By Martin Ekpeke
The Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), established by the Federal Government to drive universal access to Information and Communications Technologies in rural, unserved and underserved areas, yesterday berthed in Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State for what it described as ICT utilization and sustainability workshop.
The 2-day South-West Zonal Stakeholder Engagement workshop, was organized to encourage and build capacity among benefiting communities of USPF’s programmes and how to protect the infrastructure provided.
Declaring the workshop open, the Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission and Vice Chairman of USPF, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, urged participants at the workshop to fully harness the digital economic opportunities available online.
He said considering the current focus of using ICT to achieve the sustainable development goals, NCC through the USPF believes in identifying, equipping and training Nigerian youths with a view to empowering them to participate actively and score brilliant landmarks in the global digitization revolution going on in the world today.
“We want to identify and equip our own Bill Gates or hidden talents to be discovered and to blossom. These talents we believe we can also get from the rural areas. All we need to do is to identify them,” he emphasized.
The former Senator added maximizing the power of ICT to grow Nigerian economy, create jobs and enhance national competitiveness through the deployment of broadband infrastructure that will ultimately unleash opportunities and higher network rollout for all Nigerians remains a priority for NCC and the USPF.
Also speaking, the Secretary of USPF, Mr. Ayuba Shuaibu, noted that the goal of the workshop is to enrich participants’ understanding of sustainable solutions that encourage the use of ICT for development. He argued that the deployment of technology innovations for improvement in Agriculture, healthcare, Education and Security must be encouraged.
Shuaibu, who was represented by Kelechi Nwankwo, disclosed that the USPF has embarked on a rapid and robust deployment of Public Access Venues (PAVs) in schools and community, School Knowledge Centres (SKCs) and Community Resource Centres (CRCs), adding that the USPF provides bandwidth for two years to these centres.
“The beneficiaries of ICT play the essential role of leveraging cutting edge technologies for improved livelihood. Communities without access to affordable ICT services would therefore be disadvantaged. Thus, USPF will continue to implement programmes and projects in unserved and underserved communities to facilitate the development capacity of all Nigerians in the global economy,” he assured.
Shuaibu explained there is a gap between developed countries and developing countries like Nigeria, in terms of ICT infrastructure and usage. This gap, he said, must be bridged to ensure optimal and innovative use of ICT tools that will ultimately decided the development of Nigeria.
‘Socio-economic challenges are not simply solved by the presence of technologies (ICT), but by peoples’ abilities to use such technologies to improve their wellbeing. The transformation of lives in rural communities is one of the reasons for the establishment of USPF, “ he stressed.
Meanwhile, the training of over 100 citizens in Ijebu Igbo in web development, app development and Computer hardware is presently going on, as part of the 2-day workshop, which was put together to discuss the programme of the USPF, encourage benefitting Communities and schools to use and protect the infrastructure provided while developing the capacity of participants to fully harness the digital economic opportunities available online.
The Minister of Communications, Barrister. Adebayo Shittu had yesterday announced that though the target of USPF is train 150 citizens during the workshop, 100 were registered for the training, which will empower them to have skills that will help them get jobs, create jobs and contribute to the economy.
“The government cannot provide jobs for all unemployed youths, but we want to identify hidden talents in Nigeria and equip them. Some countries have no Oil but are better developed than Nigeria. These Countries leverage on Information and Communication Technology. Nigerians need to learn more about ICT to aid development of the country,” he said.
He noted that ICT is gradually taking over oil, as it has become the surest way to creating jobs and developing societies.