By 2050, residents of Lagos may wake-up to find that there are more e-waste and plastics in the Lagoon than fishes! Why? The plastics have eaten the fishes – no, made them disappear! That is alarming; but hear this: by 2050, Lagos is projected to have 38million inhabitants’.
An island where less than 0.5% can swim? And where Electronic gadgets have created neighbourhood hill dumps – choking our future. As you drive around Lagos, you witness that the rooftops are gradually being taken over; by dirt of lead and toxic particles from invisible plastic visitors from various dump sites.
Let us start by stating the obvious known facts of our life and environment. Therefore, it will interest us all to note that: Plastic e-waste is one of many types of wastes that take too long to decompose.
Normally, plastic items can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills. Even plastic bags we use in our everyday life take between 10 to 1,000 years to decompose. Indeed, decomposition of plastic bottles can take 450 years or more.
Aluminium products also take as long as between 80-450 years to decompose. It is therefore so complex to understand why policy makers grant approvals to package; and sell alcohol in aluminium sachets – rolling out many millions for the daily consumption of the Youth! Apart from the deadly incremental of the addiction of the Youth to alcohol; it constitutes a significant part of the dangers of Youth restfulness; radicalization and acceleration of multidimensional addiction.
Today, we live is a country where 80 million Nigerians live on less than $2 a day; yet more than 90 million use internet enabled gadgets.
This scenario is indeed a mathematical mystery! But on a flipside, it shows how resilient and bandwidth-hungry the Nigerian mind is to conquer the digital waves.
Also, it portrays the shape of things to come with respect to the monumental challenges; that awaits us in the very near future. Thirty years from now (year 2050), the nation will have to deal with a population of 400million people.
How many tons of e-waste dump hills await our lovely children going forward from 2020? How do we re-visit our current destructive path of suffocating the future of Nigeria and Africa?
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The objective of this writeup is to re-examine the issue of e-waste/technology “product” dumping; and analyse its implications within the context of climate-change; under-development and economic distortions generated in our National Development cycle. With deeper emphasis, it also focuses on the dangers, monumental impacts of dumping Information Technology equipment and products with embedded toxic substances in our digital market ecosystem and operational environment.
I will to set-forth with an overview of the subject; and proceed with special emphasis on conceptual and definitional issues of technology in general. Then look at dynamics of change in the global technology Ecosystem and living environment.
It will incorporate the critical challenges posed by information technology related millennium bug global problem. Going forward, the write-up attempts to draw several conclusions. Further, it discusses the role of government, the private sector; professional bodies and Africa Stakeholders in facilitating and promoting strategic policies capable of standardizing information technology procurement, acquisition and usage specification for the benefit of our national development.
The highlight of the topic ”Technology Dumping: e-Waste Chocking the Future” was consciously chosen; to provoke a deeper discussion beyond the subject matter; and embrace issues of global climate change and survivability issues. Indeed, there are great differences between ‘Technology’ and ‘The Product of Technology’.
Suffice to state that, there is no such thing as ”Technology Dumping!” – but ‘Product Dumping’. Most of these products of technology are obsolete. Therefore, what we shall be discussing will be limited to the dumping of obsolete technology products into our nation.
United Nations special report had emphasized that every year 20 million to 50 million tons of e–waste are generated worldwide.
A 2014 study demonstrates that the United States alone generated 11 million metric tonnes of e-waste; 80 percent of which was exported to poorer countries where they are either sold for re-use; mined for raw materials or abandoned in landfills.
African countries – and Nigeria bear the greater brunt.
An estimated 500 containers, each carrying about 500,000 used computers and other electronic scraps, enters the country’s ports every month from Asia, United States and Europe. With the double-edged sword of exponential population growth and rise in demand for technology devices – both compounded by short life span of the devices – the mountain heap of technology product dumps awaiting to confront us in the future are to state the least ‘out of this world’ unless we act fast.
The above clarification becomes important in view of the need to understand the concept of technological development process and technology capacity building (TCB). In other words; while ”Technology” is the knowledge base and the creative innovation by the IP Owner/manufacturer; ”Tech-Product” on the other hand addresses the ”consumer” market verticals. The market acceptability is grossly orchestrated by hype advertisements and to a large extent driven by ignorance rather than absolute need for constructive and sustainable development.
