Availability and Accessibility of ICTs in the Rural Communities of Delta State, Nigeria
Department of Library and Information Science
Modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are a source for the development of wealth and power when they are directed for the well being of humanity (Ahsanullah, 2002). Nigeria has a population of about 120 million people living in 774 local government areas in the 36 states and the federal capital territory. The country is embracing the new technology with an explosion in the use of mobile phones providing communication previously undreamt of. About a million people have mobile phones, but Internet use is lagging behind with only an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Nigerians connected to the Internet (Olukoya, 2002). One reason for this is that about 80 million Nigerians are rural dwellers who are excluded from participating in the emerging information economy.
To make Nigeria a key player in the information society through the use of ICTs as the engine for sustainable development and global competitiveness, the Nigerian government has the following goals for the use of ICTs:
The Internet and other ICTs are affecting all human activities that depend on information, including rural development and food security. O'Farrell, et al. (1999) state that a better understanding of existing information practices and socio-technical processes is necessary in rural areas if ICT-based projects are to be more effective.
Accascina (2000) identifies how ICTs directly and indirectly affect poverty alleviation, notably in relation to rural development and food security. Examples include the delivery of market or employment information, or the creation of well-paid jobs that eventually "trickle down" to poor communities.
Adimorah (1990) stresses that, "our information services are still elitist, serving only 20% of the educated elite group while the 80% illiterate rural dwellers wallow in information deprivation." The present administration in Nigeria does not want to be left out of this global system. According to Okeh (2002), the literature has stressed that the quality of life of rural dwellers can be highly improved by effective provision of relevant information to rural communities.
This study uses a survey. The instrument for collecting data is a questionnaire that has two parts. The first part collected data on personal characteristics of respondents, while the collected data on ICTs in the rural communities of Delta state. The data were analysed using frequency counts and simple percentages.
The sample for this study consisted of 132 rural dwellers of whom 125 completed the questionnaire. The respondents were drawn from eleven communities in the Ethiope East local government area of Delta state. The communities are Abraka, Igun, Okpara Waterside, Okpara Inland, Okurekpo, Salubi, Ovu/Ovoire, Kokori, Eku, Oroakpo, and Isiokolo.
Findings and Discussion
Section A: Bio-Data
Table I: Distribution of respondents by age.
A majority of the respondents are between the ages of 18-28 and 29-39. A majority of the work presented in this study is being carried out by people who are relatively young and alert enough to be able to make use of ICTs.
Table II: Distribution of respondents by gender.
The study respondents were primarily male.
Table III: Distribution of respondents by educational status.
About one-third of the respondents are WAEC/TCII holders while more than one-fifth are primary school certificate holders.
Table IV: Distribution of respondents by occupation.
A little more than one-fifth of the rural dwellers are unemployed, while another fifth are petty traders, and one-fifth are housewives.
Section B: Availability and accessibility of ICTs
Table V: Availability of information sources
One-third of respondents indicated the availability of computers in their communities. A quarter have radio and one-fifth have telephone (GSM). Internet and email services, fax machines, and CD-ROMs are completely absent.
Table VI: Accessibility of information sources
Nearly a third of respondents have access to a computer, while about one fourth have access to radio. About 15% have access to scanners, telephone (GSM), and television.
Table VII: Reasons for the use of ICT
All responses are well above 50%, with the exception of education, reduction of conflict, and religion with 8.8%, 5.6%, and 1.6% respectively.
Table VIII: Constraints on the use of ICTs
Table VIII shows total neglect by government in the provision of ICTs in rural areas. Respondents ticked all the constraints listed above as factors militating against the effective use of ICTs in the rural communities.
Conclusion and Recommendation
The study reveals that a majority of the respondents are unemployed, petty traders, farmers, or housewives. A large portion are illiterate and this affects the accessibility and use of modern ICTs
To ensure that ICTs are available and accessible, and to guarantee that rural dwellers benefit maximally and contribute meaningfully to the challenges of the information age, the following are recommended.
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