Nigeria: development and communications policy

Development is linked to communication. This is the main driver that connects the people with the government, creating a necessary relationship for the development of a society. Citizens must be informed and have the tools to acquire this information, so investment in ICT’s, communications and infrastructure by the state is necessary. This is a major problem in African countries such as Nigeria, where economic conditions do not allow the development of adequate infrastructure, marginalizing the rural exodus. Within the problem, lies the obstacle by which the press and information is controlled by the government and/or agencies belonging to it. This restriction is a step back on the road to development. Therefore, the creation of a communication policy is necessary to maximize the use of communications and ensure information and freedom of the press, through good practices.
Even so, the creation of these policies must be in consensus with academics and professionals, apart from the government, thus allowing a plurality and a distancing with the state-controlled media. Development stands as a goal to be achieved by governments and societies with its most current sense (Western), to identify socioeconomic conditions and economic structures to improve human development and economic growth. The world is in an economic crisis where public dialogue is necessary to end poverty and social inequalities, therefore “communication plays a crucial role in intensifying support, creating political space for policies and mobilizing resources” (OECD, 2014, p7).


It is important to point out the mass media and ICTs, since these have the power to facilitate economic growth through it, and the stimulation and dissemination of values in society. Hence it is significant to analyse the communication policies in developing countries, due to the political and sociocultural conditions, and the regulation of communications (state-controlled media, media corruption, lack of freedom of expression, etc.) in these nations vary from the Western view, causing communication
policies to be different (Servaes, 2009). The definition of “development” is a complex task that leaves us more questions than answers. The term began to be used when the Second World War came to an end and, countries of Africa and South Asia began to win their independence successively on the European colonialism.

However, these victories towards the ending of oppression, self-control, and freedom meant an economic setback for these nations, since they depended on their relationship with the colonial states, making an impossible economic growth for these countries. Nevertheless, when we speak about “development” we speak of “improvement” of a society: economically, socially, politically and culturally. But it is necessary to understand the Western value of judgment that hides the terminology related to “development”. The West has chosen how to continue its hegemony in the postcolonial era, placing the countries of the Global South to a position of eternal dependency, unable to improve their economies if it is not with the help of international deals. Europe and the United States determined those who are less than others through the economic level, but who decides which is a developing/undeveloped country? All countries are in constant development, not only economically but socially and politically, where the struggles for social justice still arise in “advanced” countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, etc. Because development is nothing but the mantra for social change.

Development is an integral and multidimensional process that includes the mass media and ICT’s as instruments to achieve economic growth and sustainable development (Servaes, 2009), as Daniel Lerner in Servaes cites: “mass media and mass communication stimulate and diffuse values an institutions that are favorable to achievement, mobility, innovation and” (2009, p51). The media possess powerful and influential messages in society. These create public opinion on issues, mobilize the population, and involve the population with the Government’s policies, making them participate in the political exercise. The participation and involvement of citizens in the politics of the country, allow development, not only economic, to take place. In addition, the importance of telecommunication systems should be pointed out, since they are the tangible tools for diffusing Government messages. For this reason, the mass media and ICT’s are notorious socializing elements, as stated in the McBride Report (1980). This social process carried out by communication, originates a new function for communication: advocacy. The media works as advocates of development, through the support of government projects, through the dissemination of information, and in turn, creates decision-makers in society.


Due to the importance of communication in the context of development, it is vital to emphasize the regulation of communication in order to provide free, accurate, and adaptable information, far from being manipulated. This regulation is exercised by governments, to maintain guidelines on the role of media and telecommunications. According to Alao (2013, p50) “communication policy focuses on the legal, ethical, political, economic, infrastructure and social system within which public communication and the media system operate and function in”.

This policy implies aspects to be taken into account, since the communication system is varied in different societies and cultures, therefore Servaes points out different political, economic and sociocultural, even historical aspects, which must be taken into account at the time of develop a communication policy that will define long-term development through communication: “Structural and conjunctural factors (e.g. history, migration, conflicts), Policy and legislation, Service provision, Education systems, Institutional and organisational factors (e.g. bureaucracy, corruption), Cultural factors (e.g. religion, norms and values), Socio-demographic factors (e.g. ethnicity, class), Socio-political factors, Socio-economic factors, and the Physical environment. Moreover, Human capital: the knowledge, skills, and abilities of individuals and groups, Social capital: relationships, networks, collective norms, social organization, Natural capital: natural resources, environmental quality, biodiversity, Physical capital: infrastructure, housing, energy, facilities, producer goods, Communications, and Financial capital: financial resources, available stocks, regular inflows of money” (2009, p55-56).

