Nigerian libraries increase access to information for women and youth
Nigeria has approximately 11 million unemployed youth. Over half never received more than a primary school education, and some never attended school. Meanwhile, 20 percent of the country’s youth have completed postsecondary education but are still unable to find a job within five years of graduation. And less than half the population is able to access the internet, and its economic, social, and educational benefits.
These numbers are staggering. Increasing the employment rate is a complex challenge, but many pieces of a solution are beginning to come together. For example, local NGOs are offering training initiatives to help people gain skills and find work. Government ministries like the National IT Development Agency (NITDA) or the Universal Services Provision Fund (USPF) are working to expand access to information and communications technologies (ICTs) throughout the country so more people can benefit from the internet.
What has been missing is a way to connect these efforts and synchronize them for maximum impact. That’s where IREX comes in.
Strengthening institutions to improve employability
Through the Beyond Access project, IREX is working with public libraries to help women, youth, and other marginalized groups access ICTs and improve their skills. As a result, community members can improve their livelihoods while libraries can play a greater role within their communities.
We started with nine libraries in five states and paired each library with a local NGO. The libraries provided meeting space and ICT infrastructure. The NGOs contributed their experience in ICT, entrepreneurship, and employability skills training. In the first nine months of the pilot, community members accessed library computers 47,000 times and 985 people received training.
Scaling up for greater impact
Through this pilot, IREX demonstrated to both public and private partners that libraries have great potential to increase community members’ skills and ICT access in a sustainable way.
Over the next year, USPF and NITDA will provide new technology, upgrade current technology, and provide connectivity to up to 70 libraries.
Likewise, Intel will train staff at as many as 70 libraries in Nigeria as part of the She Will Connect initiative. Librarians who receive this training will become Master Trainers, to then be able to train others in their communities on digital skills.
Using a sustainable approach to increase opportunity
According to IREX partner Joseph Emmanuel Yaba, President and CEO of Yishda, “the program allowed us to mainstream innovative activities in libraries to reach more people and communities across Nigeria. At least 17 people got jobs as a result of the Career Development Training, and more than 20 businesses were started as a result of the Enterprise and Business Development Training.” The project created opportunities for hundreds of people, including Tina Emmanuel, Chigor Nneka, and Esther Enesi:
- Tina participated in an ICT and business skills training course through the project. The course gave her the skills she needed to open a business center that provides photocopies, printing, and other business services to her community. Tina now uses the business center’s profits to supplement her family’s income.
- By participating in the project, Chigor overcame her initial intimidation of computers. She gained new digital skills and earned a promotion in her office.
- Esther learned entrepreneurship skills through the project. She applied these skills to start her own cake decorating business.
Rooting initiatives in existing institutions makes the results more durable. The public libraries and NGOs who partnered with IREX are now better able to continue the work. That’s good news for everyone—especially for other community members who are seeking job skills and ICT access to improve their livelihoods.
An initiative of IREX and partner organizations, Beyond Access is a movement of people and organizations committed to the idea that modern public libraries help drive economic and social development.