Jidaw Systems

Bread or Broadband in Nigeria

Bread or broadband? What is bread? What is broadband? In Nigeria what is the essence of broadband? Is it about being the fastest growing or to be the largest market? Hunger prowls the street in broad daylight, will broadband provide bread? The "bread or broadband" question is about real choices and priorities .


ICT Nigeria - What manner of growth?

The Nigerian ICT environment has no doubt improved. But what sort of progress is being made in the real development of a dynamic knowledge-based economy? "Bread or Broadband" issues are still real and unresolved. To understand and deepen the impact of technology we look beyond broadband. Technology is not enough. ICT is an established tool for improving economic competitiveness. Beyond the show, there must be an understanding and real commitment to using the potentials offered by ICT to address real social and economic problems.

Sincere Communication, Sustainable Development

How serious or realistic are the solutions being proffered? Are issues seen through the eyes of those on the wrong end of the divide? They make sense to the Victoria Island banker but what does this mean to the farmer in Ondo state? Or is ICT simply another urban or elite conspiracy. ICT is either real or it is imaginary. The dilemma is "Bread or Broadband" or "Broadband for Bread" or "Bread and Broadband". If I can't see how ICT connects to my bread today and my future tomorrow, how can ICT be real to me?  To make sense we must factor in the huge lack of exposure and exclusion that rules the land. How many clearly see how ICT contributes to their well being? And is your communication genuine if we don't see the same picture, or speak the same language? What effort is being made to bridge this gap? It's important to address the dynamics of poverty and underdevelopment. More technology and more infrastructure alone won't unlock the doors. This is both a livelihood and future growth issue. You don't get better by throwing technology at the problem.

Low Digital Literacy/ Poor e-business culture

Among the rural majority there is a lack of awareness of the applications and benefits of ICT. How many in the rural areas have had any contact with computers? Is the concept of the knowledge society using the infrastructure of ICT being sold in an appropriate and realistic manner? It's a new world of opportunities and innovation so availability of technology is critical; but attitudes die-hard. Technology is perceived as unaffordable if the benefits are not demonstrable or clear. Human development starts with awareness, understanding and attitudinal changes. Having elitist shows for the urban rich is simply chasing shadows. EVERYBODY needs to know about the use of knowledge and technology as a competitive advantage and how it should be used as a common resource for the benefit of all. Digital literacy goes beyond usage. Digital literacy means being able to answer fundamental questions. Otherwise it's just a game. What is the power of the transformational role of ICTs in the economy? How does ICT develop other sectors? More productivity gains from ICT come from ICT user intensive sectors than from the ICT industry itself. We need more sincere efforts in engendering the knowledge society culture. And the perception of ICTs as being capable of transforming a wide range of economic and social activity needs to be reinforced.

ICTs are tools not goals

ICTs are tools and not objectives of knowledge society strategies and policies. While we must appreciate technological leapfrogging opportunities, they are not ends in themselves. It's still the same basic question - How can we use ICTs to live better and more productive lives? Building up infrastructure and technological capacity in the absence of institutional, human and managerial development is a wasteful exercise in futility. We should have enough of the loud, empty shows that simply distract. So you have technology, so you have infrastructure, so what? Technology alone will not resolve the "bread or broadband" issue. The question is therefore how ICT will best serve national economic and social development. What is the relevance of ICT within the context of conditions and situations in the country - strengths and weaknesses? How will ICTs foster economic, political, social and intellectual development? Developing the knowledge economy in Nigeria means formulating and implementing strategies that will holistically address human development, social welfare, economic output and resource optimization.

The Social Relevance of ICT 

Is technology driven economic growth sustainable without addressing social concerns?  The "bread or broadband" dilemma is addressed by dealing with social and economic interfaces - education, trust in technology, management of technology, legal and enabling environment for knowledge society development, productivity, service quality, and global competitiveness. How have our national policies for small businesses factored in ICT? What is role of ICT in education? How will ICT contribute jobs and help with health, food security and shelter? And policies are not enough - how about the follow through and implementation? Are we creating more jobs? IS education now more affordable? Has the cost of healthcare come down? Has security of life and property been enhanced? These are the real issues.

The Digital Rat Race 

Developing a competitive knowledge-based economy doesn't come by wishing or hoping. As indicated earlier recent telecom and access growth have been impressive and unprecedented. But "bread or broadband" is asking questions about penetration, inclusiveness, relevance and sustainability. You don't simply join the digital rat race and hope for the best. Hope is not a strategy. It isn't about jumping on the Western world or Asian tigers bandwagon. The copy cat mentality is slavery not real development. Creativity matters more than the barriers. Obstacles may in fact be opportunities for growth.

Sincerity and commitment to growth as well as quality of life issues - jobs, health, education, security, new business creation - are paramount. It's time to focus on better communications - it must be genuine and relevant; let's pay attention to the things that matter while striking a balance between short term concerns and long term goals. Only then can the issue of "bread or broadband" be addressed and overcome.


Jide Awe

Jide Awe is the Publisher of Jidaw.com


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September 9, 2008


Amaka Anigbogu says:



Very relevant and interesting reading .thanks for a good piece. More ways of practicalising the solution to achieve the millennium development goals will be appreciated.



June 30, 2008


Jonathan Esho from

Abuja, FCT, Nigeria says:



What are the policy makers doing? More should be done to use ICT to stop the rural - urban drift. Good job!



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