ICT — A Veritable Tool for Bridging the Digital Divide (Concluding Part)
In almost all facet of life, the integration of one form of ICT tool or the other is now common. Agriculture is probably the most common profession in the rural areas and today we use tools like Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and also statistical packages for agricultural researches that have been instrumental in bringing improved practice of Agriculture.
There is a lot of misinformation in the developing countries. Primitive beliefs like female genital mutilation could only be discouraged with the correct counseling and information; scores of websites have a lot of information on these (www.amnesty.org/ailib/intcam/femgen ).
Of the 36.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS, an overwhelming 95 percent live in developing countries. And within those countries, AIDS is becoming a greater threat in rural areas than in cities. In absolute numbers, more people living with HIV reside in rural areas. The epidemic is spreading with alarming speed into the remotest villages, cutting food production and threatening the very life of rural communities. Africa accounts for only one tenth of the world’s population but nine out of ten new cases of HIV infection. Eighty three percent of all AIDS deaths are in Africa, where the disease has killed ten times more people than war. (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN). I believe that it is a disease that can only be eradicated through the dissemination of preventive information which is available in many websites. The kinds of misinformation we have are such that are very barbaric and archaic in the 21st century. An example is a notion in South Africa that if an HIV/AIDS positive male sleeps with a virgin, he automatically gets healed. These beliefs must be erased and ICT has given us a chance to disseminate correct information. E-governance would be a very good way of ensuring that the people are close to the government, they can easily forward their complaints and suggestions. The bureaucracy of having to wait for a long time before reaching government officials will be removed if there are ICT facilities to practice e-governance.
I am of the opinion that the greatest ICT tool that will bring about the desired socio-economic and technological revolution in the rural areas is the Internet. The Internet is made up of thousands of smaller networks and users across the world with no central office to control it, making it impossible to attack apart from virtual attacks like viruses. (Laudon, Traver and Laudon 1995). There are many opportunities for the youth today on the Internet. Many people are being educated through the Internet; there is no media that is close to it in having so much information. There are even online schools where one can attain degrees, these removes boundaries and gives opportunities to obtain quality education in virtual classrooms from qualified instructors all over the world.
The World Wide Web which is the most popular component of the Internet is also the greatest advertising media in the world. Rural youth have a chance of exposing their ingenuity to the whole world through the Internet. Local crafts, fabrics and tradition could be easily sold to the world though the information super-highway resulting in foreign exchange earnings and employment generation for the rural youth.
Young people in African countries should also be encouraged to work towards the emergence of Silicon valleys in their respective countries. Governments should start ICT parks that are not only meant to teach basic ICT skills to young people but deep computing subjects, especially software development. African youths are very brilliant and creative, if they only have access to the relevant materials like books, computers and software; the sky will be the starting point for them. I am recommending an ICT park with the aim teaching software development skills to brilliant young people who will later undertake projects like designing software and websites. Then, we will be moving towards what India is doing now, raking in a lot of foreign exchange through software development. Another way ICT skills will help youths in Africa is in outsourcing. Many countries in the US and the UK are outsourcing ICT and other jobs to India because it is cheaper and the high level of ICT expertise in Indian youths. If African youths could be brought up to speed, employment generation will come from these outsourced jobs from developed countries thereby reducing youth restiveness.