFANET has Internet connectivity and appreciable ICT facilities at the headquarters. From the headquarters, they provide web-based information services to the populace on their database. They are, however, not really engaged in any kind of work with farmers.

3 Facilities, capabilities and potential to implement Tech-MODE

By virtue of its geographical position, Nigeria, like other countries of West Africa, has the advantage of the SAT 3 Cable system running from Europe, through the coast of West Africa, to the tip of South Africa and ending up in Asia.

A $638 million fibre optic system with the potential capacity of up to 120 Gps provides good opportunities for countries lining its route. The challenge for Nigeria, like other countries on the route, is to develop national backbone infrastructures to ensure the full utilization of the cable system. Nigeria has made some efforts in creating the backbone required for tapping from the benefits of the cable system.

In the years of its military rule, Nigeria paid little attention to ICT. However, since the change over to democratic rule in 1999, the leadership has made some remarkable strides in positioning the country for a flourishing ICT industry. Some significant measures were taken to provide the required infrastructural backbone for the ICT industry in Nigeria, including the following:

  • Launching of the National Telecommunications Policy in 2000,
  • Development of a Comprehensive Science and Technology Policy in 2001,
  • Development and launching of the National Policy on Information Technology in 2001,
  • Establishment of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA),
  • Launching of a programme for the Nigerian Satellite system by the National Space Research and Development Agency (NARSDA).

In addition, the Nigerian government liberalized the sector and gave priority to ICT issues. All these measures provide a good foundation for a smooth take off of the ICT industry.

The Nigerian IT policy strongly backs up a smooth implementation of Tech-MODE projects in Nigeria. The vision and mission statements indicate the focus desired for the ICT industry in Nigeria. The vision is to make Nigeria an IT capable country in Africa and a key player in the information society using IT as the engine for sustainable development and global competitiveness. The mission is to ensure that IT is used for education, creation of wealth, poverty eradication, job creation and global competitiveness.

The IT policy clearly indicates the sectors in which desirable impacts are wanted. These sectors are human resource development, infrastructure, governance, research and development, health, agriculture, urban and rural development, trade and commerce,

arts, culture and tourism, national security and law enforcement and fiscal measures.

Some of the sectors clearly enumerated in the policy have incorporated ICT in their activities and have developed Tech-MODE projects. The educational sector stands out clearly among others in the development and implementation of Tech-MODE projects. Some of the projects developed in the area of education include:

  • National Virtual Library Project,
  • Education Management Information System Program,
  • National Open University of Nigeria and Distance Learning Programs,
  • Computer in Schools Initiative,
  • Nigerian University Network,
  • National Teachers Institute Teacher Training Program by Distance Learning.

All these form a strong basis for the implementation of Tech-MODE in Nigeria.

The government has attempted to liberalise the ICT sector. This has seen the licensing of a Second National Operator, the GLOBACOM Limited, and the attempted sale of the other First National Operator, the Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL). The sale ran into some hitches and NITEL has been put under the care of some consultants who have been given the responsibility of reviving it.

The introduction of the Global System for Mobile (GSM) telecommunication was a major advance in the development of the ICT sector. With the launch of GSM in August 2001, the nation moved up from a teledensity, i.e., number of telephone lines per 100 subscribers, of 0.5 to 18% in March 2006. Today Nigeria has two GSM providers MTN and Vmobile and two national operators (NITEL and GLOBACOM). Nigeria had a total of 1.2 million landlines by 2005 and a total of 21.5 million mobile lines in 2006. It has been projected that by the end of the year 2008, there will be up to 30 million lines in Nigeria making it the fastest growing telecommunication market in the world.

4 National information technology policy

The Federal Executive Council of Nigeria approved the National Information Technology Policy in March 2001. The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) was established in April 2001 to implement the policy. Initial steps towards the implementation of the policy led to the development of some projects, a few of which are listed below.

Public Service Network (PSNet): PSNet is to address the major problems of ICT infrastructure, which will serve as a pipe for ICT services. It consists of a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) sited in state capitals. This VSAT will provide Internet access for that central location and all other locations connected to the centre using broadband wireless access technology. The various sites around the country are then connected to each other through a virtual private network. Nine states were completed in the first phase of the project.

