We all hear it – if elected governor, I will digitize all state services! And I will bring the productivity excellence of Silicon Valley by creating digital solutions for the citizens. Simply, if we do those things, citizens will experience higher efficiency in governance.
I smile – nothing like that yet. Nigeria has adult literacy rate of 59% (or 41% adult illiteracy rate). If you remove Abia state (my home state with the best in Nigeria at 97%) and the top ten adult literacy states, the rest will crash to adult literacy rate of below 50%. Yobe has literacy rate of 7.23%, according to National Bureau of Statistics.
The data shows that Yobe State has only 7.23 per cent literacy level, the lowest in the country.
The dismal record of Yobe is followed by Zamfara (19.16 per cent); Katsina (10.36 per cent); Sokoto (15.01); Bauchi (19.26); Kebbi (20.51); and Niger (22.88) respectively. Only Taraba is an exception with 72 per cent literacy rate.
In contrast, Imo State has the highest literacy level (96.43 per cent), followed by Lagos (96.30 per cent); Ekiti (95.79 per cent); Rivers (95.76 per cent); Abia (94.24 per cent); Anambra (92.11 per cent); Osun (90.57); Edo (90.53 per cent); Enugu (89.46 per cent); and Cross River (89 per cent).
But that did not stop one of the gubernatorial candidates promising to digitally transform services. Nothing is wrong doing that but that may not be the right policy for a state where more than 92% of adults are not literate. Doing all necessary to increase school enrollment would certainly deliver better results over making apps for people to fill forms instead of completing papers. Simply, that Lagos state wants to offer apps to its citizens does not mean that Zamfara state should do that.
There are fundamental things upon which technology runs upon, and those things include basic level of literacy. Nigeria across most parts should focus more on deepening those capabilities over copying largely pointless flashy policies that deliver only marginal values. Until we can educate the kids, we cannot push any technology policy that is sustainable. Basic education should come before esoteric efforts to digitize government services as you need literate citizens to utilize most of those digital services at least at state level. And unless the digitalization will improve literacy, do not be overly committed to it.