Information and communication technologies for educational development: the case of cybercafes at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.

Author:Nwezeh, Chinwe M.T.


Information is an important tool used in the realization of any objective set by individuals. It is a valuable resource required in the society; thus acquiring and using information are critical and important activities. Information seeking is a fundamental human process closely related to learning and problem solving (Marchionini, 1995). Many factors initiate the search for information. In recent years, new digital technologies have fostered rapid expansion as well as change in profile.

It is generally acknowledged that the information and knowledge age is here and has in fact been with mankind since the last decades of the second millennium. It is a known fact that a nation cannot develop in isolation of her human resources. Universities are important agents in the development of human resources of a nation.

The computerization of university libraries in Nigeria is an ongoing process. Nigerian universities are still at the crawling stage of automation in their library services, compared with their counterparts all over the world. In Nigeria, the Hezekiah Oluwasanmi Library is leading the world of library automation. The first phase of its computerization was completed in 1997. Since then, about 12,000 bibliographic data have been entered into its data-base. The second phase of its computerization project is nearing completion. When completed, the library will be offering its users an on-line public access (OPAC) to its local database, a library website, a two point Internet access in the Reference Section of the Library and on-line access to "Infotrac online", a remote online database.

Increasing Access to Computer and the Internet

Access to goods, services and information, to say nothing of employment and way of communicating is increasingly dependent on ones ability to use information technology and the Internet. But how are people expected to learn about and access such technology? The combination of education and technology are considered the main Key to human progress. Education feeds technology, which in turn forms the basis for modern learning. For educational systems to be efficient we need multimedia and information technology. The effective use of technology requires appropriate skills, know-how and information services in addition to access itself. The creation of "information poor": that is the section of population excluded from the information society may occur not simply as a consequence of lack of money but may be as a result of absence of training and other support networks to learn about the potential of the technology and to provide a context in which people feel comfortable using it. It can also come about from an absence of services tailored to the needs of particular groups or to the ways in which they want to access information.

Types of Public Access Facilities

In 1998, the University started a Computer Centre in the Faculty of Technology where the staff and students used the Internet facilities. The Obafemi Awolowo University has also several cybercafes in the environment. Cybercafes are conventional information technology centers. They offer computer and Internet services to customers for sending and receiving information.

Two of the cybercafes at Obafemi Awolowo University (O.A.U) were established in 2001. Four of them were established in 2002. The last two were established in 2003 and 2004. The cybercafes in the campus were functioning on radio wireless connections shared with the University Information Technology Unit (INTECU) as their Internet Service Provider (ISP) and they provide services 24 hours a day. Out of the eight cybercafes discussed in this paper, only Infinite Grace has a dedicated network that is different from the university network. First Net and Cafe El Dorado later switched over to use of dedicated Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT). About 50 percent of the cybercafes are located in student residential areas. The rest are located in College and office areas.

Definition of Cybercafes

Cybercafes refer to establishments where the main business is the provision of on line Internet services and or other computer services. In fact, cybercafes is another off shoot of information technology (IT), turning out to be a fast growing business. Cybercafes counter the high cost of PC and Net connection.

Some Services on the Internet

The Internet is the greatest exponent of information revolution. It is now a main source of, and the main channel for vital information. It offers the largest reservoir of vital information in the world. All types of information are on the Internet, from simple common domestic to highly technical; from simple instructions to full professional teachers (Onyekwelu, 1999). The ability to use information technology is becoming increasingly important in every facet of life. The information technology used creatively can make a difference in the way teachers teach and the way students learn. Mercy (2003) noted that access to computers, the Internet and the ability to effectively use this technology are becoming increasingly important to full participation in the global world. The...

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