Monday, August 1, 2011

Mobile Digital Inclusion; a Paradox of Poverty & Technological Determinism

"...the Future Is Already Her! It’s Just Not Very Evenly Distributed!!”
— Richard Heeks
1. Preamble

Mpape Top-up
For all it is worth, one thing that has always baffled me as a young Nigerian, has been the tenacity and ingenuity displayed by my fellow countrymen. As a student in the early 90s, I wondered why all the petty traders sold the same seasonal fruits. Like a “seasonal harvest-sales culture” When it was the orange season, all the women would sell oranges, and when it was the cashew season, all of them would sell same. I couldn’t imagine how not one thought to create a niche market, by going solo to do something different.

Now as before, almost 2 decades on, I wondered why he was sitting there, in front of me. His wares cast to one side like he really didn’t care about them. He held in one hand, his head - aching... and in the other, he rubbed his leg – tired from walking the hot dusty streets of Abuja. One glance at his foot told me all there was to this drama. He had bruised his toes. I took pity on him, he couldn’t have been more than 13 years old, yet out of the dare need to feed, he had taken this “noble” cause to bring a top-up service to my phone. I felt sorry – and enquired how much it would cost to buy up all he had to sell, to enable him return home to nurse his busted toes. N5000 [1] he responded – I paid, he walked. I hoped he would rest, at least for today. But shocked I was, to learn he had limped off only to reappear with yet another batch – to continue in his toil to make ends meet on the sidewalks of Mpape[2].

2. Introduction
Changes in society as a result of increased international trade and cultural exchange, often called globalisation, have always had a significant impact on organisations and their Information Systems (IS). These changes are beginning to reopen research concerns in the area of development. These changes are contingent on the rapid inundation of IT in to less developing world. – leading to Development 2.0.
"...belle first[3]”
— An Africa Urban Cliche
Recent studies of the role of ICT in development exist (D´ıaz A & Urquhart (2009); (Hunt, 2001); Kanungo (2003); Salvador et al (2005). They all show the power of local knowledge and commitment to develop one’s community at play.

These early research have all too often been one sided, like the horse and its bilkers – they have focused on the marginal benefits derivable from ICT4D or Development 2.0, unwittingly neglecting the negatives. This has encouraged more and more research and foreign aid, As William Eastly succinctly put it, “The big problem with foreign aid and other western efforts to transform the Rest is that [the]people paying the bills are rich people who have very little knowledge of poor people.” (Eastly, W. (2006). Without prejudice, this paper seeks to throw more light in this dark area to help researcher gain inside knowledge of the bitter realities that plague the so called “4th World”.

This paper is divided into 4; the first part reflects on literature and outlines development 2.0. The second part seeks to trace the origins and motivation of development 2.0. part three focuses the issue on digital inclusion as practiced in Nigeria, delineating all its flavours in rich detail. Part four critically analysis these initiatives against the global-world economy and the disenfranchised in Africa. Finally part six concludes and makes recommendations.

3. Definitions
We turn to Richard Heeks as an authority in the area of eGovernment and Development in the developing world. He contends that at last “we can celebrate the fact that the foundations and assumptions of international development are changing. The tools for a digital economy are now—and will increasingly be—in the hands of the world’s poor. (Heeks. R. B. 2010). This change has reshaped the world of development by underpinning the importance of technology as a change driver.

“In 1998, less than one out of every 100 inhabitants in developing countries was an Internet user. By 2008, that figure had risen to 22 out of every 100. In 1998, two out of every 100 inhabitants in developing countries was a mobile phone subscriber. By 2008, that figure was 55 out of every 100”. (ITU. 2009)."

...a critical aspect of industrial competitiveness will be the ability to adapt quickly to rapid technological developments and constantly changing market conditions”
— Nikerson

3.1. Development 2.0
“Development 2.0” is defined as the new IT-enabled models that can transform the processes and structures of development. – (Heeks, R. B. 2010)

Development 2.0 deals mainly with the role of ICT in development. Richard Heeks categorises it in the following three loose genres. Breaking away from traditional norms, these include -

a) New Relationships
  • Connecting the excluded – bringing the digitally excluded within the digital fold
  • Dis-intermediating – removing the middle man, constraining eGovernent service to fight corruption.
b) New Roles
  • Digital Production – the connected poor now have access to unique jobs/services which were lacking hitherto.
  • Digital innovation – appropriating IT for other means, creating jobs.
c) New Models
  • Collective Power – crowd sourcing – text-in eParticipation
  • Social Enterprise-

Nowhere is this more evident, than in the area of mobile phones, where the poor, disenfranchised and excluded have evolved new unique ways to appropriate technology. The speed at which ICTs are diffusing has taken many observers by surprise. This is in no small part thanks to the mobile revolution. “With 4 billion mobile subscribers in the world” (United Nations, 2009 p. XI.) Mobile phones have emerged as the most widespread ICT in the developing world. (ibid. p.XIV) “An estimated two-thirds of the population [in Africa] now has access to a mobile phone. “Heeks, R.B. (2009).

