ICT’s Role in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals in Nigeria’s Niger Delta

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ICT Role Sustainable Development Goals
Source: Google Images

In 2015, two major international frameworks were adopted regarding environmental and social sustainability. One was the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and especially the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ratified during the United Nation (UN) General Assembly held in September. The other was the Paris agreement which was approved in December 2015, through the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN framework Convention on Climate Change and went into force in November, 2016. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 global goals set by the United Nations in 2015 to transform our world. Also known as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, their purpose is to make our planet a better place for all. For the sake of this article, I will dwell more on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role ICT plays in achieving this global drive.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes that the spread of information and communication technology (ICT) and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies, as does scientific and technological innovation across areas as diverse as medicine and energy. In doing so, member states are committed to harnessing the potential of ICT to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other internationally agreed development goals.

ICT can accelerate progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and therefore called on government at all levels, the private sector, civil society, international organizations, the technical and academic communities and all other relevant stakeholders in the ecosystem to integrate information and communication technologies into their approaches to implement the goals. It also specifies specific targets for the use of ICTs for sustainable development in education (Goal 4), gender equality (Goal 5), infrastructure (Goal 9 – universal and affordable access to the internet) and Goal 17 – Partnerships and means of implementation.

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Indeed, ICT is vital in the progress towards achieving each and every one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. ICT is already empowering billions of individuals around the world by providing access to education resources and healthcare, and services such as mobile banking, e-government and social media, among others. See the attached image for the 17 SDGs while I will dwell on goals 1, 3, 4, 7, 14 and 15 and lastly, Partnership for the goals which is the 17th goal set for the agenda.

Video Source: un.org

Goal No.1 No Poverty: ICT plays a major role in poverty alleviation. Although the Nigeria Niger Delta region still have the challenge of internet connectivity in the rural areas, young people have harnessed the potentials in the access to internet facility in the urban areas of the region for the growth of their businesses. With the 2nd wave in digital technology (Mobile Internet), approximately 10 billion people around the world are connected to the internet via mobile devices and personal computers. It is therefore possible for young people who are truly seeking an escape from poverty to key into this wide usage of the internet by offering sales and services via the internet.

By acquiring the basic ICT skills, young people can provide solutions to global problems from the region hence contributing positively to recreating our world. It is on record that most start-ups started with just a laptop and today they have grown to large corporations. Through ICT, ideas can be shared and investors can easily key into such ideas helping them come to fruition. With digital solutions and services provided at various levels, jobs will be created and this will help in the fight against unemployment which is currently plaguing the region.

Goal No. 3 Good Health: With information at our finger tips, sharing of health information can be as easy as talking to a brother or friend in the same room. Gone are the days when certain drugs were banned in the country yet such drugs were still in circulation in the rural areas. Presently, once there is a ban on a particular drug, all the agency needs to do is to drop the information on the social media and in the twinkle of an eye the entire country will be aware of the dangers of taking such drugs. Moreover, with the increase of solutions provided by developers in the medical field, it is common to have portals where first aid can be administered. There are various e-clinics solutions where the patients’ records are stored safely in a database and could be referred to easily. Such quick methods of accessing information can reduce the time of searching for records manually. While in Nigeria Niger Delta region, hospital records are still manually stored in files; with the advent of ICT, such complexity as searching for medical records of a patient will be eliminated once there is full implementation in our hospitals.

Goal No. 4 Quality Education: This I believe is the anchor of the society. If a child acquires the light into his mind through education he can focus and deliver the solutions in which the entire society can be transformed. Education is the pivot. I will not be able to take down what I think of investing in education but I believe the few quotes below will help you have a glimpse of what I think of investing rightly in education. According to Leo Buscaglia PhD “Change is the result of all true learning”. “Just what Africa needs,” you may exclaim. Let’s see the second quote. “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow”. This was said by Anthony J. D’Angelo. Now if you look at it critically, we are not growing as a society because our education system is poor. Education leads to growth. I will summarize this at the end.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” Benjamin Franklin. Sometimes I think, how much we need in other to give out 10,000 laptops to tech enthusiasts in the ecosystem? This will include students from Junior Secondary 1 in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria after a thorough coaching. This is investment and believing Benjamin Franklin’s thoughts, it will pay the best interest. Well, I will mention this when I come to the last goal set by the United Nations for 2030. “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” This is one of the threatening quotes from Malcolm X which prompts me to deep thinking. Presently, I am afraid because Africa’s future seems very gloomy if I must entertain Malcom X’s thoughts. And from Africa’s Nelson Mandela

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Now I take this to be the most powerful quote about education though other speakers think great also about this sector. Therefore, leveraging on the development of the mind through ICT, necessary gadgets should be understudied, produced and used. This can start with the simplest which is the software, in cases where the resources for hardware development are limited. Provision of properly installed gadgets and the users well trained for the dissemination of information to educate the citizens. ICT plays a vital role in this call to action. Understudying the immediate environment, students can develop applications that will transform such environment. Managing time and scheduling working hours, they can share knowledge using cross borders while working on a given project.

