Enhancing Civil Society use of ICT’s in Nigeria
by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Havard University and Georgia Tech
at the Digital Bridge Institute in Abuja, Nigeria
June 14th – 16th
Enhancing Civil Society use of ICT’s in Nigeria was a conference put on by the MacArthur Foundation for their grantees. There were about 40 NGO’s from all over Nigeria and Africa who came to this two day training on ICT’s and how to use them.
Day one: The first day consisted mostly of talks regarding what ICT is, how it is being used in other countries, and how it could be used in Nigeria. The discussion was moderated by Colin Maclay from Harvard and other speakers included Ethan Zuckerman, who teaches at MIT and Harvard (Global Voices) and Juliana Rotich (Ushahidi). After each presentation, the crowd was very eager to ask questions (sometimes a bit too eager) and add comments . The whole conference is also an amazing way for NGO’s to learn about each other and to network and make connections. I was able to met Dr. Murtala Mai, one of the administrators of Pathfinder, a company based in Abuja with a smaller office in Kaduna. They are doing work in medical records systems as well so we are going to do a presentation for them on my project in Kaduna. Hopefully, we will be able to work together to make medical records systems a more common practice. That night, they provided us with a wonderful dinner of smoked fish, suya and goats head soup. All was very good, although it was a bit hard to swallow the soup. We had the opportunity to sit with Tunjo Lardner, CEO of WANGONET. He was absolutely hysterical and gave us some very wise and ridiculous advice.
Day two: The activities on the second day were much more interactive and was designed to teach some of the technologies we had talked about the day before. Some of the technology work shops focused on FrontlineSMS, Facebook, Twitter, Websites, and WordPress. I helped Ian run the WordPress section which had at least 20 people in it. After Ian’s talk, I was able to help show a few people how to set up a WordPress blog. It is amazing how excited people were to do it! I think that they felt very empowered to now have a space where they can write whatever they want and were proud of themselves for learning a new technology. I am excited to read what they have to say and I hope that they do use the blogs that we set up for them.
Day three: The third day was an extension of the program put on by Digital Bridge Institute for NGO’s all over Nigeria, not just MacArthur reps. There were about 80 NGO’s there and the day consisted mostly of presentations. Colin Maclay and Ethan Zukerman gave a great presentation in the morning explaining ICT’s for development. Other presentations included ICT for Citizen and Political Participation, ICT for Social Change, and How to Obtain International Donor Funding.
Abuja is actually really different then all of Nigeria that I have seen so far. It actually resembles a normal city! Most of the people there are much more liberal and wear western clothing. Also, they don’t all stare at you every where you go. (well, some do but at least its not everyone). We got to eat some amazing fish while we were there. I am going to learn how to cook it so that I can make it for everyone when I get back. Also, its kind of nice here because you eat with your hands which makes it much easier. Overall, I had a really fun trip to Abuja but I like the North better. Kaduna is much more lively and has a stronger culture which makes it more interesting.
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