African countries are pioneering mobile banking and electronic transactions services, like the m-Pesa service by Safaricom in Tanzania, and Airteks m-Chek and Odopay in India. (United Nations, 2009 p39 - 41). Research in this area abound for further reading (Rangaswamy, N. 2007); (D´ıaz A & Urquhart (2009); (Hunt, 2001); Kanungo (2003); Salvador et al (2005).

Mobile phones can also be a source of small enterprises. As argued by Madon S. Et al (2007) it supports development as they all share something in common, in that they are;-
  • getting symbolic acceptance by the community;
  • stimulating valuable social activity in relevant social groups; generating linkage to viable revenue streams; and
  • enrolling government support.
The concept of Development 2.0, even in Africa alone, is beyond the scope of this single paper. We shall therefore narrow it down to digital inclusion via mobile phones and be country specific by looking through the lens of the poor in Nigeria.

4. Nigerian Innovations
Nigeria is better known as the most populous black nation and for her misappropriation of ICT with SPAM than for ICT4D. But the ingenuity of the poor people shine through in the innovative ways they utilize technology - Especially with the mobile phone. In their bid to make ends meet and as a conduit to socio-economic development, the incidence of “low level of political awareness has resulted in meager resources being devoted to promoting” infrastructure in less developed nations (Brown et al, 200). This has informed the peculiarities observed in every Development 2.0 projects around the world. A few Nigerian Examples are described below.
"...The secret of economic growth lies in institutional innovations that are country specific, and that come out of local knowledge and experimentation.”
— Rodik
4.1. The “Umbrella People”
For lack of a better name, the ‘umbrella people.’ are the new merchants on the streets or at vantage points allover Nigeria, easily accessible to deliver phone services for a token fee. They sell air time top-up cards and also double as telephone centers, where customers can make and something receive calls. This phone posts serve a central role in the small villages as the operators are a hub of information dissemination drawing all comers towards it.

Figure 1: “Umbrella People” Sitting in the shade waiting for the next customer

4.2. Trade & Commerce Sales – GSM Village
The streets of urban Nigeria is awash with mobile vendors. Their typical merchandise range from cheap 1st generation mobile phones, universal chargers (one size fits all), phone pouches, batteries and their phone accessories.

Figure 2: “Mobile” Phone Shop. Source of Photo AP

Perhaps their most sold items are the casings[4] of all makes of phone –Some more elaborate models around the same commercial activity exist for more buoyant entrepreneurs. Like the one in the picture below.

Figure 3: A small phone shop Source of Photo AP

ICT Research & Development specifically adheres to Northern markets constructs – where technology is designed to be disposable. But here in a Southern example, old phones are repacked in a new casing to make them appear brand new – the culture of not throwing things away is determined by poverty.

4.3. Fix Shops
Interestingly, the most technical outcome of the mobile phone phenomenon is the mobile fix shop, where technicians[5] repair, maintain and unblock network-bound phones. More recently, with the Nigerian music industry on the rise, and the abundance of cheap flash memory and sophisticated phones with media capabilities, Fix shops now upload and manage musical playlist for customers that are not so good at operating their phones.

Figure 4: A technician repairing phones from scrape. Source of Photo AP

4.4. Mobile Print Shops
With upwards of 5 mega pixel cameras at the finger tips of many mobile phone owners, the art of Photography is been redefined. People can now take photos or all kinds at a moments notice - from the bizarre to mundane. The problem however is that most poor people do not have access to quality print shops where they can print these photographs - Enter the Mobile Printer.

Figure 5: Photographers mingle with tourist.

Mobile printers[6] can be seen in public leisure parks, tourist area and any social event. By means of a universal flash adapter, Bluetooth or infrared connection, they transfer pictures from a costumer’s phone to their printers for a fee.

4.5. Mobile Chargers
“Only 15 percent of rural households in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity” (Heeks, R.B. 2008 p. 28). With frequent power cuts that last days on end, poor rural mobile phone users rely on mobile phone chargers to power their phones.

Figure 6: A Charging Station Source of Photo Self.

The operators of this service use fossil fuel power generators and charge a fee based on how long the batteries is charged. Notice there are hardly any phones being charged? That is because most rural people have multiple batteries to ensure that they can still be on air while their alternate batteries are under charge.

4.6. Other Innovations
Other unique innovative ways the poor have used mobile technology include
  • Free calls
    Mobile service providers offer promotions and freebies to retain existing customers and entice new ones. One such service targets the young by allowing free calls to numbers on the same network from 11pm – 5am. This has seen the poor react in a unique ways. Though African traditions forbid normal activities at night – night is for sleeping. Most poor choose to converse with loved ones, or transact all business deals late to avoid spending money.
  • ‘Flashing’
    Amongst the poor in Nigeria, it is common place to beep and drop before the call is answered. This is termed “Flashing” and is typically used by a subordinate to initiate a call to a superior – by so doing saving money to the subordinate. It is also spurning a new opportunity for traders, especially the airtime top-up vendors who store the names of their customers and send a voucher by text or render a home call to sell the top-up vouchers when they receive a “Flash” from their customers – the memorandum of understanding being not to answer the call, but promptly react by providing the Top-up voucher.

