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Nume Horsfall highlights the importance of social media in youth empowerment and more importantly in the development of Nigeria

Youths are critical force in the development of any nation. The future of Nigeria and the well-being of the citizenry rest significantly on empowering its large youth population, experts have said.
Young people can serve as potent drivers of political, social and economic transformation.

Even the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recently urged countries to adopt a radical shift in policies and attitude in order to empower youths and place them at the core of the development agenda.
That was why the Open City Ideas and Innovations conference which took place in Port Harcourt recently stressed the need to empower youths in the country.

The conference had speakers from different sectors of the economy such as oil and gas, public sector, entertainment, social media, employment agencies, among others.

Social Media as Tool for Development
The Chief Executive Officer, Sahara Energy, Tonye Cole, emphasised the importance of social media as a tool to express oneself.
He said: “There is no generation than this generation that is better positioned in spreading their message, you have at the palm of your hands devices and tools that instantly send your message. Your voice, spoken with understanding, can reach millions in seconds, but unfortunately many are misusing and abusing it, some are not taking advantage of it.

“Find yourself, Find your voice and send your message to the world. You have the power in this nation to determine who will rule you, how they will rule you, when they will rule you and for how long they will rule you, it is within your grasp. It is right at your fingertips.

“You have a unique voice. No one has your voice, No one has your message, and no one can tell what you have better than you. The innovation and ideas that are in your head are a combination of every single thing you have been through, every experience in your life is your voice and no one has that voice but you. It is yours and unique to you.”

Chief Executive Officer, Arden & Newton Limited, Perez Tigidam, pointed out that social media had come to stay and will redefine the rules of engagement, drive change, bring about disruption in industries and change in governments.

He added: “It is changing the way businesses innovate, create strategy and interact with employees and customers. Social media is the truest manifestation of globalisation, democracy and information management.
“As one writer rightly puts it ‘for world leaders and governments, it represents a genie which having granted their wish for communicating with their people during election campaigns is now refusing to go back in the lamp and is giving the very same power to the electorate.’

Continuing, Tigidam argued that the 2015 general elections would not be characterised by politicians investing heavily in AK47 guns and weapons of violence, saying that the bulk of the investments for smart politicians would be in smart phones and online platforms.
“Ruling parties and opposition party members will rely heavily on social media to engage and monitor each other, everyone will crave the opportunity to share and make an impact in social space. Social media will bring about the real shift we crave in electioneering and governance strategy.

“Social media is no longer just about friends on Facebook and followers on twitter but the future of our cities and nations. It is giving a voice to the once voiceless, breaking the bounds of linear information dissemination and control, breaking the bounds of big business and big governments.

“Today even the Nigerian government employs social media aids to engage and monitor discourse surrounding governance and politics in social space, Senators and serving executives are finding more time to engage once ordinary citizens on policy issues, control of the electorates is no longer about access and control of information but ability to share and get viral. 140 character messages on twitter are becoming more potent and having a lot more impact than our traditional media,” he maintained.

Transparency and Accountability
A former Vice President of the World Bank, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, who recently bemoaned the level of wastage in the system, said: “You are the generation that is most interconnected. That interconnection at a very pro level is depicted to what open cities represent today.”
Also the Commissioner for Information, Rivers State, Ibim Semenitari, gave an insightful background on how the State has achieved transparency in governance through the use of social media and technology.

On his part, Tigidam noted that while social media might have its shortcomings and backlashes, the opportunities for development and transformation remains enormous.

According to him, in developed economies, a lot of cities are investing heavily in social media tools and platforms to reverse economic downturns. The economic downturn, he stressed, had forced states in America to become creative and competitive in order to attract companies and stimulate local economies.

Tigidam explained: “They rely heavily on social media tools and tactics to enhance their efforts nationally and locally. Back in Nigeria, there are also plethora of challenges that could be solved using social media platforms some of which include: Traffic management, security management, strengthening or rebranding of a region or state, shopping guide, online educational resource guide, job recruitments, amongst others.

“Nigeria’s importance in the global scheme of things cannot be over emphasised. This serves as a call for the government and states to utilise social media not just as a tool of propaganda but for tangible change. More likes, more tweets, friends and followers will define and shape how we live in the cities of the future.”

Source: This Day Online March 19, 2013

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