By: Chiduzie Modestus Onyema
Introduction: Information and Communication Technology (ICT) refers to the combination of manufacturing and service industries that capture, transmit, and display data and information electronically. It also describes the whole range of processes involved in the generation, storage, transmission, retrieval, and processing of information. It helps in breaking the walls of time, distance, and speed in the educational sector. Moreover, many people identify ICTs as catalysts for change in handling and exchanging information, teaching strategies, teaching methods, learning approaches, scientific research, and accessing information.
Role and Importance of ICTs: ICTs have developed as powerful tools for the dissemination of knowledge and information. Quality education traditionally was associated with strong and dedicated teachers of high caliber, but education was teacher-centered. ICTs have also influenced student-centered learning by providing more creative solutions to different types of learning inquiries.
The major importance of ICT in Nigeria
- Faster communication: The friction in the way of communication has been eliminated with the invention of ICTs. In those days, it used to take days, weeks, and sometimes months to get information across to our loved ones within and outside the country via ports and post offices. These days, our family and friends are just a dial away. With a few clicks on a few buttons, we are connected through electronic mail, chat telephone calls, and video calls.
- Research made easy: In our universities and higher educational institutions, students are often required to write term papers and theses. These two require a lot of research, i.e., the student has to consult several texts and many authors. ICT usually makes this easier because of the internet’s pool of knowledge, which is accessible via search engines. Students no longer have to spend long hours digging their way through dusty library books to get information about their research work.
- Facilitates skill acquisition: There are a number of skills on the internet that you can learn at your convenience and at a less exorbitant cost. YouTube, for instance, has become a very rich store of skills. These skills are taught in videos and motion pictures in a step-by-step manner. With download options and replay options, even a slow learner can acquire a skill at their own pace without having to run with a real teacher or go to other apprenticeship and skills acquisition centers where people are taught or trained in batches.
- Collaborations and synergistic works across national boundaries: ICT have made collaborations a lot easier with the provision of room for virtual meetings through Skype, webinars, Zoom, etc. Men and women from across the globe can do projects together without necessarily meeting physically in real time. Through the exchange of emails, phone calls, and other communication tools, project objectives are well articulated and duly communicated to all the actors in collaborative projects, and the process proceeds smoothly until the goals are achieved.
- ICT can act as a catalyst for business. This is because of the ease of communication between customers and sellers. In the past, feedback from customers was at a very minimal level, but this has changed with ICT. Satisfied customers can now take to their social media pages or the official pages of the businesses they patronize to share positive reviews, and this is one sure way for businesses to flourish. It is also possible for customers to seek redress in cases of unfair treatment.
Issues and challenges in the use of ICTs
- High Cost of Establishment: ICT does not only include phones, television, software, hardware, or telephones. It extends to the very complicated ones like robots, networks like our telecoms, drones, etc. The cost of setting up any of these is high. Taking a telecommunication company (e.g., MTN, Airtel, Glo, etc.) into consideration, you will find out that these companies have branches and towers scattered everywhere in the country. That’s a lot of money. Many other Nigerians may have the idea and passion to do the same or even better, but due to the cost of establishment, they just wave off their plans and look for something else within their reach.
- Lack of skilled labor: Although Nigeria is recording an improvement in the level of computer literacy, this is largely due to the injection of computer studies into schools’ curricula and the admission of children to computer training institutes by their parents. These still haven’t made up for the inadequacy of computer-skilled labor. Robotics, a complex and advanced branch of ICT, does not exist in Nigeria, owing in part to the lack of such a course and the necessary facilities in our institution. Some are privileged enough to travel outside the country to acquire the needed skills, while some companies see to it that their staff are well vested in ICT themselves.
- Unreliable Power Supply: For the Nigerian ICT sector to witness progress not only in application but also in invention and development, the power supply must be stable. It is heartbreaking that Nigeria still battles the problem of epileptic power supply up until now. The various telecoms masts scattered across the countries are powered by heavy duty diesel generators, which is not the case. These add to the cost of the company’s maintenance.
- Job Loss/Unemployment: The increased application of ICT has caused many Nigerians to lose their jobs. For example, the introduction of automated services displaces the need for manual ones. Before now, letters were sent through post offices, primarily and majorly NITEL, but now, people can send a volume of letters through email, social networks, text messages, or, better yet, a video chat or phone call. The introduction of ICT in this case cost the men and women their jobs, thus increasing the unemployment rate. ICT can also reduce the number of workers needed for a job. Take a supermarket as an example. A supermarket that has barcodes bearing prices attached to its products will increase the number of checkouts done per hour by a worker. Here, instead of the worker manually entering the prices into the computer, he or she can easily scan the barcode on such a product and proceed as deemed fit. In such a case, there obviously won’t be any need to employ more workers.
- Insecurity: ICT has dealt a big blow to insecurity. Cases of hacking are now heard here and there. People’s phones get hacked, and sensitive information gets stolen. A good case of insecurity was that recorded by MTN, a South African telecommunications company. Their service center suffered a terrible hack, which led to their being out of service for almost 3 days. Another case is the free browsing hacks, which allow subscribers to either browse for free or get data bundles at a cheaper cost.