5. Gainers & Losers
Not surprisingly, there are some technological determinist like Heeks who may celebrate every little progress made, as long as it has a technological bearing, while on the flip side there are critics like Willlam Eastly who don’t quite see the connection of struggling poor people with development.

In Heeks view, one “can start to migrate: from seeing [the poor] as victims to seeing them first as consumers, then producers, then innovators of a digital age. And, as we do so, changing our views on the processes and structures of socioeconomic development: from Development 1.0 to Development 2.0.” Heeks. R. B. (2010)

But much like Eastly, Madon et al (2007) I agree with the argument that “there is a significant gap between the original espoused social development goals... and actual usage patterns. As may be observed in the Nigerian cases presented above, challenges to techno-economic globalization come from peoples search for communal or collective identity. – in this wise, the poor are driven by hunger and deprivation to seek novel ways to make a living. The outcomes of these opportunities challenges the norm concerning the barriers to development, vis-à-vis the poor and the digital world-economy. And as such should not be termed as development.

One other point is the expressions being used. for the advocates, there seems to be a blur between the “information poor” and the “financially poor” – a distinction that William Eastly clearly suggest in his epic book “The White Man’s Burden”. Castells also argues’ in his 3rd Vol. that “the rising occasion of the digital divide that widen the gulf of inequalities, may well make way for the emergence of the “4th world”. What has been the value of these projects? What are the evaluation of the costs and benefits of this forms of inclusion? Who is benefiting from it and in what way? All these concerns underpin the spirit of questioning and reassessment of ICT4D [that] is becoming more and more evident. I will elaborate on the many contradictions within these changes bellow.
"The big problem with foreign aid and other western efforts to transform the ‘Rest’ is that people paying the bills are rich people who have verylittle knowledge of poor people.”
— William Eastly
5.1. “Belle First”
Much like my token of mercy in the Mpape Top-up story at the beginning of this paper, the immediate benefit derived by this menial work is insignificant. Hunger for food, not information, seems to be the driving force behind all this. This argument is echoed by Eastly in his book “The Burden of the White Man” – where he concluded that the aid money spent by the West on the “Rest” was not enough to bring her out of poverty. So in simple terms, these changes are a desperate measure by desperate people trying to make ends meet. – this further punctuates the development concerns.

5.2. Urban Migration
The rural – urban divide is important for development in any setting. For developing nations, the impact of ICT in the form of mobile phones is a two edged sword, as it empowers the farmers to expand markets and reduce cost (FARA. 2009) on one hand, while encouraging more and more unskilled youths to leave the urban farms for an opportunity to engage in the “mobile service” on the other.

In the Nigerian examples mentioned earlier most of the Umbrella People around large towns have migrated from the rural areas to urban centres where they can easily setup shop – afterall, all that is needed is a few Naira[7] in the pocket, a large umbrella and a stool. Unwittingly depriving the nation of useful human resources who could benefit the nation in other regards – and the other sector suffers. Mobile services and this type of practice is yet another nail in the coffin for agriculture in Nigeria – this trend is fast spreading to other countries in the western coast of Africa.

5.3. Free Trade
Though it has been argued that “the neoliberal assumption that enabling market access in the global world economy by free trade, or the enactment of intellectual property rights will lead to development” (Gallagher, K. 2004, p5) it is all dependent on several factors. As Rodrik suggests, “The secret of economic growth lies in institutional innovations that are country specific, and that come out of local knowledge and experimentation”. – Unfortunately, this is not what we see in the Nigerian example. The innovations are of an adaptive type rather than creative type.

Easterly's argument is that if motivations for change is imposed by outsiders ”almost nothing works -- in either the economic or political sphere.” It's no accident, he argues that,

“the great East Asian economic success stories of recent decades -- Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand -- all took place in countries that were never successfully colonized by the West. These nations evolved their own cultures, rules and disciplines and built an indigenous foundation for rapid economic growth. The region's laggard is the one nation that was colonized: the Philippines”. (Easterly W., 2007)

This no doubt is at a macro level of nations and states, but we can still make the inference by looking observing its instabilities from a micro level and see how outside money will affect it. “It is unclear where [these] current instabilities might lead, but it is not unreasonable to argue that a questioning of neoliberal political and economic policies and the rise of certain forms of development management are helpful in understanding future roles for ICTs in development.” (Silva & Westrup 2009)

5.4. Inscription
Globalised world or not, IS and its constructs are grounded in the needs of the northern nations and as such do not have the cultural values of the south inscribed within their processes. This brings to question the needs like the furtherance of the Neo capitalist ideals that exploit the poor and fatten the rich – (corporations and individuals alike). There is no evidence in this area, and these are just an echo of the small cynic in me.

5.5. Capitalism & Multinationals
Another such factors is the role of local, (regional and national) authorities mediating and regulating markets. Manuel Castell’s 3 volume study on The Information Age: “Economy, Society and Culture” suggests that a new “network society is emerging from current process of change that is both capitalist and informational”... it goes ahead to say that firms (large or small) seek “to sell wherever they can throughout the world, either directly or via their linkage with networks that operate in the world market (Vol. 1 p. 27).

