Improving Governance & Empowering Citizens in Nigeria with New Technologies

[slideshow]They say better late than never, so I thought it was about time that I shared a little about some of the fantastic organisations that I came across whilst in Lagos, Nigeria in March.  As with Nairobi, I was delighted to see a small, but thriving tech community coming together and with a population of 155 million, the potential to make a dramatic impact on social change and to attract investors is huge.

However, it’s going to be a long road for potential entrepreneurs and activists.  The cost of rent, bandwidth and electricity are inhibitive, corruption remains rife and the regulatory framework complex.  Nevertheless, there’s a buzzing energy in the air and a generation of computer literate youth are starting to demand change.

With the lead up to the election, there was lots going on in the field of governance, accountability and transparency.  I was fortunate enough to sit on the judge panel for a Tech-In Governance competition which followed the SI Camp model-over 48 hours, technologists, project managers, government officials and entrepreneurs came together to create prototypes for technology based solutions which would improve governance in some way in their community.  You can find out more about the competition and the team
behind it on my previous blog post.

Enough is Enough are using an exciting system called ReVoDa to make voting social, turning anyone with a mobile phone into an informal election observer.  They are also using their RSVP campaign (Register, Select, Vote, Protect) to encourage greater civil participation around elections, focusing on young people in urban areas.

Youth for Technology Foundation are focusing their efforts more rurally in the Owerri region.  YTF’s programs first teach participants first to recognize and speak out about challenges existing in their community and then demonstrate how to research, document, and disseminate information about these challenges. If during this process, technology is identified as an enabler, it is introduced.  They have introduced the ‘Yes Youth Can’ programme which uses simple, appropriate and affordable technology to promote social action and community development through electronic communications.  They also encouraged participants to act as informal election observers during the recent national elections in Nigeria.

Gbenga Sesan and his team at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria are empowering young people to take control of their lives.  I was fortunate enough to meet some of the inspiring people they are working with and discover more about how they are using technology to support young people in finding jobs and empowering them to find alternatives to cyber crime.

Let’s hope that the enthusiasm generated around election time can be harnessed to encourage greater civil participation, increased accountability and improved governance in Africa’s most populous nation, aided through innovative uses of information technologies.