“e-Knowledge – Time is Running Out!”
a compendium of the works of Mr. Chris Uwaje
Institute of International Affairs, Kofo Abayomi Road, Victoria Island, Lagos.
March 30, 2010
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
This is a rare and appreciated privilege. Not only to have access to a ‘book’ ahead of all others, and indeed more worthy readers, but also to be accorded the opportunity of presenting the ‘book’ to such a distinguished audience. I could not have asked for more.
This is not a book launch in the strict sense but rather the launch of a compendium of sustained thoughts of a gentleman and patriot, whose affection for good and the good of his country has been collated and put in print for the good of all of us.
The subject that runs through all the dissertations included in the compendium we are reviewing is exciting and the author is no less distinguished and accomplished. This is all the more reason why I wonder why I am accorded this very special privilege of being first among equals to ‘do the honors’.
I call Chris Uwaje the ORACLE of our industry for a reason. The universality of language which defines the ORACLE as he who talks and everybody listens, I suspect is the same in my part of the country and Chris Uwaje’s. Much of this compilation proves that.
Frankly my joy as the Reviewer, is derived primarily from my ability to share with you the fact that not only had I re-christened Chris Uwaje THE ORACLE OF THE INFORMATION COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY INDUSTRY OF NIGERIA but that this esteemed title has been accepted by Chris himself as well as all the good activists of our industry. Secondly is that I know of no one else who has attempted to put all the dissertations of Chris Uwaje on a page as we did on our website since 2002 under the name of “UWAJE PAPERS” This is based on our unwavering conviction that his voice is one that should be listened to.
On closer examination of this classic work of this ORACLE of our industry, it is crystal clear that the 3 ‘e’s that Nigerians yearn for now have indeed been an issue which one Aniocha intellectual chieftain (who has refused to be called ‘chief’) has been talking about for several years.
Nigerians today yearn for “Electoral reform” and “electricity supply” just as they also yearn for “e-empowerment” of our people.
To compartmentalize the thoughts of Chris Uwaje is as difficult as getting blood out of a stone. This is because each of his dissertations captured in this compendium is like a giant octopus with each of its tentacles in technology, business, academics, engineering, politics, intellectualism, education, governance, the youth, and humanism.
On the whole, what we are reviewing is a harmonization of some of the author’s recent and earlier writings on the subject of Information Technology as it relates to – and affects – Nigeria.
The oldest of these 62 essays/conference papers/position papers/newspaper opinions dates back to 1997 while the most recent was written early in 2010. Every article featured in this compendium is a wake-up call to Nigeria and her citizenry, on the complacent attitude of some of our leaders and policy makers, especially the often recycled ones to critical issues on the role of Information Technology in national development and nation building. Uwaje has freely shared his wealth of experience and concern on the current state of IT in Nigeria and the shape of things to come.
Each of the dissertations dissects, analyses, and provides predictions and vision of what tomorrow will be, using today as a template.
For example, in analysing future trends in Information technology, Uwaje argues and predicts that, within the digital context, development opportunities and possibilities of 21st Century, digital colonization will occur and digital colonies will spring up. He warns that digital colonization of nations, through the interfacing global impact of Information Technology is most likely to hit Nigeria like a Tsunami, unless robust political will is brought to bear on the issue as a matter of topmost urgency. Time may therefore be running out for future generations of Nigerians, who unknowingly, may have been sentenced to live in a future ‘Digital Colony’ – unless we take the necessary action now and prepare a strong IT foundation for their survivability and global competitiveness.
The Author further postulates, somewhere and almost everywhere, that the speed and passion at which data, information and images are being conceptualized, generated, contextualized, processed, transmitted, retrieved and manipulated through the application and use of Information Technology infrastructure has greatly transformed and continues to influence all known aspects of human life. These complex digital transformation processes will – without doubt, ultimately lead us to the ‘global knowledge Olympiad Arena. The flip side is that this knowledge power arena is filled with a bagful of surprises, opportunities and risky impacts beyond our collective imagination. We must engage it consciously to ensure national survivability.’
That sounds like one from a Chief Knowledge Officer; a position which if were to be created in the Presidency would merit our collective nomination that Chris Uwaje occupies it.
“e-Knowledge – Time is running out!” is based on, and perpetuated by, the philosophy and concept of ensuring the consistency of preserving Inter-Generational Knowledge base, as a model for sustainable nation building and global competitiveness. It is borne out of the believe that global knowledge in itself, represents a buildup and clustering of ‘patches’ and ‘layers’ of life’s common sense over many centuries. This pattern of knowledge formation is finally adopted, reviewed and enthroned as global standards and best practices, from time to time.
Informed by the analysis provided in various dissertations contained in the Compendium, Chris Uwaje insists several times and in different ways that the Earth (soil patches and layers) is a typical example of how global knowledge is formed and attained. Each patch, each layer has its own distinct characteristics and stores the components of its life cycle. You must have observed at a particular stage of your life, that when you dig the soil or watch people digging the soil, the output reveals that there are many colours (patches/layers). The same occurs in the formation of knowledge clusters.
