Friday, October 13, 2006

Information pathology

One of the most perplexing issues in Nigeria is that of information management. The government is spectacularly inept at it - whether its dealing with the aftermath of a plane crash or defending its own day-to-day decisions and policies. The current case in point is the new bus transit system in Abuja. No one knows what the bus routes are. No one knows where to buy tickets from. The bus stops which were erected over a year ago have become largely symbolic - buses stop wherever they see a potential passenger. In other words, the whole set-up is pure confusion.

What would it have taken the FCT administration to put on an awareness and communication campaign? Why didnt they put up posters, do some radio and tv slots, maybe even create a website? As it is, no one knows how the bus system is supposed to work. I see many empty buses ambling around town. Meanwhile, people walk and walk.

The deeper issue is why the government is so averse to providing those it serves, the citizens, with the information they require. Its either that they view citizen-centric information as a privilege to be earnt (a hang-up from the military years), or there is just such clod-hopping organisational ineffectiveness that they are not competent to do the simplest things, such as creating a table of routes, then designing and pasting up some posters. It's the same issue with getting the Bureau of Statistics to publish their survey results (see a post yesterday) - the blood will not come out of the stone.

There needs to be an information revolution in the public sector (the private sector is almost as bad - witness the pathetic attempts to communicate service offerings amongst the telcos). The government needs to hire competent media professionals who know how to run campaigns and provide public service information. Evidently, the people doing these jobs at the moment should be fired.

7 comments:

Anonymous,  11:57 am  

You have missed the obvious.

Someone, a relative of a minister most likely, was paid Millions of Naira to publicise and promote the bus service and somehow after this person bought their house/mercedes/church/Eton school placement there wasn't enough left!

I'm pretty sure that is what happened.

Anonymous,  12:02 pm  

You make some great points and I think the actual reason why our government seems so incompetent is because they are plainly uninformed. If you run this idea past any of those in government, I am sure you will get some response. The response you will get will sadly be determined by how much personal wealth the responder could be made out of implementing your suggested information campaign.

Nkem 12:16 pm  

That's quite ineteresting. I can assure you that most Nigerians who live in cities don't know where north or south are - something any Londoner can tell you. Is Ikeja in north Lagos, or south? Is VI in the east or west? Unless you saw maps of Lagos in the 70s and 80s, one would never know. All due to lack of information.

Ebere 4:42 pm  

Typical Naija - situation - Assuming our leaders actually did give toff....
Now things could have been a lot different.

Anonymous,  4:56 pm  

Hmmm. you have assumed that there was a system in place and all it required was publicity, nah in Nigeria we do not roll that way. My bet is that no system was in place because the consultants were not paid or some other funky story.
The truth is that the individuals in charge have fulfilled their only goal, which was to come up with a program that would involve a huge purchase, and an unbeleivable amount of money. What happens after that is not a concern of the policy makers. The masses in Nigeria have settled for a system like this. The common man is to blame for neglecting to fight for his rights.

Anonymous,  5:06 pm  

isnt this an opportunity for private enterpise. you dont need the government to make up maps. do it yourself and sell it

imnakoya 4:11 am  

It appears the government is 'dropping the ball' on many issues not only because of incompetence but also because those that know (or should know) better have been silent or have not developed workable feedback channels with the government. The act of governance - as much as many Nigerians wouldn't want to accept - is still a two way traffic.

This topic speaks to a similar post on the Grandiose Parlor ("Government Websites that Work") where I mused about the ineffectiveness of several state-run websites. "The Internet... is a must-have business tool and an apparatus to offer services to the people, particularly in a country like Nigeria with limited information system." And who can best convey this to the government? The community of ICT professionals in Nigeria.

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