Scott Reed | Summer 2008 | Kano, Nigeria
This Summer, I was an intern in Kano, Nigeria. I worked primarily with the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) which is deeply involved in advocacy, training, and research related to the use of ICT for sustainable development in Northern Nigeria. Unfortunately, due to poor infrastructure and difficulty of acquiring technology in the area, the staff of CITAD has not had much opportunity to increase their skills and were anxious to find new ways to use technology for the organization as well as expand their training program.
Initially I was very surprised by the low level of computer and internet literacy within the organization. Despite being an ICT-focused organization, many of the staff were uncomfortable with computers and used them at much slower pace and frequency than what I’d normally associated with a “connected” office. In fact, the internet had only recently been brought to the office, so many of the staff did not have the necessary skills to use e-mail effectively or find information they needed. In short, the technology was there but there were numerous obstacles, such as incredibly unreliable electricity and power supply, limited English skills, slow internet connectivity, and more which all made a real engagement in technology to be incredibly difficult.
I learned to prepare for anything, be it a power outage, internet malfunction, absent trainees, late starts, or having three times as many people as computers. The scene of an air-conditioned computer lab with comfortable seats, projector for the instructor, and well maintained computers was a fantasy neither I, nor my trainees could indulge in. Eventually, the internet in the office was shut off not to be turned back on for at least a month, requiring some trainings to take place in a crowded corner of the local cyber-cafè as 4 staff members crowded around my one laptop.
The circumstances required me to constantly reassess my strategies and pay constant attention to my trainees’ progress and skill level. I don’t imagine that they will be checking e-mail on iPhones or developing database driven website anytime soon but I feel that my focus on capacity building and training allowed them to get a different kind of perspective on technology and how it can be used.