Chris Uwaje draws references from many especially those in the realm of the academia. These illustrious lists include Philip Chukwurah Emeagwali, Professor Pat. Okedinachi Utomi, Professor Turnner Isong, Professor Charles Uwadia, the United Nations documents, Government of United States of America, the Internet Community, Nigeria IT Professionals at home and abroad and other distinguished scholars and professional colleagues worldwide.
The thoughts which make up this compendium is, strictly speaking, not just only about Information Technology (IT), but indeed, about multifaceted shades of human life activities in the knowledge realm, people, passion, attitude and several streams of interfacing information and personal experiences on the emergence of Information Technology, social networking, Cyberspace and global development.
Uwaje makes interesting predictions. For example that:
“some shortsighted nations will wake-up at midnight – one day, in the early decades of this century – and suddenly realize that they have been digitally colonized! The resultant effect of this probability will seriously impact on future generations to come. In my candid opinion, this digital colony issue will one day become the critical heart of the matter in the emerging Information Society. It simply means that the entire life, culture and sovereignty of a nation and her citizenry have been unknowingly traded off and taken over by IT-smart, powerful and knowledge-centered information force and/or forces around the globe. This will complete the process of the fearful “knowledge lock-in” syndrome”.
Again, he also forecasts that:
“that this ‘Digital Century’ will take hostages is certain! This prediction is in recognition of the fact that the 21st Century knowledge development and movements through the Information and Communications Technology medium is a speedy phenomenon, whose consequences may be far greater than the tidal wave/Tsunami of our time. It will indeed make the originators of Star Wars look like Dinosaurs!”
Do nations become a colony overnight? Uwaje says they do! In other words, the processes of colonization are a resemblance of cracks in the Inter-Generational-Knowledge (IGK) cluster. When these cracks elongate and deepen, the centre can no longer hold and then all things fall apart. This may constitute into a colonial tragedy”.
Based on factual history – with reference to Virgil’s Aeneid – it was evident that the Queen of Dido was the founder of Carthage, a colony near what is now known as Tunis. Also the Kingdom of Benin had diplomatic relation with Portugal in 1493.
It is further instructive to remind ourselves that long before America became a sovereign entity in 1776, the Kingdom of Kanem Bornu had traded with the Ottoman Sultan of Istanbul in the 12th century and had established a diplomatic mission in Tripoli. Likewise, the University of Timbuktu and Fez in Morocco disseminated knowledge at a time European nations were encumbered. The Kingdom of Songhai, Mali, Ghana, Ba Congo, Zimbabwe flourished before Arab traders and Portuguese traders came to fetch slaves, exploit gold and Ivory.
Why this historical journey?
Colonies are formed or emerge through various forms of interest-centric information movements. These information adventures are often aided by constructive innovative tools, instruments and related facilities now called technology. One of the most interesting and strategic tools in the adventure of human history is the Compass. The Power of the Compass – a strategic product of technology and its role in the traditional colonization process was critical to the slave trade processes and disaster to the African Continent.
A new disaster of similar nature , but of greater magnitude is about to repeat itself through the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) conduit – with particular reference to the digital mobile technology, Internet, World Wide Web (www) and other emerging technologies. The good news is, we can reverse the emerging digital disaster (DD) to our “Digital Advantage” (DA). Yes, we can. Time to swing the change is now!
The mission of this Uwaje’s total thought process is, to my mind, to remind the African, and in particular, the Nigerian leadership that the future sustainability of the nation (and indeed of the continent) is embedded in Information Technology. Therefore we must reappraise and re-evaluate the state and position of our Inter-Generational Knowledge as well as our IT Development Cycle and ask pertinent questions.
Questions such as:
Where are we heading? And where are we now? To paraphrase Professor Michael Porter, ‘national wealth may be inherited, but national prosperity can only be created’. E-Knowledge – Time is indeed, running out on Nigeria!
There is something that is curious and consistent in Uwaje’s thought process all over the years. While he changes from topic to topic, each one loaded and usually deeply technical, here is a fellow that is in a hurry and at the same time ready to repeat himself using an entirely different set of arguments.
The Compendium, published by Connect Technologies Ltd., came to 466 pages by my counting, made of:
- Normal pages 363
- Front Cover to xxxii 36
- xxxiii to back cover 23
- Pictures 44
I did not expect to find many errors, avoidable or non-avoidable, in the entire compilation. For one thing, many of the materials came from already published works and of course you cannot work with Uwaje if you cannot pay attention to the minutest details.
Perhaps ‘Saru-Wiwa’ which I have always seen written as ‘Saro-Wiwa’ should be pointed at in this regard. But how much does it matter in a book of 422 pages. Don’t even be surprised if Chris has researched to find that we had been wrong all along.
I have avoided discussing the personality vis-à-vis the writings of this gentlemen author and impresario who Dr Chris Nwanenna appropriately referred to as a ‘Corporate IT Astronaut’ as doing that will be repeating what Mr. Aaron Ukodie has done brilliantly on pages iii – vii. Suffice to say what Chris Uwaje is, in relations to the Nigeria project, is that he has a vision for his country, he is passionate about it, he is concerned, involved and engrossed. He talks like he thinks ‘WE’ are not listening.
Are ‘WE’ listening?
Thank you and God bless.