Based on the notion of development in the context of communication, it is not exclusive for developing countries but developed ones. But we must study closely the use of communication and telecommunications in countries with lower economic growth and social development, such as countries in Africa, Asia, and South America. The entry of Globalization meant an expansion in communications that has forced nations to place them as an important and necessary element for the development of societies, thus the creation of the regulated policies. Even so, these policies with the purpose of helping communication to achieve sustainable development, have met with different barriers that do not allow communication to perform its function: to help development.
Africa is a clear example full of obstacles that prevent the development of the continent. Highlighting the importance of the economic debt caused by colonization and de-colonization. Africa is a continent full of “ifs”. How could Africa have evolved without colonization? How can the continent grow without economic oppression and dependence on the East? Indeed, Africa has joined the inevitable Global Village, the hyperconnected world.


The African continent has 12% of the world population, but only 2% of ITC’s is present in Africa (Yusuf, O. M., 2005). The countries in Africa are categorized as developing countries, where the lack of infrastructures, poverty, and deficient administration, produce an impediment on the development of telecommunications and media. In short, a hindrance in the development process. Moreover, Africa has increased its level of Internet users in six years since 2010, from 53.62 million to 190.1 million in
2016, as recorded by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The use of mobile has also grown by 61 million users on the continent (Speirs, 2010). Nigeria is the country with the largest population in Africa, which also has 70% of the population living below the poverty line. Even so, Nigeria is in development in order to increase its economic growth and the quality of life of its inhabitants. Therefore, it is important to use communications in the development path of the country and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (Alao, 2013). Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest economic growth in the continent, which, like the rest of the world, has undergone changes since the explosion of new technologies and the centralization of communication as a motor for development (Ogunsola and Aboyade 2005). The colonization of Africa has been a social-economic disadvantage, which is reflected in the communication sector, which is more focused on the development of ICT’s.


In the case of Nigeria, the telecommunications sector influences the country’s GDP, contributing to its growth. Between 2014 and 2015 the percentage rose from 7.6% to 8.88% (Tebepah, 2013) (National Bureau of Statistics, 2015). The growth of the benefaction to the Grass Domestic Product (GDP) has been increasing, leaving a 10% contribution in 2017, according to the vice president of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). This means a clear economic growth through telecommunications, in a country where the main economic drivers are agriculture, oil and natural gas. It also helps employment, creating more than one million direct and indirect jobs, assures NCC (Tebepah, 2015).

Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest economic growth in the continent, which, like the rest of the world, has undergone changes since the explosion of new technologies and the centralization of communication as a motor for development (Ogunsola and Aboyade 2005). The colonization of Africa has been a social-economic disadvantage, which is reflected in the communication sector, which is more focused on the development of ICT’s.
In the case of Nigeria, the telecommunications sector influences the country’s GDP, contributing to its growth. Between 2014 and 2015 the percentage rose from 7.6% to 8.88% (Tebepah, 2013) (National Bureau of Statistics, 2015). The growth of the benefaction to the Grass Domestic Product (GDP) has been increasing, leaving a 10% contribution in 2017, according to the vice president of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). This means a clear economic growth through telecommunications, in a country where the main economic drivers are agriculture, oil and natural gas. It also helps employment, creating more than one million direct and indirect jobs, assures NCC (Tebepah, 2015).

