The Honourable Minister for Communication Technology

Mrs. Omobola Johnson
at the Launch of the
Students PC Ownership Scheme:
"Promoting Increased Access and Utilisation of ICTs in Education"

Transcorp Hilton Abuja, Nigeria

Thursday, November 8, 2012



Today we are witnessing the culmination of efforts by the Ministry of Communication Technology, her implementing agency NITDA and the partners that you have already heard to address, in one innovative programme, two of the mandates of the Ministry of Communication Technology. The first being to promote the utilisation of ICTs in all spheres of life - and education has been given priority and the second being the promotion and the facilitation of the development of the ICT industry.

PC penetration in Nigeria is one of the lowest in Africa despite the fact that we have a youthful population that is IT savvy and hungry to not only consume but create content over electronic media. Several reasons have been given for this and they include amongst other things the affordability and availability of the devices and the slow pace by which ICTs are being adopted for teaching and learning in our secondary and tertiary institutions. Federal and state governments through various programmes and corporate institutions through their corporate social responsibility initiatives have sought to bridge this ICT access gap for students. The most common means being the donation of well equipped computer labs with internet connectivity to schools and universities. These initiatives certainly provide succour for our deprived students but if we are to achieve our national aspiration and vision to be a digitally connected knowledge society our students and our youth must have increased access to ICTs.

There is a whole world of knowledge and learning to be found on the internet and we must ensure that our young students have unfettered access to this world so they can participate meaningfully in the knowledge society that we are trying to build. Being connected to electronic libraries, having access to world class research material, being connected to a network of students and research institutions means that they can also participate as not only consumers of all of this content but also creators of the content. Ofcourse not forgetting the productivity and efficiency benefits of having your own device.

Therefore actually owning a device, a personal computer in this instance, is a big first step in achieving these objectives.

On the other hand, we have a fairly well established device assembly industry. Some of the companies that you see represented here today are over 20 years old and have operations in countries other than Nigeria. Unfortunately, our preference of international or global brands who have much better marketing, research and production capacity has led to the poor capacity utilisation of these assembly plants. Federal and state governments have been their biggest customers which means that they are dependent on the most uncertain world of government supply contracts.

The Ministry of Communication Technology and NITDA saw a very clear window to literally kill the two birds of poor PC ownership by students and poor acceptance of local brands and poor capacity utilisation of our PC assembly plants with one stone. As you well know, our youth tend to be most critical, vocal and demanding of goods and services they procure. Once they are sold however they will be the greatest advocates of the brand and will demonstrate loyalty well beyond their student years. Providing them with computers that are built to exacting world class standards, designed with Nigeria in mind and aesthetically pleasing will go a long way to earning this loyalty.

You have already heard about the unique features of this scheme but let me just summarise them again for emphasis.

This is a collaborative and mutually benefical effort between PC assemblers, universities, banks, global technology companies and telecoms companies that has required many months of conceptualising and fine tuning.

This initiative is entirely technology driven and contributes to the growing number of ecommerce initiatives that will move us to the desired digital, diversified, productive and efficient economy.

The technology that is used to power this initiative was developed by a group of extremely talented Nigerian software developers, a testament to the fact that we can develop a viable and vibrant local software industry catering to our domestic needs but exportable to other markets.

Finally and most importantly, government, in this particular scheme has moved from the role of the contracting entity to the enabling entity through the efforts of NITDA and the Ministry in conceptualising this scheme and being the 'honest broker' that brought all the parties together.

Even as all the parties have worked together over the last few months we must continue in this collaborative manner if this initiative will be as successful as we all hope and pray it will be and deliver the objectives of PC penetration, capacity utilisation, brand acceptance and most of all student participation in the digital economy. The process you have seen today is a chain, a weak link in the chain will compromise the integrity of the entire chain. I urge all of our partners today not to be the weak link in the chain even during the pilot phase where the scheme and all its components will be thoroughly tested before being rolled out to all tertiary institutions. At this point I would like to thank the Vice Chancellors of the pilot universities, the Chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and ofcourse the Executive Secretary of the NUC without whose support this scheme would not be possible.

While students may hunger and yearn for computers they do not have the earning power - so while the demand will be catalysed by students it will be actualised by willing parents, wards, guardians, mentors and other well meaning Nigerians who are willing to invest as little as N3,500 a month in the future of the country.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I thank you all for joining us today and I look forward to the success of this innovative programme.

Thank you.