If am to summarize my experience as a zonal review panelist for Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWin!)-a business plan competition organized by the government with the objective of encouraging aspiring and innovative youths in Nigeria to expand their businesses, develop business ideas and engage in entrepreneurship, I will simply say that there exists a heavy gap beyond what we earlier thought between the Nigerian Youth, Entrepreneurship and Technologies (the YET syndrome) which only a well-articulated youth strategy can solve.
It is important at this point to state clearly that Nigeria cannot achieve her goals whether it is vision 20:2020 or the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) without the key elements of the youth force, entrepreneurship and technologies(which I can comfortably refer to as ICT in this article). These key drivers are not strange to us but we have over- looked them and still do, played lip service to them and then expect to have a place in the comity of great nations. What an illusion!
For us to move forward as a nation, it is time to identify those root causes of our problems and address them through a holistic approach with all the resources (both human and material) we have at our disposal even the national insecurity problems we have right now in the country.
For instance, the youth force (a vital force) who make up the greater part of the entire population of the country have been left (over the years) to their own fate by bad government and corrupt leaders who are insensitive to their plight. With no education and employment, it becomes a population with no future, no aspiration, and no zeal only a people readily positioned and used as tools for crime. And like the blame game goes, everyone is quick to cast aspersion on them as if the youths are the cause of the problems we have as a nation. Are they the ones in government, are they the ones looting our treasury, or are they the ones making policies? So why blame them when the youths are just the victims of a failed state!
ICT on the other hand is an enabler and also a driver of development in any nation especially in the present day economy; it is one sector that impacts on every other sector. It can be put clearly that no sector will grow to its full potential without using ICTs be it Finance, Agriculture, Education, Entertainment, Health you name it. And no nation will ever become relevant in the present economies if this key driver is not taken seriously. Yea, I will at this point commend the effort of the minister of Communications Technology, Mrs.Omobola Johnson who is right now in the advanced stage of unifying the sectors that make up the ICT sector in Nigeria through a National ICT Policy for Nigeria-the roadmap for the future of ICT in Nigeria. Having said that, this is the time to consider some of the points being raised here, it is the time to have a clear agenda and roadmap for ICT development in Nigeria and the Nigerian youths (who are the future) must be the epicenter of it all.
Then entrepreneurship is the ways -and -means of attaining a robust economy in any nation. Economic experts will tell you the role of entrepreneurs in the economic development of any nation. Economies are driven by entrepreneurs not government, one key factor that have contributed to the growth of the BRIC countries we all talk about and admire is that they have their top priority and anchor on entrepreneurship. They are building more entrepreneurs that are helping to build their economies. But in Nigeria, entrepreneurship is often talked about and not encouraged by government and her policies. There will not be any real growth in the economy of Nigeria if entrepreneurship is not given its pride of place in the skim of things. The environment should be one that encourages entrepreneurs. Young entrepreneurs with ICTs as their tool are the hope of Nigeria and a Youth Strategy for ICT development in Nigeria will set the pace.
The Way Forward
Knowing that am not in the class of just saying things I think are right for the nation, am of the school of thought that every Nigerian has something to contribute to national development. With that said, am making this proposition I call Youth strategy for ICT Development in Nigeria which is simply a roadmap that first empowers the Nigerian youth who is so passionate about technologies, so that they can in turn contribute to national development.
In other to actualize this, a national youth summit on ICT (www.nationalyouthsummitonict.com.ng) for Nigeria will be held where all of these issues concerning the youths, entrepreneurship and ICTs will be articulated. The summit brings together young Nigerians who are passionate about technology, innovations and ICT4D to learn, share ideas, collaborate and develop strategies on how to use technologies to solve some of the problems Nigeria faces as a developing nation. This summit is set to explore the potentials and capabilities of the Nigerian youth towards contributing their quota in National Development as young ICT entrepreneurs.
No doubt in such forum, great ideas will be generated at the summit and then with the support of Government, Private and Public sector, International and local organizations, stakeholders in the technologies and ICT sector, these ideas, strategies will be put to use in solving our problems using ICTs.Therefore the summit will not be an avenue to criticize the government at any level but a platform to generate ideas that will assist government in planning for the youths.
The National Youth Summit on ICT will also promote the National Youth Summit Awards on ICT Development set to reward young Nigerians using ICTs to help fight challenging problems and also pioneer different developments through their e-content, applications, Projects,Initiatives.
The Objectives of the Summit
-A Platform to bring Nigerian Youths all over the world together to explore the opportunities in ICTs and share relevant ideas that will help in the development of the country.
-Contribute to Nation building through ICT4D and help actualize the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs) and vision 20:2020
-Create agenda on how the youths can be part of National development and hence partner with the Government,Private and public sector on this.
-The Summit will create a lot of opportunities for the youths to become entrepreneurs thereby reducing the unemployment and other social vices the youths are linked with.
-The summit is an avenue to reward the efforts of young people contributing towards ICT4D through the National Youth Summit Awards.
-An avenue to network with amongst the youths,with Technology CEOs,International organizations,Government,experts in ICT
How the objectives of such summit will be achieved
-Partnering with the government,private and Public sectors,Individuals,organizations and stakeholders in the ICT ecosystem.
-Through the National Youth Summit Awards set to reward Young Nigerians using ICTs for development in different fields
-A round table interaction with Tech CEOs on the future of the country
-Implementation of the agenda,strategies,ideas generated at the Summit
For further information on the proposed National Youth Summit on ICT please visit www.nationalyouthsummitonict.com.ng