In addition, “Nigeria is the leader of Mobile Telecommunications Market in Africa in terms of subscribers’ Base” (Telepah, 2015, p1). The development of this sector has influenced other important ones such as banking, education, and health, facilitating and expediting work through ICT’s (Chidozie, Odunayo, and Olutosin, 2015).
In spite of the economic and social advances in the Nigerian population, it is worth highlighting the inconveniences that question the functioning of communication in the country. The growth and influence of communication and telecommunications in Nigeria is visible, but at the same time, it has problems that question the development of the country. Africa is a developing continent, which is why its infrastructure system is poor. Nigeria mainly lacks a developed electricity grid system. Even the country has the lowest level of energy consumption in the world (Speirs, 2010) (Telepah, 2015). For the development of communications, Nigeria uses diesel fuel supplement. The utilization of this element includes environmental pollution, which is counterproductive for a country with goals for development. Climate Change is a topic of debate that has been gaining importance over the years, being one of the objectives to combat. This threat to the economic growth of countries, reducing agricultural production, environmental disasters (floods), which affect the economy and social welfare. The expansion of ICT’s has also created a rift between rural and urban communities, focusing on the development of infrastructures in urban areas of the country (Okoro, 2013). This social disillusionment does not contribute to sustainable development since it creates discrimination against rural exodus. Understanding that communication systems have to reach remote areas so that society can exercise the same participatory right in the country’s politics.

As for the media, it is known the immense power they have in society, being able to change politicians and thoughts. That is why freedom of information is important, though it, citizens are empowered to participate in the national development agenda as pointed out by Odunale and Kolede (2011, p65) “for development projects the masses need information”. In the case of developing countries such as Nigeria, the historical, political, social and cultural factors are important for understanding the relations between the media and development.

Freedom of the press is necessary for the exercise of democracy and the search for a fair society. Therefore, society must be informed of the development processes to participate in them. The limitation of the press is an exercise against economic development. The design of information and censorship by governments, lobbies, and political parties occurs in developed countries. These practices help to slow down development. In Nigeria, much of the media is controlled by the government, which controls the news, creating a smokescreen for society. This makes a manageable development due to the government’s own interests and plans (Odunale and Kolede, 2012) (Esiri and Okunade 2014). As Thompson (1988 cited in Okoro 2013) there are two main groups of media: “Press owned by political parties and press established and sponsored by federal and state governments” (p548).

The creation of a communication policy is necessary to maximize the use of communications and ensure information and freedom of the press, through good practices. Even so, the creation of these policies must be in consensus with academics and professionals, apart from the government, thus allowing a plurality and a distancing with the state-controlled media. Communication is a necessary element for development, this implies in itself, development. The media and ICT’s provide society with an information channel with the Government, therefore individuals will be informed about the country’s development process and the pertinent problems that must be solved. In addition, communication gives the people a voice by providing a basic right to denounce problems that impede social welfare and confront human rights.

On the other hand, it is necessary to create a communication policy to protect society and facilitate freedom of expression and the path towards democracy. More precise as Jide Johnson and Professor Dayo Alao stated: “communication policy focuses on the legal, ethical, political, economic, infrastructural and social system within which public communication and the media system operate and function in” (2013, p50). Using the example of Nigeria (which can be transposed to other developing and/or developed countries). It is evident that the population of Nigeria has joined the communication system that Globalization has brought with it, increasing the users of the Network and devices such as mobiles and computers, as well as, adapting libraries (mainly university) to the new era. Unfortunately, there are different problems in Nigeria’s policies, which cause a slow development, due to the poor infrastructures for the development of telecommunications, as well as the control exercised by the Nigerian Federation Government over the media, producing a restriction exerted by the state over messages launched in the media. This creates a development driven by the interests of the Government (Adekoya and Ajilore, 2012).

The case of Nigeria, applying it to a global context, the development through the communication needs an investment in the infrastructures and in the training of professionals to develop a telecommunications system that can be carried to different areas (rural) and used by the society. On the one hand, communication policy must be decentralized from the Government, insofar as the power it exercises over information, thus eliminating an authoritarian system of communication with pre-selected information. On the other hand, the regulation of communication cannot fall in private
media, more interested in creating consumers, than in informing individuals. The politics of communication must be done with the help of professors, academics and professionals, in addition to the Government, to provide wider freedom.


In summary, in the context of communication, development can be defined as the advances in technological materials of telecommunications, structural improvements and training and education of professionals in the field of ICT’s and media, that along with a communication policy agreed with professionals, academics and the Government, helps society to be involved in the development of the country, as well as providing tools to change political, economic and socio-cultural aspects of the nation to achieve economic growth and the well-being of the society.


References


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