1.1 Background of the Study
To say that rural dwellers constitute the “majority of mankind” tantamount to stating the obvious. The picture as it exists Nigeria, cuts across the entire developing countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia. Ruralism, one may be tempted to hurriedly conclude, is synonymous with the general condition of underdevelopment in these countries. By rural societies, we imply ways of life that are traditionally oriented, linked with, but separate from urban centres, combining market activities with subsistence production.
People who are engaged in rural non-farm economic activities need information on food processing, banking, textile, weaving, raffia work and tailoring, among others. They also require information on wood works, metal work, repair services for radio, television, vehicles and watches and other miscellaneous activities like soap making (Belshew, 2005). Rural people also need information on the importance of good source of drinking water and the prevention of common diseases. Mortality and malnutrition of children are particularly prevalent in rural communities; therefore, a lot of information on childcare is required. Rural dwellers also require information on social participation in any programme for rural development.
The above implies that the rural populace is, in essence, characterized by such features as widespread ignorance which results from their inability to read and write scattered settlements and high level of illiteracy. In addition, the rural populace represents the constituency of the bulk of victims of inaccessibility to such urban amenities as good shelter and health facilities. In relation to other parts of the globe. Rogers (2008) once found that “Asia, Africa and Latin America have a total of no less than 1.75 billion peasants”, which implies that no less than “three fourths of the population in most less developed countries are peasant rural dwellers” Coming to the specific instance of Nigeria, apart from the much quoted seventy-five (75%) percentage of rural and illiterate Nigerians, the 2006 Nigerian census indicates a total population figure of 166.2 million for the country. Of this, a staggering figure was found to be rural. For the fact that the country’s population had steadily soared up since this last census exercise, it is better imagined what the rural population situation will be as at the moment.
Obviously, the rural populace suffers from an acute low productivity, social and economic retrogression due mainly to ignorance, which is also a direct consequence of either inadequate or total lack of information provision to them (Belshew, 2005). Hence, their social exclusion from active participation in national development efforts. Considering their numerical strength in relation to the potentiality of what positively significant contributions they stand to make in the society generally, their exclusion from the main-stream of events can, at best, be described as a cog in the wheel of the nation’s progress. After all, the fact that information has always played an important role in human life and as a basic human need was never a subject of controversy. If it is then true that information and ideas, agreed upon by information experts, are basic human needs, it will not be out of place making bold to state that free and equal accessibility to such information and ideas by every member of the society irrespective of racial, religious, geopolitical and socioeconomic status becomes even more foundational (Njokus, 2001). This is even more so that every human society–urban and rural alike–had been found to be considerably dependent on various types of information, though at different levels, for their existence, survival and growth on a daily basis.