If we observe the above Nigerian initiatives with this lens, it clearly shows that the big multinationals are feasting large, at the expense of the poor. Mobile service providers like MTN, Vodacom, Vain, Globacom, and recently Etisalat to mention but a few. It is even more complicated when one considers that these services locks lock their users in, with poor subscribers spending as much as 50% of their earning on maintaining their phone.

We have already seen how ICT R&D adheres to Northern markets constructs – where technology is designed to be replaced (hidden under the guise of improvements, Designers continue to manufacture newer and newer models and target anywhere where they can make money.

5.6. Institutionalization
Let us returning to Madons et al (2007) criteria for technologies that support development outline earlier - 1) they should be getting symbolic acceptance by the community; 2) stimulating valuable social activity in relevant social groups; 3) generating linkage to viable revenue streams; and 4) enrolling government support. From the forgoing, we can say that for our Nigerian initiatives described above, it is a resounding yes to the first two criteria, whereas, the last two are clearly not evident.

Even though social inclusion is a good thing, the support needed to move things forward are not normally in place - institutionalisation of digital Inclusion (Harris et al (2003); Madon et al (2007). While most “projects are started with funding from local or central government, aid agencies or NGOs” Madon et al (2007), the initiatives described here are financed mostly by individuals or thrifts societies at best. Their argument for institutionalizing them by involving Government, NGOs and Multinational may well lead to their extinction and usher in Castell’s so called “4th World” of the super poor.

Figure 7: An MTN Sponsored Kiosk.

Though this projects are largely backed by the service providers for whom the poor aid by distributing the top-up cards, and as a means of cheap publicity the service providers brand, (see image above) there is largely no evidence of enrolling local, regional or national government support. Or any form of NGO support as evident in Telecenters and other ICT initiatives.

Typical model of these projects is a mediation between the mobile service provider and a go-between (mostly connected rich individuals) who buys in airtime in bulk and pays stipends for the poor to hawk or sell at their stands.

6. Conclusion
“As mobile phones have presented a way to bridge the connectivity gap without expanding the networks of fixed lines, they are likely to have a great impact on economic growth than in developed countries, where fixed lines were widely available when mobile phones were introduced.” (United Nations, 2009)

But we don’t need to look far to see who’s gaining and who’s losing – my central argument here has been that though the capitalist and their advocates see signs of development in these peculiar inclusive interactions, the fact remains that it’s the multinationals and their neo capitalist objectives that seem to enjoy it all. A glimpse on any African street from Egypt to the cape will reveal the lure – a bait set to catch the poor, hook, line and sinker (See figure 8 below). Furthermore, this puts to question the overall aim of the veal that the West want to help the Rest. As Eastly has cited in his work “The Burden of the White Man” real development comes from within – every other intervention may have its own motives and interest. He says if ‘change motivation’ is “imposed from the outside, almost nothing works!

Figure 8: A Sidewalk in Abuja Source of Photo Self.

Though these activities give a false sense of an inclusion in the global world society - the activities that Westerners often point to as inclusive are actually driven by poverty. People congregating like the “seasonal harvest sales culture”[8] to sell collectively. People selling top-up cards on the street, patronizing mobile chargers for lack of electricity at home, People standing under umbrellas and wasting away in the name of a few hundred Naira at the end of the day only to waste almost all of it on accessories or staying connected, people buying phone casing just because they want to keep their old phones looking brand new, etc cannot be termed as “Developing”. All these are informed by poverty and not mobile inclusion.

" ... if ‘change motivation’ is “imposed from the outside, almost nothing works! in either the economic or political sphere… It's no accident that the great East Asian economic success stories of recent decades - Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand - all took place in countries that were never successfully colonized by the West. These nations evolved their own cultures, rules and disciplines and built an indigenous foundation for rapid economic growth.
— William Eastly
Critics may consider this article a narrow one, and rightly so - judging from the breadth of Development 2.0, it nonetheless throws more light on the resourcefulness of a largely unregulated budding industry of the so-called disenfranchised and poor. “This constellation of mixed media happens within a strictly commercial and entrepreneurial framework of very small businesses with little interest in promoting ICT for development,” Rangaswamy Nimmi (2007)

With some African nations (Nigeria inclusive) now set to connect to submarine optic fiber optic cables soon, there may still be an opening of the black box of African ingenuity as they explore new options with high bandwidth, video and voice capabilities. It will also be nice to feel what a better infrastructure and environments portends for the poor. If electricity distribution improves, will the Multinational Service providers install and run their own vending machines? and plunge the poor back to poverty? If electricity services improve, will the mobile charger stands disappear altogether? If there is no more easy jobs in the urban centers and Government clamps taxes on the “Umbrella People”, will there be another exodus back to the villages? Can they return to farming after tasting the sweet life of the cities?

This paper, though narrow in its scope has traced development through its ICT4D 1.0 – Development 2.0 by focusing on digital inclusion in a country specific setting. It has been able to illustrate how driven by sheer need to survive, the financially poor are seeking a better life by exploiting mobile technologies. The paper tried to debunk the technological imperative, and pointed more to poverty and the need to stay alive as its main driving force. It is our hope that this may help to promote interest in the negative impacts of digital inclusion in the global world economy. Further research may look into case studies or an ethnographic immersion into these innovative projects, with a view to finding how to connect with NGO and government bodies. And perhaps answer some of the questions posed above. I hope that researchers would find it useful.

