Fayemi with IBM CSC team
Dr Fayemi (Centre) with his staff and members of the IBM CSC team.
by Dr Kayode Fayemi
Sometimes, what we need to spring into action might just be a glimpse of the future. Perhaps, this was how members of the Ekiti State Executive Council (the State cabinet) felt on the March morning when IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) team – led by Mr. Taiwo Otiti, the company’s Country General Manager for West Africa – made a thought-provoking presentation to them on how to use computing technology to upgrade and transform the state’s scholastic potentials, public sector management processes, social welfare administration, and e-governance capabilities. Since then, the government and the good people of Ekiti State in South Western Nigeria have resolved not to be left behind in the digital doldrums.
Historically endowed with talented human resource, arable land and water resources, and despite being one of the least financially buoyant sub-national economies in Nigeria, Ekiti State is taking concrete steps towards injecting technology in all aspects of its ecosystem, thanks largely to my administration’s focus on “smart governance” principles and concepts.
As the governor of Ekiti State since 2010, I am constantly instructed and challenged by my professional instincts as a development scholar and social activist as I confront daily the sour realities and exigencies of managing the affairs of a small-sized state. By the way, Nigeria is West Africa’s numero uno economy and Africa’s most populous nation with a population of about 160 million people. Ekiti is one of Nigeria’s 36 states, and nearly two-thirds of its population of 2.5 million is involved in agriculture – producing a variety of cash and food crops, including timber, cocoa, coffee, citrus fruits, and vegetables. Most of Ekiti land is rural and peri-urban. Despite our humble origins, Ekiti folks are resourceful, love to acquire knowledge, and take pride in their academic and socio-cultural achievements.
In my current role as a political leader and chief public servant, my transformation from private citizen to chief administrator of our state has been swift. A state which is widely acknowledged as Nigeria’s fountain of knowledge must certainly be in a hurry to develop.
As we moved toward “Putting People First”, which is the theme of the state government’s fiscal blueprint, information communications technology (ICT) was central to our social and economic development plans going forward.
Personally, I have always been inspired by the success stories of India’s Bangalore and California’s Silicon Valley districts. These cities have become synonymous with ICT. In attempting to foment the foundations of smarter governance in my Ekiti homeland, I reckoned that ICT would play a pivotal role, hence my administration’s quest to make the state an ICT Centre of Excellence, modeled after these Asian and North American technology hubs.
In tune with global best practices, we instituted an ICT for Development policy framework which will have public and private sector institutions and stakeholders in the state contributing to an ICT ideas bank. The state government and the entire citizenry of Ekiti State would be responsible for maintaining this local information infrastructure, depositing and withdrawing from this knowledge incubator, reforming old norms of governance, and developing technology-enabled solutions for all aspects of the state’s civil and public service under the auspices of the “Internal-to-Government” ICT Strategy and the “External-to-the-Public” ICT Strategy of the State Government. This thematic template will enable the political and civil service structures of the state to:
- Promote smart governance by ensuring that government employees receive ICT training tailored to ensuring that they achieve efficient and effective service delivery;
- Implement the “Digital Ekiti Program” where installed ICT infrastructure helps to promote digital inclusion, digital literacy, e-services of various forms (financial and e-payment, e-insurance, e-learning, e-health, e-commerce, etc.) and help achieve universal access to ICTs in the state;
- Design, implement and operate a Citizens Information Management System (CIMS);
- Deploy ICT for economic planning and resource management; and
- Inaugurate an e-school project and program that will help prepare and lay a solid foundation for the current and next generation of our citizens in terms of e-education, e-learning and lifelong learning.
But remember, my administration is barely two years old. My job, my focus, my long range vision is to erase or at least attenuate the burdens of the citizenry. I am constantly reminded by the emerging realities inherent in development and governance that ICT is not a top priority or a top-of-the-mind agenda for hungry and economically challenged folks. ICT is just one aspect of the social transformation agenda. My personal take is that technology should not only be viewed as a necessary cost or investment; it is also an enabler of smarter and better development, smarter commerce and smarter governance.
For instance, biometric technology is one innovation that has helped Ekiti State to better manage its human and material resources, ensuring that fiscal loopholes and leakages are plugged whilst growing the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) profile of the state without increments in taxes or levies. What we have therefore tried to do within this short term period is to implement pro-development programs aimed at delivering a few dividends of democracy and improving citizens’ welfare. And clearly, the Ekiti State Government has embraced technology with all its extant implications and demands for smarter governance and smarter computing.
Hosting the team of 15 IBM specialists who did pro-bono consulting work for Ekiti State in February is just one indicator of this institutional quest to install smarter computing concepts within government. As a politician constantly debating the dilemmas of development in the postmodern age with political and business leaders across Nigeria and the rest of the world, the opportunity to allow these highly skilled professionals from 10 countries review some of our practices and processes was one I looked forward to with relish and positive expectation – and I must say that the state has not been the same since they completed their stint of duty here.
The recommendations of the CSC team have helped to further convince me that developing human talent and acquiring technology is the key to the state’s future. The professional attitude and work ethic of the team has also further invoked a sense of urgency – often lacking within government enterprise – within the various departments they worked in.
I am particularly pleased that the work of the IBM CSC team will in the long term enrich and help to foment the “smart connect” between the government and the governed in Ekiti State.
* Kayode Fayemi, Ph.D., is Governor of Ekiti State, Nigeria.