Learner’s Submission: Open Data Portal – Edo State Government, Nigeria

05/02/2014

“The online public service that I have made use of in my home country is the Edo State Open Data Portal which is the only online state public service in Nigeria and first sub-national portal in the continent of Africa.

It is a new initiative by the Edo State Government to make information more readily available to those who need it, enhance transparency in government and encourage investors. It is an online platform which makes it easy for the citizenry to access and reuse data from the Edo State Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies free of charge.

The Edo State Open Data Portal which is powered by the Edo State Information and Communications Technology Agency (ICTA) is aimed at improving Government and nipping the embarrassing phenomenon of ghost workers, wastages and misuse of public information and other forms of resource misuse in the bud, empower citizens and ultimately reduce government expenditure, and also effectively break away from the bureaucratic bottle-necks usually experienced while soliciting for information that should normally be made available to the public on request as well as the slow pace of Government officials when speed is of utmost importance.

All that anybody who is in need of information has to do is to have access to the internet and log on to data.edostate.gov.ng where the visitor can randomly search for any information of her/his choice, provided it is in relation to the state and within the purview of its concerns. One could also click on individual hyper links which the reader can directly follow, depending on what is desired by the visitor or available for view.
Being the first online public service in the state, it will take a thorough and extended effort to make Edo State Government data truly useful. Stakeholders expect to have improved data quality. Agencies will have to begin improving the quality of their data simply to avoid public embarrassment.

Up to now, the government’s release of open data has largely been a one-way affair: Agencies publish datasets that they hope will be useful without consulting the organizations and companies that want to use it. The government is therefore expected to build feedback loops from data users to government data providers.

Open data is also of value for government itself as it can increase government efficiency. For example, if the Edo State Ministry of Education can publish all of their education-related data online for re-use, the number of questions they receive will obviously drop, reducing work-load and costs, and the remaining questions will also be easier for civil servants to answer, because it is clear where the relevant data can be found.

Open government data can also help citizens make better decisions in life and make them more active in society. People can easily re-use cadastral information from government data as well as local registers to publish information which helps them find public utilities such as public toilets, public libraries, public parks, hotels, etc.
New combinations of data can create new knowledge and insights, which can lead to whole new fields of application. This potential can be unleashed if government data is really open, i.e. if there needed information are actually available and there are no restrictions (legal, financial or technological) to its re-use by others. Every restriction will exclude people from re-using the public data, and make it harder to find valuable ways of doing so.” – Uhunwa Benard Otamere – Edo State, Nigeria

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Learner’s Submission: Online Public Service in Nigeria

29/10/2013

  • The online public service been discussed here is the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria – YOUWIN program.
  • This program initiated by the Federal Government of Nigeria is been undertaken as collaboration between the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Youth Development, Ministry of Women of Affairs and Social Development and is been implemented in partnership with the private sector who will provide financial support.
  • This joint effort will launch of an annual innovative business plan competition for aspiring young entrepreneurs in Nigeria in line with the federal government drive to create jobs for Nigerians.
  • It is aimed at supporting aspiring entrepreneurial youths in Nigeria to develop and execute business ideas. The objectives of the program are to
  • Attract ideas and innovations of young entrepreneurial aspirants from Nigerian Universities, Polytechnics, Technical Colleges and other Post Secondary Institutions in Nigeria.
  • Provide one time equity grant for 1,200 selected aspiring entrepreneurs per batch to start or expand their business concepts and mitigate startup risks.
  • Generate 80,000 to 110,000 new jobs for currently unemployed Nigerian youths.
  • Provide training support for successful winners.
  • Encourage expansion and specialization of existing businesses in Nigeria.
  • Enable young entrepreneurs to access a wide array of professional network to improve their visibility.
  • Interested Participants are expected to logon on to the website at http://www.youwin.org.ng. This is easy to access from any computer device that has an internet connection.
  • On Home Page, Click Register to Access the Personal Information Page. On this page you are expected to enter the following information
    • Email Address
    • Names and Surname
    • Sex, Age and Phone Numbers
    • Address, Local Government and State of Origin
    • Business Location and Qualification.
  • After data has been entered, the user clicks submit to register the users data
  • Then Click the Proposal Tab and enter the details of the proposed business idea and Submit. Close the site and await further instructions as will be communicated to you by YOUWIN via email.
  • The age group as classified by the government to benefit from this program is between 18 to 40 Years.
  • Aspiring Women Entrepreneurs within this age bracket have been given special consideration. The second edition of the program was open to only women.
  • The program commences with a Presidential Launch, followed by the first stage when applications are opened to interested participants. After they are screened, successful candidates are notified and training is organized for them.
  • This is followed by the second stage when applications are opened to another batch of interested participants. Screening takes place and successful candidates are notified and training is organized for the second batch.
  • This is finalized by a Presidential Award Ceremony for the selected successful participants. ” – Vincent Hope Okoh – Wudil, Nigeria

