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Nation of people who are mostly located in the Midwestern part of Nigeria, Western  Africa.


The Future of the Edo Peoples in the Era of
Information Technology



Nosa Omoigui
Sammamish, WA

Paper presented at the Edo National Association
Convention, Dallas, Texas, Saturday, August 30, 2003

Introduction: The Paradigm Shift in the Global Economy

A paradigm shift is underway in the complex web that
constitutes the global economy. This transformation
represents both a huge threat to and opportunity for
Nigeria in general and the Edo people in particular.

The Information Age

The Information Age, like the Industrial Age before
it, would undoubtedly have a colossal impact on the
efficiency and mechanics of civilization. Its current
manifestation, the Internet, has already fundamentally
changed the way people work, play, and interact. In
the future, the Internet would play an even more
central role in how people learn, conduct business,
entertain themselves and stay in touch with others. In
the United States, it is estimated that by the end of
this year, about seventeen million people would have
bought goods over the Internet, up from virtually none
a few years ago. Today, one quarter of Americans use
the Internet on a daily basis. Just three years ago,
that figure was a mere 4 percent. In the United
States, $30 billion of good and services would be sold
over the Internet this year and $250 billion in four
years [11]. Electronic commerce is expected to
comprise up to 6 percent of American retail purchases
in the next five years [3].

A sizable share of education would be conducted
online. Many meetings would be held via
videoconferences. With essentially unlimited access to
information, unconstrained by the traditional
boundaries of space and convenience, the operations of
individuals, businesses, governments would be much
more efficient [4, 5]. Edos would be able to
compete globally via virtual channels while remaining
physically resident in the country.

The potential benefits of the Information Age to the
Edo state economy are boundless. Our people�s standard
of living would improve thanks to the efficiency of
information access and the obviation of the need for
physical movement. Education, health-care, and
commerce would be made much more efficient.

Unfortunately, the current decrepit state of the
infrastructure in Edo state precludes us from
immediately reaping the fruits of these advances.
Going forward, the primary focus of Edo state�s public
policy should be on rebuilding the state�s

Opportunities for Edo State

As we navigate the 21st century, there are many
opportunities for Edo state to rebuild its economy.

In addition to mineral resources, Edo state is blessed
with an abundance of human capital. Furthermore, as we
move into the next millennium, intellectual assets are
fast replacing physical and natural capital as the
most strategic resource a country and its people can
have. Again, this is a tremendous opportunity for Edo
state. With the quality and volume of its brainpower
Edos can become globally competitive even with
economic powerhouses like the United States and Japan.
Nigeria, as a country, needs to manufacture and export
intellectual capital in significant quantities. The
resources are there; they need to be directed,
motivated, and exploited. Furthermore, locally
authored software products, services, and content
could, in the long-term, provide the country with
another major source of export. Many commoditized
Information Technology jobs are currently being
relocated from the United States to countries such as
India. Edo state can and should compete for these

Another strategic advantage Edos have in the global
economy is that our peoples are English-speaking. This
is very significant. In the next few decades, as
intellectual capital achieves more and more
prominence, Edo programmers and other high-tech
workers would have to compete for jobs with their
Chinese, Mexican and Russian counterparts. That these
countries� citizens, in general, do not speak English
fluently puts them at a competitive disadvantage when
compared with Nigerians, Indians, and other
English-speaking workers.

As technology has become more pervasive, the
�intellectual barriers to entry� have become lower. As
software has permeated every sector of society, the
level of abstraction of its ingredients has increased.
As a consequence, Edos have the chance to choose
software development as a career regardless of
background. In addition, software engineering, being
largely based on logical thought, does not require as
much formal training as other fields. Other
�high-tech� jobs, like those involving the creation
and maintenance of web-sites, are even more pedestrian
in nature. These characteristics give Edo state the
opportunity to churn out programmers and web-site
authors in volume. Furthermore, the capital investment
needed to generate legions of software engineers is
minimal when compared with that required in other

Policy Recommendations

Edo state should adopt a policy framework the
underpinnings of which are consistent with making the
Information Age the nucleus of its long-term strategic
national planning. The recommendations that follow
constitute line items that are aimed at accomplishing
this objective.

From an economic perspective, arguably the most urgent
policy task facing Edo state (and Nigeria) today is
that relating to public relations. Before embarking on
any long-term economic development plan, Edo state (in
the Nigerian context) needs to rebuild and re-market
its brand. Nigeria�s image has been completely
desecrated and is in urgent need of reconstruction. If
Nigeria fails to undertake an explicit marketing
policy, many investors are not going to take the
country (or any of its states) seriously, regardless
of whatever economic opportunities are offered.

There are numerous Edo intellectuals in the best
schools, institutions, and corporations around the
globe who, in the aftermath of the country�s
derailment, cowered into reclusion. Edo state,
through Nigeria�s foreign embassies, should identify,
contact, and consult these individuals for the
purposes of re-branding and national development. The
country would be doing itself a great disservice if it
excludes the input of its talented foreign-based
citizens from its long-term policy planning. The many
Edo professionals who were forced to flee the country
for economic reasons remain an extremely valuable
resource that should be harnessed.