Human Capacity Building: Human capacity building is another focus for NITDA. It is one of the foundations on which the IT policy is based. Others are infrastructural capacity and institutional capacity building. Towards realizing this goal, NITDA has forged a thriving partnership with public and private organizations in what has become a public-private partnership (PPP).

The Enterprise Technology Centre (ETC) is one such important PPP. ETC is a partnership between NITDA and two private companies to provide IT training for Civil Servants. In Nigeria, it is rather difficult for a private company to embark on the training of very top officials of the civil service. ETC, which is located within the Federal Secretariat, has provided training for these top officials.

The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation led all the permanent secretaries for a two-week training programme. This enlightenment has greatly aided NITDA in the bid to integrate IT into the public service. With the training of the top officials, NITDA has provided an enabling environment for the private sector to train civil servants from the lower cadre.

NITDA has also collaborated with several multinationals and international organizations to deliver specialized training in some train-the-trainer workshops. These institutions include UNESCO, International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Cisco Systems, etc. For instance, NITDA collaborated with ICTP by hosting the first African Workshop on Open Source and Web Technologies for Development earlier in the year 2003. There has also been collaboration with UNESCO on the Virtual Library and Virtual Laboratory Projects for Nigeria.

Mobile Internet Unit. The Mobile Internet Unit (MIU) is a locally made bus that has been converted into a mobile training and cyber centre. Its interior has 10 high-tech workstations all networked and connected to the Internet to facilitate access to several IT resources. It is equipped with printers, a photocopier and a number of multi-media facilities. Internet access is provided via VSAT equipment with a 1.2m dish mounted on the roof of the bus. The unit is also equipped with a small generator to ensure regular power supply.

The MIU provides everything needed in a high-tech cyber centre and it has the added advantage of being mobile. It takes the Internet to places that have no other means of access, e.g., the rural areas. It has also been deployed to various schools (primary and secondary) and the plan is to get all states and possibly Local Government Areas to have their own MIUs so as to facilitate the penetration of the Internet and ICT around the country.

A number of other projects such as National ICT Inventory, Strategic Action Plan for the IT Policy and the e-government (e-accounting and e-statistics) have also been embarked upon. Some of these were initiated in collaboration with the Italian government.

5 Tech-MODE and improved livelihoods in Nigeria

Tech-MODE and education: The teaching and use of computing and IT facilities in tertiary institutions have increased significantly. Many of the colleges of education are already integrating IT into their main courses. But, the secondary education level is lacking in the use of IT. Apart from the private secondary schools, virtually all public secondary schools do not have IT facilities. Several do not even have a single computer. The government, however, is promoting the use of computers and Internet literacy among secondary school students and has recently made it compulsory for secondary school graduating students to register for their examinations and check their results through the Internet.

If it is economically not feasible for secondary schools to individually own PCs the possibility for PC pools could be explored. For example, all Local Government Councils should establish computer and Internet Resource Centres to which secondary schools would be allowed access on an agreed time schedule. This was done in the case of Government Trade Centres in the past. TODEV experimented with this in two separate Local Government Areas (Atisbo and Ibarapa East Local Government of Oyo State) and achieved a high levels of success. Furthermore, IT and computing should be integrated into secondary school curriculum and the teaching of these made compulsory.

Tech-MODE and creation of wealth: It is reported that more than US$ 4 billion was invested in the Nigerian ICT sector over the past few years. Obviously, such a huge investment must have generated new employment opportunities and wealth for a number of people. The major challenge is how to structure such wealth so that it becomes regenerative by channelling it through more job creating ICT-based ventures.

One study conducted in 2003 showed that only a small proportion (6%) of those who use the Internet say they use it for research. It is common knowledge that most young people use the Internet to chat and play games or for some other form of entertainment. This is a regrettable situation amounting to a gross wastage of the potential of the Internet especially for a developing society that could use it to accelerate development by focusing on learning.