Learner’s Submission: Social Media – Its Use and Importance in Nigerian Government

21/10/2013

Preamble:

There are different conceptions of social media. As a result, definition of social media depends on the users, ICT experts and writers. Sweetser and Lariscy gave a pragmatic definition of social media, as a “read-write Web, where the online audience moves beyond passive viewing of Web content to actually contributing to the content.” According to them, “the audience-initiated content contributions include interactivity, the ability to tailor a site’s presentation on the individual level, and opportunities for the audience to actually create or contribute content on the site.” However, amid different conceptions of social media, one thing that is sacrosanct is the idea that social media is based on user-generated participation. By this, social media enables user-to-user interaction; a trait that distinguishes social media from a traditional media. Given the diverse forms of social media, Kaplan and Haenlein have classified social media into six separate categories such as: collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia); blogs and micro-blogs (e.g. Twitter); content communities (e.g. YouTube); social networking sites (e.g. Facebook); virtual game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft); and virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life).

Usage:

Use of social media in Nigeria is progressively increasing. Social media has become a driving force in political, economic, and socio-cultural issues in Nigeria, particularly among the youth and middle aged, who use social media as a tool to voice their opinions and take part in nation building. Facebook and Twitter are two primary channels that have been adopted by Nigerian government to socialize and connect with the people. For example, the current President, since 2011 has been operating a facebook page where he talks about his administration’s transformation agenda and achievements with the community of social media users within and outside Nigeria. To his credit, with the opening of a Facebook account in 2011, he became the first president to reach out to the community of internet users in Nigeria through social media. He has a designated social media public relation team, who are on government’s payroll and who orate about his achievements and defend tooth and nail his limitations.

As Nigerian online community- with an estimated 48 million internet users (6.6 million Facebook users and large number of Twitter users)- increases more and more, various government Ministries, Departments and Agencies have tapped into the opportunities provided by social media to network, share knowledge and receive feedbacks, and promote their strategic initiatives, but most importantly keep Nigerians informed. For example, the presence of the National Bureau of Statistics is conspicuous on Facebook and Twitter as the Bureau is active in its release of updates on macroeconomic indicators, and reports on the economy.

However, Nigerian government has robustly synergized the two primary channels of social media I have identified previously with the traditional media, particularly the government owned media. For example, virtually all government owned and private owned traditional media have Facebook and Twitter accounts, and they have a common thread running in their operational fabrics in terms of their use of i-reporters- individuals without professional know-how in journalism, but with the capability of using their wits in the use of social media tools to gather information (e.g. photos, videos, etc) about things happening around them and share such information through traditional media.

Importance:

  • Given the continual rise of social media channels, which has triggered off a rise in the network of internet users in Nigeria, social media deepens dissection of audience or recipients in terms of widening of horizon of coverage and selection of information that are in parallel with the penchant of individuals. In this sense, social media enables users to understand and discuss issues and connect with other people who share similar ideas. This creates individuals with interests on specific issues to connect, hence addressing different issues from different standpoints.
  • Social media emasculates the gate-keeping role of traditional media. Given the gate-keeping role of the traditional media, substances of public discourse are determined on the altar of prerogative of the traditional media where few news media producers determine what information the public should receive. With the emergence of social media, people have the platform to communicate with their representatives at the various arms of government.
  • As a corollary to the above, social media in a similar vein reduces over dependence on press releases as media for current news content or flow of information to the public. Through social media people read breaking news and follow events as they happen.
  • Social media serves as a valuable tool for gathering information and disseminating such information, networking, knowledge sharing and entertainment. In this sense, given the increasing tempo of internet users in Nigeria, social media has emerged as a new stimulant in political, economic and socio-cultural landscape, hence dominating channels of public discourse.