Goal No. 7 Affordable and Clean Energy: Between 1990 and 2010, the number of people with access to electricity has increased by 1.7 billion globally, and as the global population continues to rise so will the demand for cheap energy. A global economy reliant on fossil fuels, and the increase of greenhouse gas emissions is creating drastic changes to our climate system. This is impacting every continent. Efforts to encourage clean energy has resulted in more than 20 percent of global power being generated by renewable sources as of 2011. One in every seven people lacks access to electricity, and as the demand continues to rise there is need for a substantial increase in the production of renewable energy across the world. Ensuring universal access to affordable electricity by 2030 means investing in clean energy sources such as solar, wind and thermal.

ICT's Role Sustainable Development Goals
Unfortunately, power still remain a major set back in the region.

Adopting cost-effective standards for a wider range of technologies could also reduce the global electricity consumption by buildings and industry by 14 percent. This means avoiding roughly 1,300 mid-size power plants. Expanding infrastructure and upgrading technology to provide clean energy in all developing countries is a crucial goal that can both encourage growth and help the environment. ICT can also be used in designing and developing technologies that could eradicate energy problem in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. This will enhance knowledge sharing and team work from diverse field. The task of bringing Engineers and Technicians together to develop a solution to energy problems can greatly be reduced by putting to use the ICT tools at our disposal.

Goals No. 14 and 15: Life below Water and Life on Land: The world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the earth habitable for humankind. How we manage this vital resource is essential for humanity as a whole and to counter balance the effects of climate change. Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. However, today we are seeing 30 percent of the world’s fish stocks over exploited, reaching below the level at which they can produce sustainable yields. Oceans also absorb about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by humans, and we are seeing a 26 percent rise in ocean acidification since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Marine pollution, an overwhelming majority of which comes from land-based sources, is reaching alarming levels, with an average of 13,000 pieces of plastic litter to be found on every square kilometre of ocean. The SDGs aim is to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems from pollution, as well as address the impacts of ocean acidification. Enhancing conservation and the sustainable use of ocean-based resources through international law will also help mitigate some of the challenges facing our oceans. Health hazards could greatly be avoided if Information Technology is properly put in place.

Human life depends on the earth as much as the ocean for our sustenance and livelihoods. Plant life provides 80 percent of our human diet, and we rely on agriculture as an important economic resource and means of development. Forests account for 30 percent of the Earth’s surface, providing vital habitats for millions of species and important sources for clean air and water; as well as being crucial for combating climate change. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate. Drought and desertification is also on the rise each year, amounting to the loss of 12 million hectares and affects poor communities globally. Of the 8,300 animal breeds known, 8 percent are extinct and 22 percent are at risk of extinction.

The SDGs aim to conserve and restore the use of terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, drylands and mountains by 2020. Halting deforestation is also vital to mitigating the impact of climate change. Urgent action must be taken to reduce the loss of natural habitats and biodiversity which are part of our common heritage. Therefore using ICT, hazardous acts can greatly be eliminated by putting across proper information to occupants in the Nigeria Niger Delta region, thus helping in the development and keeping of our ecosystem.

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Goal No. 17 – Partnership for the Goals: A successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society. These inclusive partnerships built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the centre are needed at the global, regional, national and local level. Urgent action is needed to mobilize, redirect and unlock the transformative power of trillions of dollars of private resources to deliver on sustainable development objectives. Long-term investments, including direct foreign investment are needed in critical sectors, especially in developing countries. These include sustainable energy, infrastructure and transport as well as information and communications technologies. The public sector will need to set a clear direction.

Review and monitoring frameworks, regulations and incentive structures that enable such investments must be retooled to attract investments and reinforce sustainable development. National oversight mechanisms such as supreme audit institutions and oversight functions by legislatures should be strengthened. The development of applications to be used as channels require a lot of partnerships. The tech communities will have to work with the lawyers, doctors, engineers, religious men, leaders, etc. The various house of assembly in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria will have to make laws that is aimed at protecting the environment. These laws must be effectively communicated to the remotest part of the region using ICT as the basic tool. While at the global level, the UNDP and other agencies are helping nations in the struggle, Nigerian government will need to support the use of ICT to the grassroots.

Grants should be given to training outlets where citizens are given training on the basic ICT tools needed for the project. While other nations target the achievement of all the goals by 2030, governments at various levels in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria will also be required to key into development goals for the good of the region. Already in the area of Education, Agriculture and basic Infrastructure, efforts are witnessed in some states in the region, therefore more global partnership is required so that more finances could be accessed by the individual states involved within the region. Statistics show countries with higher access to ICT does better in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals than countries with little or no ICT reach. With proper partnerships, broadband will be made available for all across the urban and rural areas of the region. The time to act is now.

However, at techforest we are willing to partner with government at various levels, the private sector and civil society in providing required resources for the training of young people in the region. Presently, we have committed our publications on this website and various publications in tabloids circulated within the region to inform and educate the people on the trend in the industry. We strongly believe that with proper information and training backed with the requisite tools, greater percentage of young persons in the region will have proper knowledge of ICT and this can transform into sustainable financial empowerment when applied in the area of Agriculture, Education, Health, etc. in line with sustainable development goals.

Sources: undp.orghuawei.comsustainability.comfujitsu.comsustainabledevelopment.un.org

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