The word ”Dump” or ”Dumping” is an expression, which means many things to many people. In the Military sense for example; the word “Dump” means a place where weapons or supplies are stored. In economic sense, however, the market economy defines and interprets ”Dumping” as: To market goods in bulk and at low price or offer for sale large quantities of goods and services on unprotected foreign markets and obtain a disposal lead time and market share.
The purpose of technology product dumping has many faces as follows;
Get rid of inferior quality technology products, which do not meet manufacturer’s country specifications. Dispose technology products with very limited life span for the purpose of minimizing losses. Push re-cycled technology products into ignorant and unprotected markets. Disposal of obsolete technology products below all available market price. Dump outright fake technology products for mainly for profit. Deliberately dump malfunctioning Technology products as a means of economic sabotage and distortion of unprotected market economy.
Indeed, Technology Dumping is an economic crime fuelled by bootlegging and corruption.
Information technology products and support services have become a profitable channel for non-professionals – who directly or indirectly collaborate with foreigners to dump obsolete and non-compliant systems – especially personal computers and mobile phones into the Nigerian market.
However, due to the rapidity of change in the I.T profession and industry, the greatest challenge is and remains that of ” product obsolesence.” I.T product obsolescence is induced by the high rate of technology innovation – which is essentially fuelled by time-to-market and intensive research and development in the industry.
This has led to shorter product life span.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), exposure to toxic e-waste substances affects the ground water level and has been linked to thyroid dysfunction and spontaneous abortions in pregnant women.
Long-term results include DNA damage.
Children are most vulnerable according to the WHO, with exposure causing irreversible damage to their central nervous, immune, reproductive and digestive systems.
Information technology is a capital-intensive investment and industry. This makes I.T products delivery very mobile. Lateness to the market can mean a doomsday for the manufacturer and investors alike.
Currently, the average innovation-to-production cycle of I.T products is between 180 days and 18months. In order not to lose money and built-up market share, distributors and dealers of such products result to dumping, at the detriment of the individual consumer, society and/or nation.
As we can now recollect, the above scenario no doubt contributed in multiplying the problem of the Century Date Change (CDC) otherwise known as the Millennium Bug or Y2K for nations such as ours.
The proliferation of obsolete and non-compliant systems – especially personal computers – occurs through the following channels;
HARDWARE: Importation of motherboards (286, 386, 486 and outdated Pentium) and microprocessors via air courier services – who deliver directly to the consignee.
Importation of scraped PCs and Notebooks/Laptops by bulk sea shipments to Nigeria or as transit shipment through the neighbouring ECOWAS countries.
Importation of obsolete software products (Operating Systems , Applications and Database – through Air couriers and/or by accompanied baggage on International Flights which arrive daily at our airports.
Off-the-shelf purchases of non-compliant PCs and Notebooks/Laptops and the current Cloud channels for Iaas, Sasas , etc.
The problem is compounded by the fact that the inspectorate arm of the law responsible for detecting such products (Customs & Excise) are not adequately trained in I.T rudiments. Also, they do not have the tools to carry out this very important function – which borders on our national security as a nation.
The Y2K problem indeed overwhelmed all nations of the world, to the extent that any solution becomes the solution. But 1999-2019 duration is more than enough timeline to codify the dangers of ICT Product dumping. Many nations have done this and perfected the mission of avoiding digitally chocking their future.
Dumping of obsolete and non-compliant computer systems can also be viewed; as part of the post-solutions for eradicating the Y2K problem in other continents. That is, simply by simply shifting and/or diverting the problem to Africa and indeed Nigeria.
Over time, this has become a serious challenge to our nation. More so, now that we are running out of time for the Nigerian solution to critical problem such as power (where Nigeria is the largest importer of generating sets in the world?). The Role of Government and the Private is critical. It requires that they work hand in hand with Professionals and Researchers to meet the challenges of dumping of technology products – and especially I.T products into our country.
First, government should be encouraged to establish a formidable national I.T Policy framework; capable of addressing the structural and standardized development of Informatics; Science Technology; Innovation as well as Research for Nigeria as the way forward.
The following is therefore recommended;
a. Establish a National Centre for Technology Acquisition Research; and National Technology Negotiator Academy under the supervision of National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP).
b. Ensure that future Telecoms operational license for Communications is granted based on capacity; for setting up in-country manufacturing and R&D facilities.
c. Introduce legislations with high-end penalties for infringement of the laws on dumping of hazardous products of Technology and other toxic tech substances.
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