I guess “the light”
has finally come to Ekiti state in form of LCD powered panels called laptops
purchased by our state governor in his wisdom for our 100,000 secondary school students at the cost of four
hundred million dollars! No, I know that this is another
worthless “free” gesture by a misdirected socialist, experimenting with 19th
century economics in the 21st century!
Why would Dr. Fayemi
budget, that ranks it as one of the poorest states in Nigeria, to
buying laptops for students that may never get to use them optimally? Electricity
is temperamental in the state as a whole and out for 3-5 days straight! I was just in Ikole and Ado Ekiti this past
month: and “enjoyed” three full “rural” days of no electricity! Ikole by the
way is one of the larger domains in Ekiti, a state the size of a large county
in Texas. Yet, not a single blink!
The situation has even gotten so bad to the
extent that the monarch in Odo-Oro Ekiti proclaimed that no one in his domain
will pay PHCN its residual bill of =N=1500 (one thousand five hundred naira) for
the month of December. And students in Egbeoba High School in Odo-Oro will
still get these laptops too? It is to this mess that Dr. Fayemi is committing
100,000 power hungry machines that are about as useful as the amount of juice
they suck from the grid! Pray Tell! Why Samsung and South Korea is being
enriched at the expense of a local manufacturer.
What else could the government of Ekiti have
done, given its resolute (and commendable) drive to spur computer literacy in
this otherwise economically moribund state? Well, here are few pointers.
First, laptops by nature are the wrong
machines to spur computer literacy. Bill Gates, the giant of the computer
industry, used his first computer by sneaking into a computer Library on the
campus of Washington University in Seattle where his mother presided. As a
young teenager, it was his love of computers coupled with a passion for
mischief that goaded the genius in him that helped birth the consumer computer
business now worth billions of dollars around the globe. Lesson 1: Computer
Library in Nigeria is more likely to capture the soul and mind of Ekiti’s own
Bill Gates, than laptops distributed to far corners of an unlighted state!
Okay, may be that is a stretch. Let us assume
here that the laptops do actually work, but is it really smart to give them to
a ten year old that cannot possibly explore 10% of its use for checking email,
social networking, accessing the internet (in a state where access is spotty),
programming, word processing, database building, software development etc. For
computer use to translate to true economic development, it has to be guided,
hence the preference for a computer laboratory/library mode.
Go to a university in any developed country, aside from an open WIFI
system across campus, a well stocked computer library allowing students to
utilize them freely engenders a strong computer based development especially
for the student that want to learn and utilize them. Stripping aside the strong
correlation between leaving your own home, and wanting to do hardcore computer
use under guidance, there is also a strong reason behind computer labs as a
preferred route for pioneering access in rural areas and virgin economies; it
simply opens up their use to more folks.
Indeed, the computer laboratory is not just a
computer center or cyber café, but also a community center, a literacy center
and above all a library. These days, everything is on the Internet i.e.
Encyclopedia, journals, and textbooks. At the click of a button, you can access
whole libraries that would have cost the Rockefellers billions in years past.
This can be licensed (for free from developmental institutions and
international universities) to new modular Computer Libraries/Laboratories that
can be deployed in Ekiti state’s 141 secondary schools in 6 months! If you go
on YouTube, there is the Khan Academy. You’ll learn everything from gravity to
advanced computational sciences, at the click of a button. Modular Computer
Libraries will bring them to you!
When coupled with the fact that electricity
is simply a luxury in Ekiti state, and given the deadly state of our federal
governance there is no hope anywhere near, a smart government will have opted
for the modular computer library solution coupled with renewable energy
A better solution is
putting renewable energy powered computer mobile labs in every one of the 141
secondary schools in Ekiti. This can also serve as local libraries and can
be accessed by students, teachers and community members at large. And
I doubt it will cost $400 million to do! That is nearly $250,000 for each
computer Lab; it is more than enough, include inverter, solar panels and the
And just before you think this requires some
huge engineering and developmental feat, consider the fact that a team led by a
Nigerian (Mr. Idris Bello, now of Wennovation Hub & Oxford University) already designed this solution while in the
United States, they – Libraries Across Africa (LAA)– even won in the Dell Social Innovation
Competition, and this can be entirely manufactured locally. Is it containerized
shipping cabins that rot in our ports and fall into disuse that we don’t have?
Or are we lacking in a local manufacturer of servers and computers? With
technicians of inverters, solar panels and batteries abounding across the land,
there is no reason why Ekiti state is spurring Korea’s economy!
This alternative is a
no-brainer, especially when the current cost of the program computes out at
approximately $250,000.00 (two hundred and fifty thousand dollars) per Ekiti
state secondary school. I am sure the folks at LAA can do with a fraction of
that or less. Think about the possibilities, one and fifty functioning mobile
libraries that will bring electricity to the remotest parts of Ekiti, serving 2
million people versus laptops in the hands of 100,000 students that will fall
It is true, that a
modular library solution also have its obvious downside if not properly
managed. The cost of maintenance and operation need be factored in, so also
must be the challenges of access control. Simple technology interventions, that
can actually double as State ID cards can fix the access issues and can be
implemented from these centers. While transferring security and operations to
local communities that apply and compete for these libraries will fix the first
issue. No royal father in Ekiti (where education is still valued) will want to
own the reputation of allowing his own library to go down the drain.
Twice before, I have
warned our Governor about the danger of “free”, and thrice he has ignored this
clarion call. Computers don’t power themselves, batteries and electricity does!
With some assistance from good teachers and dutiful students! In fact, if
nothing: these 100,000 laptops have tales of misadventure written all over them.
I am advising any solid entrepreneur with enough panache, seeking to start a recycling
(junk computers) business, to head to Ekiti state. For in 6 months, your volume
will predictably increase as Fayemi’s Computers fall prey to power surges,
experimental use and ultimate disuse!
This latest adventure
of Governor Fayemi bears every resemblance to what a “rural governor” should
never do. But rather than a place of malice and corruption, this is bad policy
coming from an academic mind! Dr. Fayemi has proven that good intentions do not
necessarily translate to good policies! Or maybe I am wrong; perhaps it can
translate to a change of course, and tapping into brains that abound across our