7. References
Avgerou, C. (2002) Information Systems and Global Diversity, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Appadurai, A. (1996) Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalisation, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. IN Geoff Walsham, (2001) “Making a World of Difference: IT in a global context” Wiley

Brown et al () “Is Social Inclusion Always a Good Idea” JoDD Vol 14 Mo. 2 Assessed 20 April 2010.

Castells, M. (1996, 1997, 1998) Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Blackwell, Oxford IN Geoff Walsham, (2001) “Making a World of Difference: IT in a global context” Wiley

Diaz Antonio Eduardo Andrade, Cathy Urquhart (2009) “ICTs as a Tool for Cultural Dominance: Prospects for a Two-Way Street” The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries Vol 37, No 2. Assessed 19th April 2010.

Easterly, William. (2006) “The White Mans Burden; Why the wests effort to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good.” New York, N.Y. ; London : Penguin Press.

FARA (Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa) (2009). Inventory of Innovation Farmer Advisory Services. Http:// IN United nations, (2009) “Information Economy Report 2009; Trends and Outlook in Turbulent Times”. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Gallagher, K. (2005). Globalization and the nation-state: Reasserting policy autonomy for development. IN K. Gallagher (Ed.), Putting development first: The importance of policy space in the WTO and international financial institutions (pp. 1–15). London: Zed Books. IN Leiser Silva and Chris Westrup (2009) “Development and the Promise of Technological Change” Wiley InterScience ( Information Technology for Development, Vol. 15 (2) 59–65.

Heeks, R.B. (2008) “ICT4D 2.0: The Next Phase of Applying ICT for International Development” Published by the IEEE Computer Society. Vol. 0018-9162

Heeks, R.B. (2009) Beyond Subscriptions: Actual Ownership, Use and Non-Use of Mobiles in Developing Countries. ICT 4D blog, 2009;

Heeks , R. B. (2010) “Development 2.0: The IT-Enabled Transformation of International Development” Viewpoints; Communications of the ACM, April 2010. Vol 53 No. 4.

Hunt, P. (2001) ‘True stories: telecentres in Latin America and the Caribbean’, Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 4(5), 1-17. IN Madon S., Reinhard, N., Roode, D. and Walsham, G. (2007) “Digital Inclusion Projects In Developing Countries: Processes Of Institutionalisation” Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries, São Paulo, Brazil, Accessed 1 may 2010.

ITU. ICT Statistics Database, International Telecommunications Union, Geneva, 2009; U-D/icteye/Indicators/Indicators.aspx) IN Richard Heeks, (2010) “Development 2.0: The IT-Enabled Transformation of International Development” Viewpoints; Communications of the ACM, April 2010. Vol 53 No. 4.

Kanungo, S. (2003) ‘Information village: bridging the digital divide in rural India’, in The Digital Challenge: Information Technology in the Development Context, S. Krishna and S. Madon (eds), Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, 103-123. IN Madon S., Reinhard, N., Roode, D. and Walsham, G. (2007) “Digital Inclusion Projects In Developing Countries: Processes Of Institutionalisation” Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries, São Paulo, Brazil. Accessed 1 may 2010.

Leiser Silva and Chris Westrup (2009) “Development and the Promise of Technological Change” Wiley InterScience ( Information Technology for Development, Vol. 15 (2) 59–65.

Madon S., Reinhard, N., Roode, D. and Walsham, G. (2007) “Digital Inclusion Projects In Developing Countries: Processes Of Institutionalisation” Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries, São Paulo, Brazil, Accessed 1 may 2010.

Nickerson, R. S. (1995). Emerging Needs and Opportunities for Human Factors Research. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.

Rangaswamy Nimmi (2007) “ICT for development and commerce: A case study of internet cafés in India” Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries, São Paulo, Brazil, May 2007 Assessed 22 April, 2010

Rodrik, D. (2004). How to make the trade regime work for development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. IN Leiser Silva and Chris Westrup (2009) “Development and the Promise of Technological Change” Wiley InterScience ( Information Technology for Development, Vol. 15 (2) 59–65.

Salvador, T., Sherry, J.W. and Urrutia, A.E. (2005) ‘Less cyber, more café; enhancing existing small businesses across the digital divide with ICTs’, Information Technology for Development, 11(1), 77-95.

Sachs, D. Jeffery (2005) “The End of Poverty; Economic Possibilities for Our Time” Penguin Press; 1st edition

Silva and Westrup (2009) “Development and the Promise of Technological Change ”Information Technology for Development DOI: 10.1002/itdj

United nations, (2009) “Information Economy Report 2009; Trends and Outlook in Turbulent Times”. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Walsham, Geoff (2001) “Making a World of Difference: IT in a global context” Wiley

[1] About £50 Sterling

[2] Mpape is a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Nigeria.

[3] Belle is a pidgin English word for Stomach, Tummy or Food. “Belle First” means is another way of saying nothing is worth doing until one fulfills the first obligation to self – feeding.

