The Inclusive Friends Associations (IFA) has called on the Minister of Communications Dr. Bosun Tijani, to give attention to the inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (PWD’s) in the plans for a prosperous digital economy in Nigeria.
Its Executive Director Grace Jerry in a statement issued on Monday in Abuja, expressed some concerns on the word “inclusive” stating that often, it usually means youth inclusion or women inclusion, but most often, disability inclusion is neglected or glossed over.
Jerry was reacting to the post made on X (Twitter) by the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani regarding the ongoing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA )2023.
The post reads, “As I head to the New York this week for UNGA, … I look forward to engagements that will help us secure partnerships ad support for our plans to deliver a more inclusive and prosperous economy for Nigeria, in line with Mr. president’s @officalABAT agenda”.
The statement recalled that Covid-19 accelerated the rapid pace of digital transformation, whereby the most vulnerable people at the margins of society with no digital skills and access to the internet are at risk of being left behind.
According to the statement, Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) who have less access to basic technology/internet (ILO, 2022), as 864 million people in Africa, a large percentage of who are PWDs, are unconnected to the internet (Statista, 2023), adding that Yet, “Leaving no one behind also means leaving no one offline” (UNDESA, 2021).
It noted further that as of 2022 in Nigeria, an estimated 155 million people had access to the internet (NBS, 2023). And about 22 – 48 million people, that is 11% – 24% of the population (a large percentage of who are PWDs) is without any access to the internet. In fact, 24% of the over 30 million PWDs in Nigeria are not aware of the internet (Vanguard, 2023).
“The Inclusive Friends Associations (IFA) notes that the Hon Minister “plans to deliver a more inclusive and prosperous economy for Nigeria”. However, what exactly does the Minister mean by the word “inclusive”. IFA has some concerns whenever the word “inclusive” is used. Often, it usually means youth inclusion or women inclusion. Most often, disability inclusion is neglected or glossed over.
“Needless to say “digital life” is fast becoming the hallmark of the 21st Century. With more than 100 billion devices/applications connected to the internet, creating new rights – digital rights. The Internet of Things means that human interactions, communications, commutes, commercial, and social activities are increasingly being digitalised,” the statement said.
“IFA is glad that the Hon. Minister is thinking about an inclusive digital economy. However, IFA would like to remind the Minister that as he works towards an inclusive digital economy, persons with disabilities should not be left behind. Persons with disabilities should be included in the new digital economy,” it added.
The Executive Director expressed unalloyed readiness by IFA to collaborate with the Minister in ensuring that PWD’s are equipped with the relevant digital skills needed to drive a digital economy, stressing that the quest to digitalise the economy of Nigeria can only be sustainable if it considers the needs of all persons, particularly marginalised, communities, including, young people, women, and persons with disabilities.