For young people, the key issue here is what policies and programmes could be put in place to begin to change the current perception of the Internet from one of being almost a modern play thing towards one of being possibly the most powerful means today for sourcing, disseminating and sharing information knowledge. Youth and women empowerment programmes should be put in the front burner for ICT to become popular.

For adults, what is required is a series of seminars and workshops to educate them on the various levels of investment opportunities in the ICT sector, viable locations for investment, how to source for funds and manage such ventures. It is also important to establish programmes around their means of livelihood to help them adopt the Internet as a wealth creation technology. The experience of TODEV shows , when rural people see an economic advantage in the Internet, they come out of their timidity and embrace it. The challenge is to create programmes that will sufficiently create the link and deliver the goods.

Tech-MODE and poverty eradication: A critical component of eradicating poverty is the removing of impediments to wealth. Lack of access to information is one such impediment. Today, investments are currently being made that increase the access to ICT services. With the assistance of agencies such as NITDA, TODEV and IFANET, ICT services are even gradually beginning to trickle down to rural areas. Tech-MODE has a role to play in improving access to ICT and thereby removing these impediments. GLOBACOM, which is one of the national carriers, is laying fibre-optic cables across the length and breadth of the country to deliver Internet facilities in private houses in all parts of the country. These cables can also serve as easy access points for enlarged decentralized mass access delivery systems in remote parts of the country.

Tech-MODE and job creation: Tech-MODE can assist in meeting the millennium development goals relating to job creation. What is taking place in Nigeria whereby indigenous Nigerian companies such as Zinox, Omatek, Beta and Unitec are designing and building their own branded computers and related equipment in Nigeria has become part of the process of industrialization of the country. This is creating job opportunities for thousands of Nigerians in the production line. Cybercafés and ICT Business Resource Centres have grown phenomenally from a mere 800 in 1999 to over 20,000 now, most of them employing an average of five people. There were 1500 Internet hosts in 2006 and 5 million Internet users by 2005. Most of these were linked to the numerous cyber cafes located all over the country.

Besides these locally generated jobs, other jobs are generated from outside the continent. The United States of America and Europe will outsource close to five million ICT related jobs, primarily in Call-Centre services, over the next few years. The challenges are how to position Nigeria in terms of infrastructure and skills to benefit from this new wave of job creation. ODL could help in training and re-training Nigerians for this emerging market. In conclusion, the whole world is in demand of programmers to oil the engine of development in this information age. Nigerian youths with interest in ICT can be mobilized and empowered to fill this gap.

Tech-MODE and global competitiveness: The world is gradually transforming into one global economy propelled by developments in information technology. Only nations which are e-ready and e-prepared can compete effectively in this new economic scenario. The challenge now is to secure a niche of competitive advantage for Nigeria while systematically and sustainably growing our infrastructure and developing our IT skills.

6 Making Internet service affordable

International Internet connectivity to Nigeria accounts for well over 50% of ISP costs. A significant saving could be achieved and the price to subscribers reduced, if a local Internet exchange could be installed in Nigeria to eliminate the need to switch internationally for Internet traffic within Nigeria.

Following the deregulation of the Telecoms sector from 1992, private sector participation, at various levels of the ICT sector, has grown significantly. Expectedly, this has thrown up a number of issues and challenges, some of which are discussed below.

Structure of the industry and management issues: Computing, telecommunications and broadcasting are converging technologies. However, each of these is managed by different entities viz NITDA manages computing, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) manages telecommunications and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) manages broadcasting. Furthermore, each of these is parented under different Ministries , i.e., NITDA in the Ministry of Science and Technology, NCC under the Ministry of Communications and NBC under the Ministry of Information. The present structure has merit to the extent that there are a lot of problems in each of the sectors to be solved and therefore requires the existence of separate agencies to focus on each specialized area.

However, with time and as convergence services such as Multimedia services grow in volume and complexity, and many of the sectoral issues such as bandwidth and content are sufficiently under control, it may become imperative to consider a structural alignment of these agencies for coherence of policies and management. The Government, however, needs some assistance in getting the alignment right.