Social media as an enabler of accountability widens the frontlines of good governance. By providing a platform where people discuss topical issues- issues as transparency and accountability have become exigent and widely discussed in Nigeria- people report abuse of office by public office holders and other issues demanding government attention, hence connecting people with one another and empowering them to hold public office holders accountable. ” – Chukwuma Julius Okonkwo – Abuja, Nigeria


Learner’s Submission: A Case Study on Decentralization in Nigeria

26/09/2013

  • Nigeria as Country has adopted a three (3) tier system or structure of governance.
  • This is the Federal, State and Local Government.
  • Each of these arms of government has been empowered constitutionally to carry out certain functions, roles and responsibilities to the citizens of Nigeria.
  • The federal government or central government consists of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
  • The executive consists of the president and vice president who are elected for tenure of four years. It also includes cabinet ministers and special advisers mainly appointed by the president.
  • The executive is responsible for articulating the vision and direction of the country in terms of economic policies, infrastructural development, security, international relations, and citizen development for the country at large. It is also responsible for initiating and implementing policies guidelines that will lead to achieving its vision for the country.
  • The legislative arm of the federal government consists of the Senate and House of Representatives whose major responsibility is to make laws for the good governance of the country. It also performs oversight functions on the executive.

 

  • The judiciary is the third arm of the central government. It has the powers to interpret and enforce the laws of the country.
  • The state government is the next level in this structure of governance. Nigeria has thirty six states and each state is lead by a governor and a deputy governor also elected for four year tenure. The governor also appoints commissioners and special advisers who form the state executive and work with the governor to achieve the states articulated development agenda.
  • Every state executive has the responsibility for developing the infrastructure, economy, education and health sectors of their respective states. They build roads, schools, health care centers, and market centers etc that will beneficial to residents of the state. Sometimes they collaborate with the central government to build infrastructures and other social amenities that may be to large for the state to handle. State governments are also responsible for the security and safety of individuals within their state.
  • Every state also has a house assembly that makes laws for the good governance of the state and also carries out oversight functions on the state executive.
  • There is also the state judicial system which interprets the laws made by the state assembly and enforces it.
  • The next level of government in this governance structure is the local government. In Nigeria there are seven hundred and seventy four constitutionally recognized local government councils.
  • These councils are headed by elected local government chairmen for three (3) year tenure. These chairmen are supported by elected councilors who together with the chairmen administer the affairs of the local councils.
  • Every local council is responsible for building and maintaining basic infrastructure within their domains and these include constructing feeder roads, building and staffing of cottage hospitals or primary health care centers, building and maintaining community primary and secondary schools etc.
  • They are also in charge of the building community markets, payment of salaries of all staff who work in this tier of government.
  • The local government is the bastion of agriculture and food production in Nigeria. Most Nigeria farmers are still rural in nature and a huge percentage of arable land used for farming is located within the local councils. This is why a large part of government agriculture intervention programs are situated and channeled to local councils.
  • The local government council is the government nearest to the citizens. It is a legal representation of the central government, from where citizens can interact and engage with government.
  • This is the nature and structure of decentralized governance in Nigeria. ”  Vincent Hope – Wudil, Nigeria

