The Executive Director and project coordinator for Project Enable Africa, Mr Olusola Owonikoko has identified Information Communication Technology as a major factor that would help reduce the rate of unemployment amongst the physically challenged in the society.
Olusola made this known last week Thursday as the ProjectEnable Africa presents her social inclusion dialogue series in commemoration of the United Nation International Day of persons with Disabilities themed Empowering persons with Disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality in ICT.
The event had in attendance the US Consul General, John Bray, represented by Russell Brooks, Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate General, Lagos; Dr Joe Okei Odumakin, President, Centre for Change; Mrs Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, Head of Sustainability, Access Bank; Ms. Rhoda Robinson, Director Gender Development Programmes, HACEY Health Initiative.
The initiative is aimed at promoting the rights, economic empowerment and social inclusion of persons with disabilities through setting up of Disability-friend Digital Hub and Fellowship program to equip persons with disabilities and their caregiver with ICT skills and opportunities for 40 persons.
While delivering his keynote address, the Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate General, Lagos Russell Brooks said, “For people who do not have disabilities, technology makes things easier, but for people living with disabilities, technology can be this crucial to how do things that others take for granted. “He explained the use of computers and forms of ICT are excellent examples of how technology gives them the opportunity to be employed, to be educated, and also the opportunity to do total range of things that allow them to be fully functioning members of our society.
However, the Director and Founder of Project Enable Africa, Olusola Owonikoko, who also double as an alumni of Mandela Washington Fellowship said that the innovation was set up and launched in Dec 2017 with a full support by Access bank and HACEY Health Initiative in partnership with Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) where they got institutional strengthened support, knowing fully well that technology makes everything possible for people living with disabilities.
“Last year, we set up and launched our disability friendly digital hub, and basically what we do at that hub is we have put together a training resource that is totally inclusive and accessible. And the purpose of that is we understand that in the community where we live in, people don’t go out of their way to make resources available for persons with disabilities, and that’s why we have chosen these population to work with. Basically what we did at the hub was to train persons with disabilities in viable practical economic skills like web designing, programming, so that they can have these skills. But we don’t just train them, we support them. The resources at the hub, they are free to use at any time with free internet and all. People can come to use the resources at the hub, set up their online businesses, and we give them all their support. And the United States Consulates General in Lagos and Access Bank has supported us to do that, and we are doing it in partnership with JONAPWD, an umbrella body of persons with disabilities in Lagos,” Olusola added.
“We consider ourselves to be one of the founders of Project Enable, Sola mentioned earlier that the idea stemmed from his participation in the Carrington Fellowship programme that is sponsored by the US Consulate here in Lagos. We provided him an initial donation or grant to get Project Enable started, and from that point, he has brought it into such a center, accomplishing such great things that they recently won an award from Google Corporation through its arm that supports social projects, and that has given the $250,000 to enable them to scale up what they are doing. It is a pretty recognition of the fantastic work that they are doing, and the importance of helping people with disabilities become functional members of the society,” US Embassy representative noted.
According to the Head of Sustainability, Access Bank, Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, “Access bank has been supportive of Project Enable from inception, from ideation to the point where it is today. It’s also like our baby, and we are committed to ensure we support the initiative, So as it expands and it wins grants from other private sectors organizations, we are not pulling out, we will continue to support project enable. I think that private sector organizations are just beginning to step up the game. It wasn’t this good before, and I see that it will only get better with various initiatives that are across various industries that are now encouraging the different sectors to support social initiatives.”
Speaking with the President Centre for Change and Human Right Activist Dr Joe Okei Odumakin, she explained that technology is a global influence, and those living with disabilities suffer double discrimination. Technology is being used to drive that change and enhance social inclusion.
“Technology can be used in such a way that one will be accessed, have compact interaction with their instructors, it will help to improve and empowering them. This will make them strive to do more, and allow them to suffer less low self-esteem, it will also bring them to the global market space.
“More than ever before, we all need to do a lot, in the private sectors, government, philanthropists, citizens in encouragement of the organizations that are interested in using technology to drive that change, in using technology to enhance human rights, and to propel that social inclusion that we need more than ever. Imagine, in our own dear country, close to 16 million of our brothers and sisters, children live with disabilities, so we have to enable them, and I think more than ever, technology is the weapon that we use in ensuring that we drive this change and enhance social inclusion,” Dr Odumakin added.