[4] The outer shell of the phone with its buttons, but without the circuits and internal components.

[5] Mostly with no formal training, they may have acquired their skills by apprenticeship.

[6] They also take pictures if you don’t have a camera

[7] The Naira is the name of the Nigerian legal tender, it exchanged for N2 - £1 in the early 80s but now exchanges for N242 – £1 . source –

[8] Like the Mpape Top-up story at the beginning of this paper, I noticed the similarities with collective harvest time sales practiced by farmers with the urban mobile craze practiced by the poor.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Peter Odili & Abubakar Atiku Featured In US Hgher Education's Dirty Little Secret ..

As a Rivers Man, I just couldn't resist this one... An article written by Arvind Ganesan and curlled from Sahara Reporters. just thought I should share.

Libya's human rights crisis shined a much-needed spotlight on the relationship between universities and their more problematic funders. In this case, the London School of Economics (LSE) agreed to take about $2.4 million from the foundation controlled by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a son of the Libyan strongman, Muammar Gaddafi.

LSE is not alone. American University in Washington agreed to help a former Nigerian vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, and his wife, Jennifer Douglas, set up a university in Nigeria, despite persistent allegations of corruption against him. In return, American University received about $14 million in "consulting fees" between 2003 and 2007 for its work on this project. American University officials told U.S. Senate investigators that their due diligence on Abubakar uncovered some rumors of corruption, but they ultimately decided to proceed.

Later, the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosed that Ms. Douglas received about $2 million in bribes from Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, on behalf of her husband. Siemens paid a record $1.6 billion fine since this was part of a global bribery scandal, but the Abubakars were both abroad and outside U.S. jurisdiction.

Another case in point is Lincoln University, the oldest historically black college in the United States, which has an interesting relationship with Peter Odili, governor of Nigeria's oil-rich Rivers State from 1999 to 2007.

Human Rights Watch documented how Odili's administration, with a budget of about $1.3 billion in 2006, provided little money for primary schools or other basic services that state and local governments are supposed to provide. Instead, Odili channeled enormous sums directly to the governor's office -- tens of millions of dollars earmarked for entertainment, gifts, and the purchase of jet aircraft. Travel must have been important since he also allocated $65,000 a day to his office for travel and transportation. We concluded that a huge portion of the state's funds were lost to extravagance, waste and corruption.

In contrast to primary schools in Rivers State, Lincoln benefited greatly from Odili's generosity. By the end of 2006, he had become one of the school's largest donors, with at least $1.64 million in donations. During that year, it gave him an honorary degree, held a luncheon in his honor, and named a building after him. Nigeria's federal anticorruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, says it has a strong enough case to prosecute Odili. But in 2007 Odili somehow managed to secure an outrageous court injunction -- widely condemned as a mockery of the judicial process -- that permanently barred the agency from investigating, let alone prosecuting him.

A year later, though, the commission said it had completed its investigation into Odili's "wanton looting of the treasury of Rivers State" and was ready to arraign him on corruption charges. The judge reaffirmed his injunction and nothing has happened since. In April 2008, Odili began a four-year term on Lincoln's Board of Trustees.

In the London School of Economics case, the donations from Gaddafi's son came in 2008, a year after the school awarded him a Phd. The university had also agreed to accept about $3 million in other donations from Libya. This scandal cost Sir Howard Davies his job as director of the university. The school disclosed that it had received about $500,000 from Saif's pledge that it would use for scholarships. It also said it will no longer accept Libyan funds, inevitable anyway since the British government had frozen any U.K.-based assets that belonged to Gaddafi and his family a few days earlier.

Universities are undoubtedly under pressure to find financial support and to maintain high standards, especially as government funding becomes scarcer. But that does not mean they should allow abusive and corrupt officials or their families to launder their images in exchange for money.

There should be better rules to keep this from happening. After all, the London School of Economics did not act until Saif's father literally began to kill his own people in a brutal attempt to cling to power. American and Lincoln universities have not fully explained their relationships with Abubakar or Odili. And schools in the U.S. have no legal obligation to investigate whether funds they might take are tainted by corruption.

One modest step would be to make universities investigate whether donors are implicated in abuses or corruption before accepting their money. If they do decide to go ahead, those donations should be disclosed and the information easily accessible to the public. There may be good reasons to keep some donations anonymous, but that rule should not apply to money from rulers or their family members who are implicated in abuses or pose a risk for corruption. Those relationships cannot be good for a school's reputation -- as the London School of Economics just learned.

Fortunately, governments can step in to ensure that schools are more transparent. Last November, the G-20 group of governments announced an anti-corruption initiative that includes a commitment to prevent corrupt officials from spending their funds abroad. They should include enhanced due diligence for universities as part of their efforts. That might give officials an incentive to spend money on their country's schools instead of using that money to get a building named after them abroad.

