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THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
(Abuja, Nigeria )


For Immediate Release
August 27, 2000

FACT SHEET

Nigeria: Bridging the Digital Divide and Improving Access to Education

The United States is implementing a series of initiatives to help Nigeria improve access to education and modern information technologies as part of an effort to strengthen its economy and democratic institutions. These steps follow through on the recent G-8 initiative to expand bilateral, multilateral, and private sector assistance to developing countries with effective policies regarding basic education and the digital divide. President Obasanjo attended an unprecedented meeting in Tokyo between G-8 and developing country leaders on the eve of the Okinawa Summit last month. He has made improving literacy and access to basic education one of his top priorities and pledged to increase education resources. Nearly one third of men and half of women are illiterate in Nigeria.

U.S. initiatives directly in support of education include:

A $19.9 million agreement signed by USAID in July 2000 to assist in Nigeria's to reform and expand access to education through efforts to support education sector assessment for all levels, facilitate policy dialogue, and encourage broad civic participation in the reform process.

The establishment of six Community Resource Centers equipped with modern information technology including internet access in each region of Nigeria. The centers will help bring the benefits of modern information technologies (IT) into a broad spectrum of educational activities. The U.S. Education for Development and Democracy Initiative (EDDI) is providing $4.5 million to establish the centers. The Centers will be used to train and support local educators, support distance education programs of Nigerian universities, provide computer, IT, and targeted vocational education training to local communities, and support adult literacy and AIDS education. The Initiative will also provide $500,000 in scholarships to girls who would otherwise lack the means to attend school at the primary, secondary or university levels.

A dialogue to explore the creation of a pilot school feeding and pre-school nutrition program in Nigeria to support strategies to improve student enrollment, attendance, and performance. The President announced a $300 million Commodity Credit Corporation Global Food for Education pilot program in Okinawa, Japan last month in connection with the G-8's endorsement of the goal of supporting developing countries that strive to provide education for all of their children.

The U.S. Department of State is providing an additional $120,000 to support up to 12 "Azikwe Professional Fellowships." These fellowships, named after Nigeria's first President, will enable Nigerian professionals to pursue up to three months of professional training in the U.S. in such fields as educational or public administration, business and journalism. The EDDI program is also providing $330,000 to two non-profit Nigerian organizations to enhance civic education curriculum development. This is in addition to: $250,000 to a "Summer Institute" for Nigerian educators at an American university in the summer of 2001; $299,740 to the University of Iowa and Emporia State University in Kansas to support educational development in Nigerian universities; and $75,000 in seed money to launch a series of U.S.-Nigeria cultural exchanges through the "Treasures of Nigeria Cultural Initiative."

More broadly, the United States is taking steps to enhance overall Nigerian access to information technologies, particularly in the small business sector. Nigeria is joining the United States' Internet for Economic Development Initiative whose largely USAID-funded specific projects will include:

- A three-day workshop on Internet, Telecommunications, and Rural Access;

- Support for a planning process to help Nigeria build capacities in universities, schools, and offices to use the Internet for research and networking; and

- A pilot project on the use of IT in the sound management of pesticides.

A team of Federal Communications Commission experts, with USAID support, will visit Nigeria to discuss regulatory issues related to Internet promotion. Additionally:

The Cisco Systems Networking Academy Program and the United Nations Development Program will open a regional academy in Nigeria by February 2001. The program teaches students, mostly at the secondary and post secondary level, the fundamentals of building, designing and maintaining computer networks. The academy will be affiliated with a major Nigerian university and develop up to nine local networking academies. This training will help advance Nigeria's economic and social development in the Internet economy.

Following through on the G-8 Summit, the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Foundation, the Markle Foundation, World Economic Forum, Center for International Development at Harvard University and IBM have launched a new Global Network Readiness and Resources Initiative to help developing countries embrace the networked society. As part of this project, they will sponsor a country-specific Self-Assessment Readiness Guide for Nigeria.

FCC and NCC experts will assist Nigeria in the liberalization of its telecommunications market. In particular, these two agencies will work to advance pro-competitive policies in Nigeria toward the achievement of universal access for its citizens. A team of FCC experts, with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will visit Nigeria in September 2000 to discuss and share experiences on key issues including spectrum management, interconnection, tariffing, licensing, especially for wireless operators, and the role of the regulator in accelerating network expansion and promoting the Internet.

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