Inventory of resources: As the nation prepares for e-governance, a critical success factor is the determination of ICT resources available in the government. Our survey shows, that government for example, uses 10% of telephones in offices in Nigeria and 38% of Internet connections in offices and establishments in the country. Yet, the networking of these facilities to facilitate governance and access to government information services, is grossly lacking. This is another area where the government needs support.

Procurement: If industrialization in the ICT sector is to succeed, then a case has to be made for import duty protection. Presently, imported/branded systems carry a 2.5% as import duty while local manufacturers also pay 2.5% for components that invariably come from different countries which further add to their cost. Consequently, their products are not competitive. This is obviously a disincentive to further invest in local manufacture/assembly of computer systems. We recommend that the import duty on the components for local manufacture of computers be reduced to encourage local production leading to the creation of local jobs.

Training and capacity building: The total population employed in the ICT sector is estimated at 446,000 people (296,000 in IT and 150,000 in Telecoms) by NITDA. We observed a growth rate of 18.6% in the new jobs created between 2000 and 2001, and a growth rate of 26.6% in the new job created between year 2001 and 2002. This trend is expected to continue given the significant investments being made in the ICT sector and the average growth rate of organizational IT budgets of 8.7% over the period 2000 to 2001. In the contrary, the output of relevant ICT graduates from the tertiary institutions grew at only about 6% over the same period. Continuing education and training is necessary to prepare these graduates adequately for employment in the ICT sector.

Training certification: To address the problem of low quality of the output of our tertiary institutions and to prepare them more adequately for the ICT Industry, we recommend that NITDA should develop a curriculum to make it more relevant to local situations and to provide booster/ refresher courses. This can be done in partnership with relevant training institutions and with appropriate certification from NITDA.

Pricing of services: The pricing of ICT services in Nigeria, in many cases bear no relationship to the cost of providing such services, particularly, in the absence of effective competition in the delivery of these services. Pricing is often arbitrarily fixed due to lack of competition. We recommend that while NITDA may not fix prices of IT systems and services, it could set benchmarks to guide the consumer in paying appropriate prices.

Service level agreement: The absence of service level agreements that can be enforced to protect consumers is indeed a bane in the development of the sector. Our survey reveals that only about 23% of the service providers have any form of Service Level Agreements, which is indicative of the general level of apathy to customer-care and the quality of service delivery. This has translated into poor service delivery by various service providers. We recommend that NITDA develops a programme of education for customer-care and consumer protection.

Technology issues: The problem in the ICT sector is not so much the adequacy of technology as the appropriate application of technology to obtain optimum solution. There is currently a problem in this area in Nigeria. Most of the application packages used by people are used at sub-optimal levels. This can only be corrected by the establishment of a mechanism to train and retrain users.

Infrastructure: A significant revelation of our survey is that the problem of infrastructure is not so much its adequacy to our present and future needs as in the utilization and access to the infrastructure. For example, while capacity may be overprovided in certain locations, it is grossly underprovided in others. This was observed even for some critical applications. Typically, the oil companies who are major consumers of data access bandwidth do not have a landing point of SAT-3 fibre optic cable.

Although there has been some argument that vandalisation of cables has been a disincentive to the establishment of an independent landing point for this sector, we think the government could explore options that will put the cables away from the reach of vandals. Besides, where bandwidth is available, access to it at the so called “last mile”, is expensive to the consumer who has to bear the major expense of providing the last mile access. We recommend that NITDA initiates a work plan with the NCC or the Ministry of Communications to develop a National Infrastructure Master Plan.

Technical standard and quality of service: Apart from international standards of equipment specification, the ICT Industry seriously lacks both technical and operational standards and enforcements. The implementation of wireless services both for telephony and for Internet is a case in point where some consumers are connected at the fringe of the range of the wireless service with poor and intermittent reception for the same price as consumers at the optimum point of the service. While it is important to adopt an accelerated strategy to extend service to underserved areas, maximum effort should be put in to protect the quality of the service delivered.

Effectiveness of technological reporting: Most Nigerians who read and write cannot operate computers themselves and know little or nothing about the uses and potential of information and communication technology. Much of the write-ups they come across in newspapers have not helped at all to demystify ICT language and discussions. And so, they simply turn over the page and look for other softer issues covered by the newspapers.

