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Representatives of Nigerian youths, on Thursday, called on government at all levels to provide free and reliable Internet services in public places across the country.

The demand was among the recommendations made in a report on a national youth survey conducted by the Centre for Micro-enterprise Development in collaboration with the Ford Foundation. It was presented in Lagos.

The survey studied diverse issues concerning Nigerian youths, including their social media consumption pattern, interest in vocational skills and careers, access to education and healthcare, employment rate and many other social concerns.

Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Centre, Edna Ishaya, said 13,000 youths drawn from all the 36 states were studied through interviews, questionnaires and other research methods.

Presenting the position of the youths, an entrepreneur and student named Olakunle Olajuwon-Ige said many could not fully explore the potential of the Internet as a result of the high cost of data.

Olajuwon-Ige noted that government could make the Internet more accessible by providing free Wi-Fi in public places across the country.

“There are positive things that youths can benefit from the Internet. When you check through web pages, you know how things are done elsewhere. That gives you an idea about what you can also do,” he said.

Also, describing data subscription as too expensive in Nigeria, he added, “With free Wi-Fi in public places, youths will be able to access every part of the world to know what their peers are doing. With that, they will be more creative and entrepreneurial.”

Olajuwon-Ige said it was important the older generation showed interest in social media, if only to know that their children were really doing positive things on the cyberspace. He dismissed insinuations that most youths were on social media to catch fun, saying several of them had started life-transforming initiatives as a result of the Internet.

If not for any other benefit, he argued, the Internet broadened the minds of users and exposed them to new possibilities.

However, Managing Director of Bowman Microfinance Bank Limited, Mrs. Titilola Adeyeba, who was at the unveiling event, urged parents and stakeholders to rise against what she called growing social media abuses.

She said, “The challenge we have is how we can make the youths to conduct themselves properly on the Internet. The majority abuse the opportunity and this should be frightening to us as a country.

“Youths need to decide what they want on the Internet before they pick up telephones and laptops. They should use the social media positively. Today, some youths do nothing beside operating smart phones. This calls for caution.”

According to the survey, 6.5 per cent of Nigerian youths rely on short message services for news. Three per cent and 1.1 per cent say they visit Facebook and Twitter respectively while 0.8 per cent go to blogs for the same reason.

YouTube commands 0.7 per cent of youths surfing the Internet for news content. While 2.5 per cent source their daily news items from other areas of the Internet, the largest chuck of youths still rely on content provided by traditional media.

The study also looked at the consumption pattern across different social media platforms, including how youths react to posts by family members/friends as well as links to videos and articles.

It concludes that the largest proportion are eager to read what their friends and family members post than clicking on links for information.

The report, which has been uploaded on the site of the Centre, says 35.2 per cent of youths do not know the vocational skill they need in addition to formal education to excel in life.

With 21.7 per cent, fashion designing tops preferred skill areas. It is followed by trading and hair dressing.

Ishaya said the research team was shocked to learn that very insignificant number of the sample did not to take banking as a career, a reason top financial service professionals were invited to the presentation.

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