Learner’s Submission: My Data and My Country

26/08/2013

Preamble

Identity theft for a long period has become a global menace to personal identification and data protection. Individuals- wealthy and poor- and corporate organizations have become victims of identity theft. Nigeria with many challenges on its shoulder is teetering on the brink of identity theft; hence the scourge thereon has become a kick in the teeth to Nigeria given that Nigeria does not have a law on data protection, despite its leading role in Africa. To my knowledge there is no law on data protection that exists in Nigeria. A proposed bill- Personal Information and Data Protection Bill- is still in pipeline and its passage into law seems like an illusion given the torrents of reservations that have been put forth by various stakeholders. The proposed bill is at variance with the contemporary best practices in international laws and some section of Chapter 4 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria- the section that deals with the Fundamental Rights of citizens. Strikingly, the Bill is devoid of necessary ingredients to tackle data protection issues. Countries like Ghana, South Africa and Egypt have gone ahead of Nigeria in data protection policies. In the global world today, many countries are embracing the challenges of identity theft by fine-tuning ways to protect personal information of their citizens and preserve the image of their corporate organizations through potentially effective legislations. Nigeria seems to be comfortable living at the medieval where people’s identities had less importance. Nigeria really needs to wake up and smell the coffee!

Existing Legislations and flaws

Basically, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the premise on which other existing laws are based. The existing laws that referred to protection of personal information in Nigeria are in furtherance of fundamental rights as enshrined in section 37- the section that deals with the Right to Private and Family Life- and other relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, for example section 39- the section that deals with the Right to Freedom of Expression and the Press. But these provisions are handicapped by section 45- the section that deals with Restriction on and Derogation from Fundamental Human Rights.

Beside the Constitution, data protection is somehow referred to in the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011 which inter alia aims to enhance public access to information and protect public records and information as well personal privacy. Section 14 of the FOI Act deals with the exemption of personal information- circumstances upon which applications that seek personal information of others can be denied or granted. Though the provisions contained thereon may seem glamorous to the purpose of data protection, but they leave a hole in the fabrics of data protection as they only make reference to personal information in the saddle of public institutions, with no recourse to personal information in the pocket of private firms.

Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulation (RTS) 2011, previously known as SIM Card Registration Regulation 2010, enshrines data protection, so to speak, as stipulated in section 11- the section that deals with Data Protection. The RTS 2011 makes reference to General Consumer Code Practice for Telecommunications Services, which therein in section 35 contains mechanism for data protection, but for consumers of telecommunications services in Nigeria. Though these regulations seem, to an extent, to embody some sort of outlook and effort to entrench data protection principles in the telecommunication industry, I do not have the firm conviction that the information about myself and my family that I have exposed in the course of Sim Card Registration and(or) other form of registration are well protected given the illicit and erroneous treatment of personal information in Nigeria, which are incidental consequences of the absence of a well detailed legal framework that guides data protection. These regulations seem more like a watery sun hung in the autumn sky. It is really ridiculous that upon violation of data protection provisions as contained in those regulations by some violator(s), the regulators do not treat such breach of data protection as a gross violation of the victims’ right to privacy, but rather as a mere breach of regulations with paltry financial and (or) trifling corporate sanctions that are mere scratch on the surface. This does not show the muscle of a regulation that is hell-bent on tearing down the thick walls of data protection menace.

It is very unfortunate that despite all the hullabaloos about financial sector restructuring and reinvention by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), particular in the banking sector, that Nigeria still cannot boast of a single data protection law in the sector. To my knowledge, no law exists for data protection in the financial sector. Even the Banking and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) does not guarantee that. Customers disclose high volume of sensitive information to their banks, which unfortunately if misused cannot be enforced by customers, yet regulators with the statutory rights perform noticeably poor in protecting privacy of personal information of these gullible customers. The situation in the financial sector as compared to telecommunication sector seems to be worrisome.

Conclusion

In conclusion, given the astronomical increase in technology-driven activities with the resulting necessities for public and private institutions to seek for people’s personal data and information, where those information and date have become valuable to the seeker, the need to protect those information and data about people have become paramount. Time is now ripe for the Nigerian government to wake up and embrace the global trend in establishing data protection laws. ” – Okonkwo Julius Chukwuma – Abuja, Nigeria


Learner’s Submission: How can Citizens Contribute to the Achievement of the MDGs in Nigeria

15/08/2013

“Introduction:

At the UN Summit in September 2000 in New York, USA, eight MDGs were ratified. They are: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; Achieve universal primary education (UPE); Promote gender equality and empower women; Reduce child mortality; Improve maternal health; Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; Ensure environmental stability; and Develop a global partnership for development. Nigeria is a party to this ratification. However, with less than three years until December, 2015 deadline for achieving the MDGs, Nigeria is still wide-of-the-mark to achieving these goals. Despite all the natural resource wealth Nigeria is endowed with, yet Nigeria lags behind in meeting the 2015 deadline. The greater challenge remains to make the citizens completely aware of the MDGs and the significant values they can add in achieving the MDGs.