Arvind Ganesan is director of the business and human rights program for Human Rights Watch.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My heart goes out to the Innocent in "J" Town! 2

My brother China had come into town ahead of the football match between Nigeria and Ethiopia billed for Sunday 27 March 2011. As part of his duty tour, he interviewed English premier league Wigan Athletic’s and Nigerian International, Victor Moses’. His story revealed how Victors parents were killed in Kaduna almost a decade ago. (read

Sad story indeed. Though the tragedy ultimately propelled him into a brilliant career, what l take away from it is how long will this violence last? How long will our so called law enforcement agents look the other way in the name of religion and cowardice? This is exactly what I have been writing about. This is the concluding part of my article "My heart goes out to the Innocent in "J" Town!" where I examined the calamity that have besieged the once peaceful Jos, capital of Plateau State.

Exactly my sentiments... perhaps the other little boys he played with (who may have been more talented) are yet to be discovered. That is what happens in a repressive and wicked system where people are blinded by religion and tribalism. If he had stayed on in Nigerian and played his life out, he may not have made the national team too.

Here is one interesting article on the same issue!/notes/naomi-lucas/who-is-the-north-part-2/10150156355578779 - exactly my sentiments.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My heart goes out to the Innocent in "J" Town!

Woke up to learn about the fresh violence in Jos, only a few weeks after boiling over. It had me thinking of this endless nightmare and how it all started, why our leaders are clueless as to how to solve it, the far reaching implications and what may help to solve it.

Nigeria's religious crisis go way back in history... not remotely connected to the earliset clash that was a result of a failed coup 'detar by the military in 1966 - ultimately leading to civil unrest and eventually civil war. If like me, you are old enough to remember or an ardent follower of history, you may have heard of Zango-Kataf crisis. in Kaduna State. Maitama, etc.

Over the years, a forward-looking, well meaning society would have learned the lessons and forged a path that should ensure that such conflicts remain what they are - History. None-the-less, we have watched as countless number of innocent lives are wasted on a daily basis all over the nation, while our so called government, like their endless battle(s) with corruption - pay lip-service to the violence. Ostensibly, these crisis all seem to be either religious or politically motivated, however, there seem to be a more elusive phenomenon at play. No doubt, the political elite in their bid to whip-up sentiments, and geaner votes, have played their regular "trump card" - religion. As Carl Max said, "religion is the opium of the masses" - Spurred on in their drunken stupor - Christian and Muslim alike, have drenched their lions with the blood of their neighbors, soiled the once tranquil city state with their bloody hands and unleashed a reign of terror on Jos. What remains to be seen is why the authorities have fail time and time again to curb the re-occurrence.

In order to elicit an enduring solution , I have attempted to trace the history of Plateau religious crisis -
  • September 7, 2001 - religious riots in Jos resulted in more than four years of bloodshed, killing thousands of people and displacing thousands of others.
  • In 2004 an estimated 700 people died in Yelwa, Plateau state.
  • November 27, 2008 - Religious crisis erupts, 40 churches razed down as angry Muslim youths who suspected election fraud, attacked Christians and their properties.
  • November 28th and 29th 2008, Reprisal attacks leaves 500 dead people in its wake (100 Christians killed by the mod, and 400 Muslims killed by police before the riot was quelled),
  • July 17, 2010 - Mazah (only nine miles from Jos)
  • July 21 2010 - Dutse Uku and Nasarawa Gwom reprisal attacks by Christians. in 30mins alone over 300 were dead
  • December 2010 -
The nightmare rages even as I write - Local rights groups say over 1,500 people have died in inter-communal violence in the Plateau since the start of this year alone. Yet not much has been done to prosecute the extremist on both sides. Who are these extremists?

I talked to some Plateau natives with a view to understand what the problem is, where it is coming from? Who is the aggressor? and perhaps propose a lasting solution different from what we have tried until now.

In the final analysis, my comparison left me with mixed feelings. Everyone I talked to tended to say the same thing - regardless of their political or religious affiliation - Firstly, they both see the others as the aggressor (we and them mindset) regardless of facts before hand. They were both very angry and both consider this crisis as war - Even a very senior colleague of mine (*** ******* - name withheld), was so furious that he swore that he would kill a Christian if he had the opportunity... made me wonder when this crisis will end, if such a "seemingly" enlightened, responsible, educated man with a family and a good job would stick his neck that far to mutter such an evil thing. But no matter on which side of the divide you stand, so much pent up hate and anger has eaten up the masses that they appear to be ready to kill for what they believe.

Secondly, they all contend that the problem is the Soldiers deployed to keep the peace. The Nigerian army may have fared well in several international peace keeping assignments, but their reputation at home is full of "sorrow, tears and blood! - their regular trade mark!!". (see my article titled "Do you know where your neighbor is?" from 2010). It would appear to me that they would prefer a battle to the finish" than to have any force mediating between them. The Christians contend that the Muslims always attack first, and the soldiers prevent the Christians from retaliating, unwittingly giving the Muslims the upper hand. So it is no surprise that Christians want the soldiers to be withdrawn. The Christians like Bishop Kwashi say “We are the victims of any Islamic anger... years ago, it was the Danish cartoons. Now they are trying to lay it at the feet of the elections. We have become a convenient scapegoat and target for those with grievances about events both home and abroad.” alluding to the already popular fad that there exist a silent Jihadist campaign to take the nation (the earth) at all cost. Religious motivated crisis all over the nation are only proof of that campaign. Bishop Kwashi implored international media, he made the plea: “Please, if you have evidence of anywhere where Chris­tians have sparked off a riot or done anything wrong, please be honest in telling it. But if not, stand up for justice … “We want the support of the Church worldwide to understand that we have never initiated crimes against the Muslim people.” To my mind, though their claim sounds like good logic, what is not very evident is the fact behind the crisis - the embers that fuels the Jos fires - Politics.

