How Nigeria can deepen internet access, by stakeholders
Stakeholders in the telecommunications sector have listed ways that can bridge Internet access gaps in Nigeria, and how the service can be more affordable.
The Guardian checks showed that between 2000 and 2019, Internet penetration grew to 61.6 per cent in Nigeria, a country estimated to house about 200 million people. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) statistics said there are now over 120 million connected to the Internet.
Despite this leap, about 40 million Nigerians in about 195 communities are still without access to basic telephony services, including the Internet.
As such, bridging this gap was the thrust of the discussion by stakeholders, who gathered at the 2019 Nigerian Network Operators Group (ngNOG) two-day conference, in Lagos, themed: “The Internet: For Everyone?.”
They also stressed the need for more collaboration in the areas of infrastructure sharing, collocation, and alternative power supply, coupled with a friendlier business setting, to ensure high quality and affordable Internet services, while investors are sure of recouping returns on their investments.
Leading the charge at the Conference, Managing Director, Bandwidth Consortium, Dewole Ajao, noted the headways being made in the quest to ensure Internet for everyone is being realised, despite looming challenges around the economy.
“There are quite a number of issues hindering Internet penetration. One primarily is that we don’t have enough appreciation of what the Internet can do, hence, very little encouragement for ICT adoption in relevant areas.
“Although we are yet to have a silver bullet that champions the ultimate solution, the very first step we’re taking to disrupt the norm is having the key stakeholders talking to themselves. That’s what we’ve been achieving with ngNOG. And just like we’ve seen across the years, the 2019 edition has opened up engagements and a lot of interactive sessions where the audience gets to ask tough questions and the stakeholders on the hot seat can utilise that feedback.”
The Director-General/CEO, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, assured that government recognises the immense socio-economic importance of broadband services to national development, and therefore seeks to ensure that the infrastructure necessary to provide ubiquitous broadband services is available and accessible to all citizens.
Abdullahi, represented by the Head of South West Zonal Office, Mrs Chioma Okee-Aguguo, described the Internet, as the world’s biggest library, and the largest repository of information and knowledge requires high-speed access to fully harness the benefits of the Internet.
In his keynote, the Chief Executive Officer, Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN), Muhammad Rudman, listed inhibiting challenges including multiple taxes caused by uncoordinated activities among regulatory agencies, excessive right of way charges, and a host of others.
He said Internet services in Nigeria will improve greatly if the service providers collaborated more by setting concrete targets, and providing annual performance reviews to show the government the impact of implemented policies.
“We need to have a paradigm shift to understand that collaboration is the way to go in order to provide the people with quality internet. The situation whereby everyone is digging up grounds to lay fibre will be counterproductive because each would pay the necessary fees attached to it. But in a case where we share the burden, it becomes less-heavy on us,” Rudman stated.
The National Coordinator of ngNOG, Dr. Adewale Adedokun, noted that the Internet has wrought fundamental changes throughout the society, driving it forward from the industrial age to the networked era.
Adedokun said global information networks are vital infrastructure that has changed business, education, government, healthcare, and has become one of the key drivers of social evolution.
He added that the 2019 ngNOG conference was convened as a multi-stakeholder engagement platform where mobile network operators, Internet service providers, infrastructure providers, government regulators, End users, and security agencies come together to analyse key issues and synthesize concrete outputs towards accelerating Internet development in Nigeria.
Also speaking, the Managing Director of Rack Centre, Dr Ayotunde Coker, stressed that the world thrives on the network and interconnecting the network interconnects the economy and people of the nation.