The Speaker of the House of Representatives, --Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has said that the effective deployment of Information Communication Technology (ICT) tools in rural communities would help empower rural dwellers and stimulate increased economic activities in Africa.
The Speaker said, by having access to adequate and the right information, the poverty level in rural communities in Africa could greatly be reduced.
Speaker Gbajabiamila said this in a paper titled 'Enhancing Information Communication Technology (ICT) Use in Providing Life-Changing Solutions in Rural Communities' at the ongoing 50th Regional Conference and the Annual General Meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), Africa Region, taking place in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Gbajabiamila, who led the Nigerian delegation to the conference, moved a motion for the commencement of proceedings and the debate on the second day of the conference, saying policymakers must, through the policy-making and legislative process, ensure that the opportunities created by technological advancements are available to the people.
"Everywhere, from Africa to Europe, Asia to the Americas, policymakers are still trying to figure out this brave new world. It often feels as if the moment we reach an understanding of one paradigm, it changes again to reveal new vistas, new challenges, and opportunities.
We cannot, and we do not seek to halt the march of technological progress.
"In fact, we embrace it because we have seen how technology properly used can improve the circumstances of human life in every sector from education to health care, security, and commerce," he said.
On how ICT could address poverty, he said it "can play a major role in addressing rural poverty and improving the economic well-being of the people through access to adequate and right information.
"Rural communities in Nigeria and Africa as a whole are faced with the challenges of infrastructural deficit that would help stimulate development. This affects access to adequate and right information by the rural communities.
The challenge is how to leverage the bountiful opportunities in the sector to improve service delivery in rural communities."
In the area of agriculture, the Speaker said the deployment of ICT in the sector would increase efficiency, productivity, and sustainability of small-scale farms.
"The agricultural sector will be strengthened with the application of ICT as it opens up access to information. ICT increases the knowledge base and choices of farmers in terms of quality of soils, seedlings, management of drought and erosion as well as pest and disease control. It also provides farmers with useful and timely information on crops, animal husbandry, fertilizer and market prices.
The corollary effect of all these is increased productivity and high income."
On education, Gbajabiamila said: "The use of ICT in a dedicated manner within the education sector in the rural areas would help increase the literacy level of the rural population. There is a need to embark on an aggressive sensitization drive to educate the rural communities on the importance of ICT.
Speaker Gbajabiamila added that ICT could help connect rural areas to the outside world, which would make them enjoy access to information sharing for greater economic activities.
"The contact with the outside world would no doubt increase the volume of economic activities in the rural areas as the rural population becomes more aware of untapped opportunities and new ways of doing business. ICTs can increase access and mobilization of financial assets, particularly through the instrumentality of mobile banking and mobile finance. This would ultimately increase general economic activities in rural communities.
In the area of healthcare, the Speaker said: "The use of ICT to deliver healthcare will enable healthcare professionals and institutions to address the critical medical needs of rural communities. This will bring about improvement in the health of rural dwellers and their economic well-being."
Similarly, proper use of ICT, the Speaker said, would address rural-urban migration as well as make the rural populace politically active by sensitizing and mobilizing them on activities of the government.
Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, House of Representatives, Nigeria.