Technological reporting is still in its infancy in Nigeria, much of it being still quite heavy going, even for the initiated. There is now the urgent and strategic need to communicate with, and to make an impact on, millions of uninitiated Nigerians, offering vital knowledge that is now new to them. Therefore, policies and programmes must be put in place to develop persons who can communicate effectively to lay audiences, the growing body of otherwise difficult ICT concepts. Capacity building is a major requirement in this respect

7 Potential partners and government support for implementing Tech-MODE

Potential collaborators on Tech-MODE in Nigeria exist in all sectors of the economy. NITDA is one example. NITDA which is the de facto agency for coordination of IT activities has sufficient human and material resources with abundant goodwill from the Federal Government. Another agency which is equally important is the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA). NARSDA is equally endowed and like NITDA enjoys the support of the government. However, NASRDA is more engrossed in the application of tech-MODE to secondary school education and the health sector. The biggest challenge is to get them to buy into agricultural projects or engage with the main stream of existing projects. Currently, it is developing a mega Tech-MODE project with TODEV to ensure that rural farmers derive benefits from the recently hoisted Nigerian Satellite.

In the agricultural sector, all research institutes have acquired adequate resources but only the National Agricultural Extension Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) has sufficient orientation in the use of Tech-MODE. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) collaborated with the NAERLS to implement some Tech-MODE related projects in the year 2000. The potential of NAERLS for Tech-Mode research and development is high as they have demonstrated their ability to apply Tech-MODE to lifelong learning for farmers.

In the educational system, there are several universities with sufficient resources to undertake Tech-MODE related activities at different levels of learning. A total of 82 universities were surveyed including the new Open University in Nigeria. Thirty of them are owned by the Federal Government, 28 by the states and 23 were privately owned.

In all, private universities had more ICT facilities than the Federal and the state-owned universities. Consequently privately owned universities also had higher computer/people ratio. Many of them are already involved in distance learning activities.

Prominent civil society agencies that have been involved in Tech-MODE related activities include TODEV and IFANET. While TODEV is focused on agriculture as the central issue on which other issues are attached, IFANET is focused on social issues. They both have good ICT facilities and Internet connectivity. TODEV already has a network of 4 centres coordinated for Tech-MODE related activities and is working with some partners to develop 20 more centres. In each of the 4 centres in TODEV’s network, Tech-MODE related activities cover the areas of adult education, vocational training, agriculture with a focus on farmers’ health and lifelong learning. IFANET circulates an electronic newsletter on social issues and governance. They both have their headquarters in Ibadan.

8 Conclusions

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) wishes to expand technology-mediated open and distance education (Tech-MODE) for agricultural education and improved livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa by identifying opportunities for a complementary and catalytic role, preferably in collaboration with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). For this purpose, this survey was conducted to assess the status of ICT in relevant institutions. The survey indicated that the political climate in Nigeria is supportive of Tech-MODE activities.

Nigeria has a fast growing ICT industry nurtured by a favourable government policy which has positioned the country at a vantage level for Tech-MODE related activities. The country study revealed that potential partners for Tech-MODE exist both in the public and private sectors in Nigeria. Several universities have basic equipment to undertake Tech-MODE, but few are carrying out any research and development work in this area. The few that are exploring the possibilities under Tech-MODE do so only to stretch their distance learning degree awarding programmes. Many of these programmes are not currently in the area of agriculture.

NAERLS is the only research institute that combines capacity with experience in Tech-MODE programmes for improved livelihoods. The only civil society with considerable capacity and experience in the use of Tech-MODE for educational and improved livelihoods is TODEV. They are exploring possibilities in agriculture, adult education, and vocational training. TODEV was recently approached by the University of Ibadan to jointly explore the use of their facilities for its degree-related distance learning programmes.