In a democracy, in a so called federated Nigeria, a few people - minority, yet who are indegenes want to lord it over a majority Hausa Fulani who form the majority in a local government. This conundrum, to many a no brainer, but to many others, neither here nor there. I will explain...

..................... To Be Continued ........................

Monday, February 14, 2011

Be My Val for Every Other Day!

Today is Valentines Day - that day that countless people all over the world celebrate love. Tantiblow woke me this morning with love on her face, she said "Today's is just another day happy in our life, we should be celebrating love everyday..." Hun!?!@# Even though its already too late, it was nice thing to know that she was not really expecting chocolate and roses today. As always, I had already made plans for something nice to ensure that that smile stays there until...

I didn't see the usual buzz of events around my office today - perhaps the entire team is also growing old, many of them are suffering the same fate as I in previous vals. I am hoarder, I keep all sorts of mementos - cards, notes, letters, objects, etc. The wife was churned when I showed her a soiled Meridian napkin, and she was shocked to learn it was from our first night as man and wife. :-) sorry, I cant help it.

My sisters Stella and Angela also didnt fail to call in to say Happy Vals day... Stella's mail had some satiric advice concerning love, but the lines that caught my eyes the most was -
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away"
It made me wonder, how many heart skipped a bit on my account. To borrowed someones slang, How many people have I "Woowed"? It made me wonder what happened to all the girls I have loved before now? Where are they? What are they up to? Oh No, I am not about to spill beans... not calling any names, not just for their sake, but I will also like to see another Vals day. So what Happy Valentine times can you remember? Mine go way way back....

The first of cource the first girl I ever fancied -I must have been 5 years old. She was my seat mate in pre-school. After been picked up from School, darting around the back seat of our Peugeot 404, My mum had realised I wasn't wearing my shoes. She inquired where they were and was shocked to learn I had given them to my "wife". She lost her shoes during play time, I gave her my shoe as a show of love to prevent her Mum from beating her - I must have Woowed her, then how many men would stick their necks that far? My Mum must have been Wooowed! The mistake she made was to take me along to collect the shoe from "my wife's house" - Spontaneity kicked in, and we (me and my wife) hide ourselves under the dinning table (lying on the tucked-in chairs, covered by the table cloth) it always works - adults never notice small spaces so they hopelessly searched the rest of the house for us... she went home without me... as expected, I got the beating of my life when my "Inlaws" found me and sent me home.

Then I guess the next Happy Val I ever got was when I made my first vals card, Cupid and his scabbard - drawn with HB pencil on white card board paper. I put it in her school bag cos i was too much of a wimp to give it to her myself, She must have been Woowed when she saw it at home. I called in during that weekend to learn she loved it, but things turned bad when Ifeanyi Peters gigled from the other line... cupid missed his target and thats how that cookie crumbled...

Then it was my first true love, (xxxxxxxx name withheld). that Wooowed! me, cards, gifts poems, name it - made life so exciting, something to look forward to every new day.

Val Wooowing was not always pleasant - my first Val at UNN was nasty, no babe, no money, I spent the day with the gang at the University observatory listening to music and smoking Malboro. I was truly Wooowed! Though I had been pretend-smoking before then - it was the first time I inhaled that crap, and the rest is history... well lets leave it there.

No doubt many a Val Wooowing came from later years with Bianca. but one Vals Wooowing was during my youth service, when "Jill" came tumbling down the hill - unannounced (she had told Jack she couldn't come all the way to Enugu from Lagos, so he thought the coast was clear). She was Wooowed! and so was lil missy. All I had to show for Val that year was a restless night and a deflated ego! Don't even ask how I got out of that one... at the end of it, I had learned my lesson that two-timing is bad for business, believe me, I have been honest ever since.

What happened to that wild side of me? Well every bronco has its taming day. Mine came when I met Titi and as the say the rest is history. She has loved me like no other woman could, unconditionally, and through all the tough times, she has stock to my side, and i am grateful for that. She has Wooowed me in many ways. :-) some good, some bad.

I sure have been around, given and received my fair share of Woowing, Along the way I have learned quite a lot that other couples can learn from - chief amongst which is that me and my spouse have different expectations, emotional needs, values, dreams, weaknesses, and strengths. We are two unique individuals who have decided to share a life together. Neither of us is perfect, but are we perfect for each other? Do we bring out the best of each other? Do we compliment and compromise with each other, or do we compete, compare, and control?

No relationship is easy, what counts at the end of the day is how much joy and happiness you can bring each others way and as Titi advices, it must not be done only on special occasion like birthdays, Christmas, or Vals day. Lets strive to make it happen everyday. For me, I know its not easy to keep up with that for too long (considering that Gucci and Prada may somehow be involved in the matter) but I promise that I will do just that... God Willing! lol Happy Vals Day to you Babe!