Re-echoing the words of Jelani Aliyu, who said, ‘Our powers lie dormant, that dynamism and those powerful capabilities within us continue to remain inside and unproductive.’ You may argue that we are not standing still, that we are making some progress, but when you observe the pace of technological advancements around the world, you know that we might as well be standing still.”
In his lecture at the combined convocation of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, with the theme: ‘Ensuring global relevance: Creating a new generation of super Nigerians’ Director-General, National Automative Design and Development Council Jelani Aliyu, said Nigerians’ might at the end remain still while the rest of the world moves on.
Today, from the far north to the tail end of the universe, technology makes the world function efficiently. It has made digital revolution inevitable. As ‘information technology’ becomes part of the ingredients used in the making of a new order – in the lives of individuals, groups and communities, it is now more pertinent than ever to ensure a technology-driven university system in line with the best global practices.
It is noteworthy to stress that information and communication technology has made digital inclusion across all spectrum of the society pertinent. Significantly, with ‘globalisation’, the world has become a better place. Down the memory lane, Marshall McLuhan had predicted the interconnectedness of the world societies which according to him, would be as a result of the revolution in the information communication technology.
In x-raying the term ‘digital inclusion’, to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, it is “the ability of individual and group to access and use information and communication technologies.” It is also “the condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in the society, democracy and economy.”
Digital inclusion is meant to be a pragmatic, policy-driven tool that addresses the need of individuals and communities. While some argue that tertiary institutions in Nigeria are ripe for a digital revolution, others believe that the system is right on track, and that it is only a matter of time until the desired change can be achieved. Of the differing views, one thing holds true – Nigerian universities need ‘reforming’.
Government-owned tertiary institutions in Nigeria had surely seen better days. They were once good examples of emerging giants attracting recognition from different countries of the world. But, today, they are left in cold ruins owing to applying technology at a ‘snail pace’. Technology makes it more efficient for lecturers and administrative staff to handle office functions and grading papers, thus cutting down long working hours. But, sadly, Nigerian universities are benighted outright.
Despite decades into technology age, there are still calls by students and graduates of Nigerian universities to embrace technology. It’s quite worrisome that graduates still wait in the cold to obtain their certificates. Worse still, students in Nigeria wait endlessly for results to be released and queue hour-long to sign forms which could have been done electronically.
In this age of information explosion, a skill in processing and distribution of data using Information Technology will determine one’s value in the force of work. Pathetic enough, innovation in Nigerian universities is at infancy. The nation’s public universities still rely heavily on the conventional ‘teaching-learning’, meanwhile, universities in other climes have gone ahead leaning towards technology-driven perspectives. These universities publish their course materials via the Internet, updating it regularly and have students that spread across the globe through distance learning programmes.
Sadly, most of the supporting materials in Nigerian universities are manually obtained and largely outdated owing to the dearth of the needed technological knowledge to meet up with global best practices. It is, therefore, not out of place to submit that ‘poor network and communication imbroglio’ is one prominent obstacle to the integration of ICT in Nigerian universities.
As the digital age widens continuously, tertiary institutions in Nigeria will have to extend access to ICT broadly. A state of emergency should be declared in our tertiary institutions until the desired effect is achieved. Thus, promotion of research and learning in emerging technologies should be given the utmost priority in a long term plan that will ensure our tertiary institutions are self-sufficient without necessarily relying on government for their running.
The country is still grappling with inconsistent electricity, something very vital to maintenance of information technology resources. Truth is, technology and science laboratories cannot run without power. However, some universities have an added advantage owing to the situation of the zone they are based; like sun light in Northwest and Northeast, rivers and dams in North Central and coal deposits in Eastern Nigeria. This will give the universities in the zones the edge to tap these potential at their disposal to keep information technology resources running, thus reawakening the universities as a force to reckon with in the comity of universities globally.
One cannot gainsay the fact that when technology-driven knowledge is prioritised, Nigeria universities would be tapping into a previously unrecognised potential. For instance, some institutions in the country have taken giant strides in e-learning deliveries; University of Ilorin; University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-ife today boast of public institutions with best developed ICT system.
Thus, engaging in innovation and emerging technologies will be a stepping stone for Nigerian universities to becoming flag bearers in the global education scene. Like Jelani Aliyu strongly asserted, until Nigerian universities dance to the tune of technology and build up research outputs, our universities would remain a laughing stock in the global scene. With technology however, Nigerian universities will reclaim their lost glory.