• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Boosting internet penetration in Nigeria

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Development economists postulated that the internet affects economies by facilitating faster and wider access to information, promoting competition in the markets, enhancing communication in terms of lower cost and higher speed as well as providing a more efficient health care system; hence the impact of the internet on economic growth can be substantial as well as seen as an important factor in economic growth model.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest mobile market with more than 125 million subscribers and a market penetration rate approaching 75 percent according to reports. The Nigerian market also retains one of the highest average revenue per user rates in Africa along with South Africa and Egypt.

However, in a global survey of 140 countries by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on household Internet penetration, Nigeria ranked 87th with 7.8 percent penetration. Korea Republic ranked first with 98.1 percent, followed by Qatar and Singapore in second and third position with 96.4 percent and 86 percent respectively. Morocco, South Africa and Egypt ranked 29th, 37th and 44th respectively. The ITU, which estimated that half of the world’s population will be online by 2017, noted that developing economies needed to do more in terms of ensuring that the populations have significant access to the Internet, stressing that it can create millions of jobs.     Furthermore, the ITU Broadband Commission ranked Nigeria among the 61 countries globally with national broadband policy. But, stated that developing countries, including Nigeria cannot afford to remain on the sidelines, as the digital revolution puts knowledge economies and societies into a dominant position with globalization. According to the ITU, the real information revolution lies in growing day-by-day use of Internet enabled devices in all parts of our lives, stressing that it is this era of mass connectivity that promises to transform development and global welfare.

We note that the Federal Government set up the Rural Telephony Project in 2006 and pursued various policies aimed at bridging the digital divide and achieving optimum penetration of the rural areas. And that the increasing popularity of smartphones such as Blackberry, Androids and tablets also means that Internet users do not necessarily need a computer or any other equipment apart from their phones and subscription to connect to the Internet; however, internet penetration still remains very low compared to Nigeria’s population.

Analysts opine that the high cost of internet access remains one of the fundamental reasons why internet access is not present in most homes in the country; Despite having broadband service providers such as MainOne, Glo 1, SAT3 and WACS Cables, the cost of internet access in Nigeria is still high compared to other parts of the world and even some African countries. No wonder some African countries like Kenya and Tanzania are ahead of Nigeria in terms of internet penetration and access on the view that their governments built nationwide infrastructure backbone, allowing private sector to run it at a determined low cost and making sure that every Internet Service Provider (ISP) has equal access to available broadband capacities.

Thus, experts have advocated a broadband policy and strategy that would encourage broadband Internet rollout across the country. Similarly, to help empower the population, government should invest in Information Communication Technology (ICTs) and digital e-skills as an engine of economic growth and development. Furthermore, a key enabling factor to an effective ICT infrastructure is reliable and adequate supply of electricity. This will in turn enable businesses to provide seamless online services through local areas networks, wide area networks and the Internet. Both e-business and telecoms infrastructure are incomplete without affordable computing facilities. People need to have access to reasonably priced computers for education, recreation, business and other creative activities.