The Federal and state governments need to get out of
the way. Their direct involvement in the generation
and distribution of power, the provision of
telecommunications services, the distribution of fuel,
etc., is one of the primary reasons for the pathetic
state of the nation�s economy. While the government
should disengage from the provision of
telecommunications and other services, it would be
imprudent to hands off completely. The Edo government
should maintain some measure of regulatory supervision
while operating at an appropriate abstraction level in
order to preclude bureaucracy-induced ills.

While it retreats from prominence, the Edo state
government also has an important role to play in
optimizing the context and environment in which the
private sector operates. Appropriate laws should be
enacted to protect Edo-based companies from foreign
competitors, especially as local markets are being
opened up to outside investment. Tax incentives should
be given to small businesses. The bureaucracy at the
ports and government-controlled agencies needs to be
removed to facilitate friction-free business
transactions. In order to protect local software
entrepreneurs and foreign investors, the Edo
government should formulate a policy to discourage
software piracy and enact laws to punish offenders.
Intellectual property laws should be promulgated to
secure foreign companies who invest in the country.

The Information Age would not have the envisioned
critical-mass impact on Edo state until the state�s
infrastructure is revamped. In particular, the power
grid and the telecommunications network need to be
upgraded or replaced. Wireless base-stations and
systems need to be installed. Again, if these measures
are going to be implemented by private interests, some
amount of regulatory control would be needed. The
wireless spectrum would need to be managed carefully
in order to preclude congestion. While overhauling its
underlying infrastructure, Edo state should also
promulgate a formal policy to develop a new �Edo
Information Infrastructure,� targeted at providing
narrowband and broadband telecommunications services
to its citizens. Committees should be formed
specifically to work with foreign governments and
high-tech firms to advertise the opportunities that
Edo state offers with its human capital. Policy
measures should be put in place to attract investment
capital for the construction of Edo state�s new wired
and wireless telecommunications networks. Information
technology development plans in other Third World
countries � particularly Singapore, Malaysia, Korea,
and the Philippines � should also be studied in lieu
of devising similar policies for Edo state.

As we head deeper into the 21st century, the
increasing value of intellectual capital makes it
imperative for Edo state to make long-term strategic
investments in rebuilding and enhancing its
educational systems. Its great secondary and tertiary
institutions, erstwhile factories of intellectual
leadership, have been desecrated and need to be
reinvigorated. Education policy emphasis must be
placed on computers, math, programming, and other
software skills. A commitment to long-term research
and development in computer-science should be an
intrinsic part of long-term policy on tertiary
education. The universities must be properly funded
with some focus on software engineering. An �Edo
Information Technology Foundation,� similar to
America�s �National Science Foundation� should be
created to fund computing projects in Edo state�s
institutions and research laboratories. In order to
stimulate innovation, awards and grants should be
given annually to top-notch professors and students in
the research community. Partnerships between the
government, universities, and industry should be
developed and nurtured [6]. Given the historical
imbalance in gender-based representation in the
classrooms and fields of science and technology, the
government should also encourage the participation by
women in the information technology sector.

Edo state should build a new technological institute
of first-class pedigree, similar to the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT) or the Indian Institute
of Technology (IIT), whose sole role it should be to
generate technical talent of the highest quality [2].
This institute must be equipped with state-of-the-art
computer and communications facilities, and must have
direct high-bandwidth access to the Internet. Joint
educational programs should be developed to ensure
that the school collaborates and stays in touch with
top-notch computer-science universities in the U.S.
and around the world. Formal marketing programs should
be initiated in the catchment areas of high technology
in the United States: Silicon Valley, Seattle, Austin,
etc. Companies in these mass centers should be made
aware of the existence of high-quality intellectual
capital in Edo state.

In parallel with the development of the elitist
institution, a high-volume strategy, with emphasis on
software, should be employed in order to facilitate
the recreation of the Edo middle class. Existing
universities should be marketed to high-tech companies
around the world. The Edo government should develop
outreach programs to advertise the opportunities of
the Information Age to its citizens. Training centers
for programming and other software skills should be
erected with private support and investment.
Programming books, magazines, and journals should be
provided at affordable costs with the help of private
grants and investment capital from high-tech companies
in the United States. This would ensure that Edo
software developers remain in touch with the latest
technologies and trends in the industry. National and
state libraries should be properly equipped and new
ones built, specifically targeted at information
technology. The application of all these measures
would produce battalions of qualified Edo programmers
and call-center operators. Going forward, the
omnipresence of computer literacy and sophistication
should be the primary objective in Edo state�s
technology policy. Furthermore, with the proper
telecommunications infrastructure in place, Edo
state�s intellectual capital could be exported while
its workers remain resident in the country.

Edo state should also develop a digital �mini-city,�
akin to America�s Silicon Valley, which would be the
country�s crater of high-tech intellectual power and
commerce. Again, this should be funded largely with
private capital and foreign investment and should be
advertised to high-tech firms around the world as a
center in which they can set up subsidiaries -- free
of government-induced clogs -- with all the benefits
of economies of scope.

