AT THE INTERNATIONAL DIALOGUE ON NIGERIA’S PREPAREDNESS FOR TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE IN THE CONTEXT OF POVERTY REDUCTION OF WOMEN & GIRLS BEING PART OF UNCSW67 PARALLEL SIDE EVENT ON 15TH MARCH, AT SALVATION ARMY AUDITORIUM, 221 EAST 52nd STREET, MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, USA.
• The words of António Guterres, the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations, are true: “New technologies hold the promise of the future, from climate action and better health to more democratic and inclusive societies. Let us use them wisely, for the benefit of all”
• On Thursday November 10, 2022, in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, the Federal Government had formally announced the poverty status of its sub-national units, including Ondo- my state.
• Declaration was the result of a survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), National Social Safety-Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).
• The measure used to determine the figure was based on Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) with five components of health, living standard, education, security and unemployment.
• According to the survey, 63 percent of persons within Nigeria, 133 million, are impoverished. It declared Ondo State as having the lowest poverty rate in the country with 27 percent as opposed to Sokoto State with the highest poverty level of 91 percent among the 36 states.
• Feat was largely attributable to the REEDEMED agenda, a developmental policy thrust of Gov Akeredolu’s second term in office which has Digital Revolution and Entrepreneurship as one of its 8 point-agenda.
## Ondo State Providing enabling environment through Akure TechHub and Entrepreneurship Village Lagos has proven to be the technology hub in Nigeria, with a large human resource base and great ecosystem to support tech startups.
Ondo Sate is however making good effort to position itself as another technology hub in Nigeria. The State has supported the development of tech-hubs like the Akure Tech-Hub where young minds meet to discuss tech opportunities and proffer tech solutions to societal challenges.
The State is also actively supporting the establishment of an entrepreneur village (the first eVillage in the world). The eVillage is a social impact and legacy project that addresses the need that the African economy currently faces in the education, entrepreneurship and infrastructural sector.
The Entrepreneurial eco-system provided by the eVillage ensures that budding entrepreneurs are identified, trained, supported and produced to the economy to create jobs and to solve the many challenges currently experienced and yet to be experienced in the continent.
## 3000 Youths Engaged For Digital Skill Training
Ondo State has one of its agenda digital revolution and entrepreneurship. The State has in the past few years implemented programmes targeted at improving the utilization of technology for commerce and agriculture in the State. Through the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), Ondo State trained 3000 youth in digital economy.
The Governor believes that building the digital skills of the young graduates will go a long way to equip them with relevant skills for IT jobs.“Undoubtedly, ICT has turned the world into a global village as it has assisted in automating government processes; using technology to solve common problems in the society; entrepreneurship development; proffering digital solution to problems of unemployment, insecurity and economic challenges; improving production.
## The Digital Woman -The Ondo State Government through the Ondo State Entrepreanurship Agency (ONDEA) is also working to implement a women focused tech project; The Digital Woman. The project which aims to empower local indigenous women who constantly brave the odds to ensure their families are fed and protected is a core area of impact for ONDEA and will be a channel to develop the economy and livelihood of their rural communities.
The digital women program targets women in rural communities, by creating technology centres where they can be educated on more effective use of technology to automate some of their tedious tasks freeing up more time for them. Women in rural communities will be taught how to leverage mobile technology to improve sales by connecting to larger markets beyond their communities.
## The BEMORE Girls as a Sustainable Plan to Bridge The Gender Gap
• This initiative came on board due to my commitment and of course, my office, to digital literacy/skills for entrepreneurship since the beginning of the government 6 years ago as evident in our interventions for women in the state, particularly girls (9-18 years) in the secondary schools.
The BEMORE Empowered Girls Foundation has been working since 2017 to build more female tech enthusiasts and leaders. Over 3000 girls between the ages of 9 -18 years including the hearing impaired have been trained in ICT, solar technology and other life enhancing skills at the two-week BEMORE Summer bootcamp held in Akure annually with Owerri hosting twice (2018 & 2021).
While most of the girls are from Ondo and Imo states with majority from rural economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, it will be a thing of joy for BEMORE impact to be felt nationwide given that the challenges facing the girl-child are even universal.
We are hopeful that more states will express interest in sending their girls in due course. It is important to note that upon graduation, each girl trained received a brand new laptop and solar home system kit for continuous learning beyond the camp. We are encouraged that the seed planted 6 years ago is bearing amazing fruits. Many of these girls have chosen STEM courses as they gain admission into tertiary institutions. Some have taken a giant leap into the business world by becoming young business owners in solar technology, award-winning young entrepreneurs, advocates for change by training others in ICT (a.k.a BEMORE Sisters’ Network “a Breed without Greed”) who are ready to take on challenges in their domains.
One of the challenges BEMORE girls identified was unstructured birth registration nationwide. TEAM BELIEVE ( a group of BEMORE girls from Batches 2017 & 2018) built Nigerian first birth registration application – BC-Reg in 2019. We are anxiously awaiting who will support the development this project to the point of actual usage by Nigeria Population Commission. BEMORE girls are increasingly demonstrating that digital skills are gender neutral. They have also put a lie that to the supposition that technological competencies are the exclusive preserve of the male gender. We are building a gender balanced future in the tech space.
## Other Life Impacting Interventions.
Given that poverty has a female face, other life impacting interventions initiated and implemented by my office to reduce poverty include:
FOWOSO: • Platform established as an avenue to groom women to be self aware in all facets of life by being digitally literate, economically productive in order to contribute to the socio-economic well being of their families, communities and Ondo State at large. Most of them who live across the eighteen (18) largely rustic council areas are now accomplished entrepreneurs and employers.
SOLAYO BIRTH KITS: Distributed to indigent pregnant women in all the 18 local government areas to promote safe delivery. Its distribution is the highlight of International Women’s Day since 2019.CREATION OF ONDO WIDOWS CARE DATA BASE (www.ondowidows.com ): To facilitate the reach of these vulnerables for government and citizens’ support.
• As a state, we realised the impact of technology on poverty reduction early enough and set out to achieve same by applying it on the various facets of governance.
• Government deliberately embarked on mass digital literacy among the various levels of citizens since technology can hardly bring any change where digital illiteracy is high.
• Government exposed citizens to the right information, particularly women and girls.
• Application of technology to governmental businesses helped significantly to reduce the hitherto exorbitant cost of work.
• Popularity of solar energy (through Bemore) helped industries, particularly medium scale businesses in the state to lower cost of production and helps to increase the profit margin, which is key to eradicating poverty.
• Government investing hugely in mechanized farming and farmers embracing same farming method as opposed to manual labor. This has been yielding incremental boosts in food production.
• The state developed E-commerce platforms, which small scale farmers can now access using the internet and have expanded the threshold for small ventures to penetrate larger markets.
• Rural residents who were hitherto marginalized due to their geographic location can now access information through technological means and can display their products online and find buyers, thereby increasing sales and profit for business owners and revenue for the state.
• Having encouraged governmental and non -governmental sectors in the direction of technological innovations and, on its own invested the necessary capital into innovative solutions, this has proven to be a winning formula in the ongoing fight against poverty as evidenced in the feat recorded by the survey.