COL and FARA can both take advantage of the rapid developments to implement their Tech-MODE related projects. To succeed in Tech-MODE activities in Nigeria, COL and FARA may want to collaborate with NASRDA, NITDA for policy issues and for macro activities covering the whole Nation. For distance learning, ready partners exist in a number of universities including the Nigerian Open University and the National Teachers Institute. For continuing education in the agricultural sector and for lifelong learning for farmers, NAERLS is important. The most prominent civil society involved in Tech-MODE activities currently is TODEV. TODEV could be an important partner for all facets of the application of Tech-MODE.

9 Recommendations

The theme of COL’s Three-Year Plan for 2006-2009 is Learning for Development. This plan addresses an agenda that includes the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, the goals of Education for all and the Commonwealth’s objectives of peace, democracy, equality and good governance. Increasing and improving human learning is the key to fulfilling most aspects of this agenda. Tech-MODE has a key role to play in ensuring that Nigeria is on the path to accomplishing this development agenda. In particular, the following areas are recommended:

  • COL in collaboration with IITA and some local agencies in Nigeria have already developed some models for facilitating rural learning for farmers in the context of Tech-MODE. This led to a great impact in the pilot area. COL in collaboration with FARA (through DONATA and RAILS) can expand the scope of the pilot project in order to increase the impact.

  • COL is currently collaborating with the National Open University of Nigeria for distance learning. COL can expand this collaboration. The partnership with FARA (through SCARDA) can include agriculture. Other African universities that are willing could also be partnered with. Special courses can be developed for in-service practitioners to improve their confidence in the performance of their duties.

  • Although there are 82 Universities in Nigeria, they do not offer admission to more than 30% of qualified candidates. This gives a lot of room for distance learning. COL and FARA can intensify work in this area by bringing into partnership willing private sector and civil society practitioners. REDCAPA works with a network of Universities to deliver distance learning programmes in Latin America. Willing Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria could also be empowered to do the same. On the other hand, COL can promote the establishment of a Virtual University in Nigeria for the whole of Africa.

  • COL can work with FARA to use all the facilities emerging in Nigeria including the satellite to initiate sub-regional programmes that will benefit rural agriculture in the sub-region.

10 References

Ajayi, G.O. (2003) e-Government in Nigeria's e-Strategy; The Fifth Annual African Computing & Telecommunications Summit, Abuja, Nigeria.

Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (2001). The National Information Technology Policy, pp iii.

Nigerian Communication Commission (2002) Licensing of the Second National Operator (SNO). .

NITDA (2003). Projects of NITDA. .

Federal Department of Agriculture (2006), New Agricultural Policy Thrust for Nigeria.

Related information

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Web Resources

The Main Page on Tech-MODE in SSA is Tech-MODE_in_SSA

For brief information on the country studies see the poster presentation: Tech-MODE Poster

For information on agricultural open educational resources (AOER) see the poster presentation: AOER Poster

For a Synthesis Report on all eight country studies see Tech-MODE Synthesis

For the Country Study on:

Distance Learning for Agricultural Development in Southern Africa
Rainer Zachmann, Mungule Chikoye, Richard Siaciwena, Krishna Alluri
In 2001, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Vancouver, Canada, and the In-Service Training Trust (ISTT), Lusaka, Zambia, initiated a program for agricultural extension workers in Southern (and Eastern) Africa to develop and deliver distance-learning materials. Participants from Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia produced materials, pre-tested them with prospective learners, improved the materials in a workshop in 2002, and implemented pilot programs in their countries in 2003 and 2004.

ICT/ICM Human Resource Capacities in Agricultural Research for Development in Eastern and Central Africa
Rainer Zachmann, Vitalis O. Musewe, Sylvester D. Baguma, Dorothy Mukhebi
Human capacities are lagging behind the quickly evolving information and communication technologies and management (ICT/ICM). Therefore, the Regional Agricultural Information Network (RAIN), one of the networks of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), commissioned an assessment of ICT/ICM human resource capacities and related training needs in the context of agricultural research for development. The assessment included visits and interviews, questionnaire surveys, and desk studies at national agricultural research systems in the ASARECA subregion. We found a general lack of ICT/ICM policies which has serious consequences, and leads to a wide variety of training needs. Fortunately, most training needs can be satisfied with resources available locally, in-house, in the country, or in the ASARECA subregion.