In recognition of the criticality of the Information
Age and its potential impact on Edo state, an �Edo
State Information Technology Commission� should be
established. This body should be charged with
formulating and implementing Edo state�s long-term
information technology policy. It should be very well
funded and supported, and should be given the
necessary latitude to execute its policies, free of
undue red tape. The organization should be comprised
of intellectuals with expertise in germane fields:
computer-science, engineering, economics, education,
business, and public policy. In addition, an
�Information Technology Advisory Committee,� comprised
of members of the private sector and academia, should
be incorporated to provide direct and complementary
policy guidance to the state executive branch [6].

Once the state�s information infrastructure is in
place, the Edo government needs to exploit it in order
to improve the efficiency of its own operations.
Internal networks, databases, web-sites, and other
software should be erected to effect the replacement
of the piles of files and papers that currently
congest or litter government offices. E-mail services
should be installed and used as the primary means of
inter-departmental and inter-ministerial
communication. In the long-term, this would save
costs, as it would reduce the need for cars and
travel. Accounting software should be installed to
automate billing services. The use of electronic
clearinghouses would cut the time and cost it takes to
distribute government reports.

Arguments on the composition of the polity should
recognize the continual devaluation of oil as a
strategic resource. I posit that voluminous human
resources of high intellectual capacity would, in
contrast, become the primary tools of 21st century
commerce. Long-term regional political strategies
might soon be rendered obsolete. The
constitution-shapers and policy-makers need to
internalize these fundamental changes. Those Edos who
might be tempted to cavalierly call for the country�s
disintegration must recognize the benefits of scale
and volume in the digital age. Indeed, one could make
the argument that Nigeria should, like the member
nations of the European Union are doing, tear down the
economic boundaries between it and its neighbors in
order to create more scale economies. However, before
such a policy is pursued, it must have clauses that
would guarantee the preservation of the nation�s

The private sector, its constituents, and other
members of society also have a role to play in
transforming Edo state into a digital economy.
Businesses should make strategic investments in
technology in order to improve their productivity.
Expense reporting and other mundane chores should be
automated with web-sites and software. Achieving a
�paperless office� should be one of the primary
objectives of information technology initiatives in
Edo-based businesses.

Graduates of Edo state�s universities also need to
recognize the opportunities the Information Age
presents and regulate their career choices
accordingly. They need to proactively acquire the
skills that are most relevant in the digital age:
software development, database programming and
management, web-site design and creation, etc. They
need to train themselves through self-study and formal
instruction programs. Parents need to encourage their
children to learn software skills and to study
computer-science. Obviously, the country would still
require doctors, lawyers and chemical engineers.
However, to accelerate the country�s rehabilitation,
the slant of the distribution of career prodding
should be directed towards information technology. The
Edo media should also help in creating awareness of
the opportunities offered by high technology. Its
constituent arms should assist in the authorship,
creation, and marketing of editorials and programs to
advertise the benefits of choosing careers in the
computer industry. Edos that work in the oil industry
and have been laid off should pursue opportunities in
the technology sector. Foreign-based Edos in the
high-tech industry also need to establish networks
amongst themselves. This is exactly how the Indians
and the Chinese have penetrated the nooks of high-tech
Corporate America. Microsoft alone has over a thousand
Indian programmers and testers. Edos in the high-tech
field need to create opportunities for each other in
similar fashion. Edos abroad should aim at having at
least five hundred high-tech workers in Silicon Valley
and its brethren in ten years.


The future of Edo state (and Nigeria) looks bleak,
even to its most upbeat citizens. However, the
diversity of the state�s resources and a tectonic
change in the foundation of the global economy should
give reason for some optimism. The state�s potential
for highly skilled intellectual capital, arguably the
most valuable commodity of the Information Age,
remains largely intact. With its low barriers to entry
and relatively trifle capital investment requirements,
software talent, products, and services could become
Edo state�s leading export in the 21st century. The
nature of technology, with its huge scale economies,
provides Edo state with an immense opportunity, at
comparatively low cost, to rebuild its economy.

Given the current focus of many Edos on the need to
reorganize the architecture of the polity, the
geopolitical impact of the Information Age on the
country cannot be overstated. With the incessant
cyclical depreciation of oil and the increasing
valuation of skilled human resources, erstwhile
region-centric political calculations might be
antiquated. This phenomenon needs to be factored into
any long-term planning of Nigeria�s political

Before commencing any significant development
programs, Edo state�s primary political focus should
be on ensuring that the country�s internal structure,
culture, and leadership promote, rather than stymie,
national development. The soul of the country and Edo
state needs to be raised from the dead. Its value
scale needs to be re-calibrated. Its infrastructure
needs to be rebuilt. Only then can any long-term
strategic initiative take on any measure of relevance.
Once a re-optimized polity is firmly in place, Edo
state should make the Information Age the seed of its
strategic national planning for the 21st century.
Properly regulated emphasis on repairing its brand,
privatization of its state-run enterprises, fixing its
educational systems, and generating phalanxes of
skilled high-tech workers would set the country on the
road to rebirth.


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