It is against this background that this article examines the various ways Nigerian citizens can contribute alongside the government in achieving the MDGs. There is no exhaustive list in this regard. Given the foregoing, highlighted below are ways Nigerians can contribute to the achievement of the MDGs:

  • Involvement:

Greater results will be achieved when citizens are involved in the policy making processes that affect their lives alongside the government. If people are not involved or do not get themselves involved in the process then the end product of MDGs is a mirage. Nigerians seem to be out of the loop of what goes on in the economy. Many Nigerians are oblivious of who the leaders of various government institutions are, hence are unable to know who and for what to hold accountable. Progress in MDGs will be quite elusive if citizens are not conscious of the political and economic activities in the country.

  • Volunteerism:

Volunteerism is an area that has remained unexplored in Nigeria over the years; hence the multiplier effects accruing from volunteerism are lost. The interesting thing about volunteering is that it gives volunteers a first class experience of the challenges facing the areas they are working on, the recognition of the positive impacts on the lives of people in the economy, and the self satisfaction of being part of a team that fosters change on ground. Given Nigeria’s youth bulge, Nigeria is placed at a vantage position of what could be the most transformation in the history of Nigeria if the demographic dividends are harnessed to impact on the MDGs.

  • Empowerment:

Citizens make their voices heard through effective participation in monitoring and reporting of their daily life experiences. An average Nigeria owns a mobile phone and is able to communicate at a basic level. Given this context, creating an initiative where citizens can monitor economic and social activities through text messaging or calls has the great potentials of yielding positive results. Through these they can hold governments accountable on the promises they make.  MDGs cannot be achieved in isolation; people need to be empowered to empower others; and it goes on like a chain reaction.

  • Believe in Nigeria:

Across Nigeria, there is a wind of despondency blowing, especially in the minds of young Nigerians. Albert Einstein rightly said that “weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” The way Nigerians perceive Nigeria and react to issues that affect Nigeria makes a big difference in solving challenges that behold Nigeria. However, the mindset of the people determines their thoughts; their thoughts direct their behaviour; and their behaviour forms the general belief. Nigerians need to develop a dyed-in-the-wool spirit for Nigeria; a spirit that Nigeria is for all; hence Nigeria’s failure is a failure for all.

  • Collaboration:

The sixth MDG that is concerned with combating HIV/SAIDS, malaria, and other diseases needs collaboration among people for much headway to be made. This goal requires high-priority of hygiene, which is not solely exclusive to an individual. Diseases are spread from individual to individual; hence fight against spread of diseases can be promoted from the pragmatic stand point that involves everyone to maintain high level of hygiene.

 

  • Respect for one another:

There is poverty of respect for human dignity among Nigerians. This is manifested in the ways Nigerians treat each other. Nigerians see themselves with different perception of identity. Intolerance among Nigerians has eroded the respect for each other. This poses a greater challenge in bringing people together to work for a common purpose, hence mounting a severe strain on the MDGs. The love, strength and faith labored by Nigeria’s heroes past as reflected in Nigeria’s coat of arms should be upheld by Nigerians in dealing with each other to build a unity of purpose needed to make headway on the MDGs.

Conclusion:

Achieving the MDGs is a collective effort of every Nigerian and not an exclusive role of the government. Given the lag in delivering on the MDGs it has become a clarion call for every Nigerian to put hands on deck to add value, no matter how little, in achieving the MDGs. In this regard, everyone has a role to play; MDGs are everybody’s tasks; every effort you make in the process adds a great value; your little effort today can foster change and make a big difference. To conclude, Nigerians need to sacrifice their comfort zones and get involved in the tasks of the MDGs.” – Chukwuma Okonkwo – Abuja, Nigeria


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