‘Government must create an enabling environment for digital revolution’


Tola Olayefun is the President, Resource Inflow Limited, a digital technology firm. Ahead of the firm’s First Digital Citizenship Summit in Nigeria, Olayefun, in an electronic mail interview with ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, spoke on how it has become very critical for government to enable the environment for digital revolution.

What is the rationale for organising Digital Citizen Summit Nigeria?
With the profusion of digital technology and Internet connectivity, it is critical that all Nigerians understand the impacts of digital technology both on themselves and on society. Digital Citizenship is more than just a set of rules or guidelines; it provides a framework for how we talk about digital technology and its impact on the human element of the technology. While it’s easy to focus on rules and regulations, it is just as important for all people to be open to the opportunities and possibilities that come from using technology in a positive way for the betterment of ourselves, our neighbors, our country, and the world.

Who are the target audience?
The target audience for Digital Citizenship is everyone! There are life implications for just about everyone when you look at Digital Citizenship from a broad view. How you interact with the people around you using digital technology, affects not only the school teacher, parents, and students, but also the musician, the artist, the local market vendor, and the politician.

It is easy to only see digital citizenship as something we teach children in school, but it has much broader implications as we move forward in the a future filled with devices and the ability to connect with others near and far.

If this is not the first time of organising a summit like this, the previous editions, how did you follow up on recommendations made?
The important thing about this summit is that it is more than just a conference. The supreme goal of the Digital Citizenship Summit is to leave our time together with a vision for the future. On day two, with the help of presenter Matt Murrie, we look to involve everyone in casting a vision for digital citizenship in Nigeria. All interest groups will benefit from being present and contributing to the conversation and playing a part in the development of what that future looks like. Some attendees, after hearing the messages of day one, may find that they are moved toward stepping up and want to support moving forward with the vision items that the summit develops. Ongoing participation from the community will drive movement forward on this agenda.

How will your organisation articulate recommendations that will come out from this summit?
While the summit is only a two-day event, we are confident that it will bring energy to a conversation that must continue! Day one of the summit will involve learning about what we know digital citizenship to be, and then day two will see participants working to cast a vision for what the future of digital citizenship will look like in Nigeria. The vision and goals identified by participants in this year’s summit will be lifted up by volunteers, from what we hope will be a diverse group of stakeholders, to create a plan moving forward for the creation of local or even national digital citizenship initiatives and objectives.

What are the challenges confronting Nigeria’s digital development?
Obviously, access to digital technology is a concern, but just because you put a device in the hand of each Nigerian and give them Internet access does not mean that everyone will leverage it for the good of themselves, their communities, or their country. Working toward developing a positive digital citizenship vision and then working out action steps to bring that vision to reality is itself a monumental challenge. However, we believe that hardest thing to do is just start the conversation, and that’s a barrier we are overcoming now with the Summit

How can the country use the summit to measure up digitally?
In conversations with our American presenters, they feel strongly that when the digital revolution hit the USA, local communities, even to this day, struggle to help students and community members deal with many of the unintended consequences that come from having access to digital technology resources. For example, while the American response to digital citizenship has been very reactive to what is happening, the communities of Nigeria have the opportunity to be proactive in their approach. In this way, Nigeria can move ahead of many of its neighbors with regards to leveraging technology tools.

What do you see as requirements for Nigeria’s digital journey?
Nigeria’s digital journey will be successful if it can move forward with a common voice and purpose. That voice and purpose must begin with people. Technology can do nothing by itself, only the people who stand behind the technology are what make it work for the good of everyone! It is only when we focus on people that the technology can truly have value.

Another factor that needs to be considered is a focus on teaching the youth the importance of effective technology use. Implementing Digital Citizenship programs and curriculum can support the country in its movement forward.

To what extent can government aids citizens’ digital development?
The best way the government can support the digital citizenship movement is by working toward creating an environment where people are free to use the Internet, social media, and other technology tools in ways that allow them to be creative! People identify problems, develop solutions, and then implement those solutions. The more the government can get out of the way and allow people to do the creative work, the more prosperous the country will be.

Is there any link between digital development and economic growth?
The direct connection to economic growth and digital development will depend not only on who is allowed to have access to the tools, but who can do it in a safe and honorable way. What does Nigeria want to be known for? Currently it is known as the home of the longest running 419 scam in the world! Hopefully, we can change that perception and help people realize that they can do more than just read a news feed on Facebook. Digital tools, when leveraged for good, have the potential to raise up a generation of world changers.



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