Nigerians work hardest to buy internet data

The average Nigerian will need to work 27 minutes 55 seconds for 1 gigabit (GB) internet data, says a new report from Surfshark, a global privacy protection company, as the global average is 10 minutes.

The same report shows Nigeria at the bottom of countries with affordable internet.

While Israel tops the list of most affordable internet globally, Nigeria, Columbia and Honduras not only have the slowest internet, it costs their citizens more in hours to buy. Nigeria ranks 85 out of 85 indexed countries.

People in the most populated country in Africa have to work 33 hours 42 minutes to afford the cheapest broadband internet in a month. The global average is three hours 48 minutes a month.

On the surface, the report may be shocking given that network providers in Nigeria have in recent time engaged in a price war that has seen data prices fall to as low as N200/1GB. Also, a report by Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) classified Nigeria among countries in Africa with the cheapest internet data. A4AI, however, uses a “1 for 2” measure for affordable internet – affordable internet is where 1GB mobile broadband data is priced at 2 percent or less of average monthly income.



The Surfshark ‘Digital Quality of Life’ Index assessed 85 countries on five metrics: internet affordability, internet quality, electronic infrastructure, electronic government, and electronic security. It found that 75 percent of the researched countries have to work more than the global average to afford the internet.

Globally, mobile internet (internet access that is obtained through a portable modem or other device, such as a mobile phone) is nearly 23 times more affordable than fixed broadband (high-speed connectivity for public use of at least 254 Kbit/s or more in one or both directions).

Generally, the average time for work to afford the cheapest 1GB of mobile internet is about 10 times.

“Any country’s digital advancement has a tangible relation to its economic potential and population’s overall wellbeing. In the COVID-19 era, it’s even more important as most of the employees face working full time online,” Vytautas Kaziukonis, CEO of Surfshark, said, noting, “Since work from home realities vary widely by location, Surfshark’s research on internet affordability and quality aims to establish a common ground for further conversation.”

The disparity in affordability between countries can also determine the quality of opportunities available to their citizens, which directly affects the quality of life they live and contributions they make to the economy.

In Nigeria where over 82 million citizens – representing 40 percent of the population – live on less than $1 a day, inequality is an everyday reality for the average person. With the current exchange of N380 to the dollar, it means over 82 million people manage to eat, drink, cloth, pay bills and transport themselves on less than N380. The N200 for 1GB in seven days is therefore competing with the less than N380 daily income.

There are other reasons for disparities in internet affordability between Nigeria and other countries. These may include differing levels or lack of competition in broadband markets, different degrees of ICT policy adoption, cost of infrastructure developments, lack of innovation, or even geographical disadvantages.



The broadband market in Nigeria has seen little activity. In 2020, when the COVID0-19 was at its peak, investment in broadband practically halted. Investment in fixed broadband internet remains at less than 1 percent of total investments in the telecom industry.

There is also the policy environment that has taken a negative direction in recent times as the government prioritise national identity registration. It has seen the industry lose nearly 4 million subscribers in three months, and broadband penetration dropped from 45.93 percent in October 2020 to 45.02 percent in December.

Among African peers, Nigeria’s rank does not improve as countries such as South Africa, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Kenya push ahead.

Largely, African households and the Americas have the least affordable and the worst quality internet in terms of speed and stability.

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