The most fearful and deadly pandemic of the future is digital illiteracy!
Teach the children how to fish, rather than beclouding their brains and minds with analogue stories of how to eat fish! Therefore, as we look forward to celebrating World Children’s Day; Nigeria and Africa are not only challenged but compelled to reimagine her future through the spectacles of our children. As we prepare, it becomes necessary to ask: What do we promise our children on how to accomplish digital literacy skills and secure their future for global competitiveness and survivability?
The answer remains in the oblivion unless we arm them with clear-sighted digital direction! Perhaps it is now time and instructive to think through and establish ‘Africa Children’s Digital Day’.
Available records inform us that Children’s Day began on the second Sunday of June in 1857 by Reverend Dr. Charles Leonard, pastor of the Universalist Church of the Redeemer in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Formerly named Flower Sunday, Children’s Day was first officially declared a national holiday by the Republic of Turkey in 1920; with the set date of 23 and celebrated nationally with the government and the newspapers of the time declaring it a day for the children.
Later, it became necessary and requires official confirmation to clarify and justify this celebration; resulting to the official declaration made nationally in 1929 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder and President of the Republic of Turkey.
There have been many variations and calls on the critical concerns to promote the rights and welfare of children worldwide. For example, International Children’s Day was first proclaimed in Geneva during the World Conference on Child Welfare in 1925. On 4 November 1949, 1st June was established as the International Day for Protection of Children by the Women’s International Democratic Federation in Moscow. And in 1954, Children’s Day was proclaimed by the United Kingdom to encourage all countries to institute a day.
First, the idea was meant to promote mutual exchange and understanding among children. Secondly, it was to initiate action to benefit and promote the welfare of the world’s children. On 20 November 1959, the United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
World Children’s Day is celebrated on 20 November to commemorate the Declaration of the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly on 20 November 1959. All said, the central concern is moored on one central pillar: the vulnerability of the child ranging from the fundamental rights of the child to life, health, education, respect, peace, protection from violence, social origin, abuse, exploitation, racial discrimination, child labour, disabilities and conflicts arising from war, religion, abduction,child prostitution, and child pornography, trauma and many more.
Interrogating the above challenges drives us to query the Digital-place-of-Things (DPoT) for Nigerian Children in its physical and soft-content dimensions; and, by extension the enhancement of their emotional intelligence and digital skills for future survivability. Arriving at that destination requires a platform and mechanism for the promotion of Nigerian Child Digital Day (NCDD).
It should be implemented as a special public holiday set aside to mentor the child on how to survive the challenges of the digital future and earn its related promise, opportunities, and gifts. First amongst other essentials is love for and to all children. Unless we digitally put the child first, all our lofty aspirations and efforts to attain digital economy; smart cities, national digital governance, knowledge transformation and security will remain grossly elusive.
Indeed, the dream of the child harbours the largest digital economy and creation of wealth for our sustainable development. There can be no responsive and enviable economy without smart children. Never!
Children remain the bedrock of life. The following statistics from UNICEF Data support the above. ‘Africa’s child population will reach 1 billion by 2055, making it the largest child population among all continents. From 2017 onwards, sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest number of births…This trend will persist for the rest of the century. Based on continuation of current coverage, more than 300 million of Africa’s 730 million projected births through 2030 will not be attended by skilled health personal. In Africa, mortality rates among children under age 5 decreased by 58 per cent between 1990 and 2017. Still, over half of the world’s 5.4 million under-five deaths in 2017 occurred in Africa.
While mortality rates have declined among all age groups in Africa; child deaths tend to be concentrated at the youngest age groups with 85 per cent of all deaths to children under age 15 occurring among children younger than 5years of age. On current trends, 31 million under-five deaths will occur in Africa between 2018 and 2030. If all countries at risk of missing the SDG target on under-five mortality achieved the target; 8 million lives could be saved on the continent.
Now, let us turn the data around by invigorating strategies for applying digital literacy; vigorously augmenting the digital skills of our children and provision of more technology knowledge research institutions and quality education for kids, teachers; as well as health-workers. That translates to rescuing about 50% of children under five years of age from dying, which exponentially increases the healthy child population?
When we do the Math of equipping the child with laptops and smartphones and reengineering consumerism economic model; that adds up to a monumental digital economy with ability to transform the lives of over one billion African children; transforming them into digital armies within the shortest possible time.
Meanwhile, records further reveal that changing demographic and a growing population in Africa will require an additional 4.2 million health workers above current growth to meet WHO minimum standards and an increase of 1.3 million primary school teachers to meet the best sub-regional performers’ pupil-teacher ratio by 2030. It is significant to note that while the developed world needs many decades to rebuild core and experienced professional pathetically lost to COVID-19 pandemic; Africa has a time-gain to accelerate the digital skill requirements of the continent; thereby putting it at an advantage to accelerate the development of her skilled workforce through digital literacy strategies.
Therefore, she should leverage on invigorating the digital development of the African child to accelerate her global competitiveness. Promoting compulsory education and retooling child development and STEM are now fundamentally contingent.
Addressing the rules of the new economy requires that Africa must be ready to build one billion digital literate youth army by 2050.
Nigeria may require well over 100 million laptops, 150 million smartphones, multifaceted Uninterrupted Power Supply; as well as welfare support palliatives to alleviate the monumental social trauma now ravaging Africa’s anticipated post COVID-19 life situation. But the inevitable change stimulant has come. Lessons learned from COVID-19 teaches us that we must build digital literacy skill capacities to spur innovation; making Information Technology the epicenter of our post COVID-19 recovery agenda.
With 65% youth population, there is no excuse to suggest that the Nigeria child cannot digitally swim out of the COVID-19 invested ocean; (even without a life jacket) if only we choose to think without the box. Digital literacy and structured multi-dimensional skills should be specially encouraged. Software developers should be encouraged/empowered to focus on digital-everything solutions development mentoring as critical healing and learning strategies for our children.
Africa holds the key to the future of world economy and complete digital transformation; only if we act now with accelerated dispatch. The declaration of Nigerian Child Digital Day (NCDD) has become a national emergency!