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Stakeholders identify collaboration, innovation as vital in improving internet availability and affordability

The internet which had over 4.1 billion users around the world in December 2018, has become a vital resource tool for people, and has incredibly changed the way people live, work and interact, even as it is primarily responsible for turning the world into a global village.

According to the Internet Business Solutions Group, the world population is expected to grow to 7.6 billion by 2020 with growth in internet-connected devices estimated to reach 50 billion resulting in more internet-connected devices than people.

As more and more people in the world access the internet, the issues around quality internet service and affordability, especially for those in the rural and underserved areas have become even more apparent as a serious issue in Nigeria today.

Industry stakeholders at the two-day annual conference of The Nigerian Network Operators Group (ngNOG) which took place in Lagos from October 28th – 29th 2019, under the theme, ‘’The internet: for everyone?’’ openly discussed the need to make the internet more accessible to everyone.

Stakeholders at the event called for more collaborations in the area of infrastructure sharing, colocation and alternative power supply, coupled with a friendlier business setting, all to ensure high quality and affordable internet services while investors are sure of recouping returns on their investments.

Speaking at the conference, Dewole Ajao, MD, Bandwidth Consortium, made key references to the headways being made in the quest to ensure internet for everyone is being realised, despite looming challenges in 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,” Ajao said.

Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the director-general/CEO, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), said that the Federal Government of Nigeria recognizes 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.

The DG who was represented by Chioma Okee-Aguguo, the head of South West zonal office, said that 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.

“NITDA has over the years developed many programs and initiatives to facilitate internet access for all citizens such as Public Access Venues (PAVs) and the Knowledge Access Venues (KAVs) designed and fully deployed to meet the challenge of the digital divide that has hitherto become a great obstacle to socio-economic growth of the rural communities and educational institutions respectively,” he said.

In his keynote address, Muhammad Rudman, the chief executive officer of Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN), listed challenges faced by service providers including multiple taxation caused by uncoordinated activities among regulatory agencies, excessive Right of Way (RoW) charges, amongst others.

He said Internet services in Nigeria will improve greatly if the service providers collaborate 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 said.

Adewale Adedokun, the national coordinator of the Nigerian Network Operators Group (ngNOG), said that the internet has wrought fundamental change throughout the society, driving it forward from the industrial age to the networked era.

“The 2019 ngNOG conference is convened as multi-stakeholder engagement platform where mobile network operators, internet service providers, infrastructure providers, Government regulators, end users and security agencies come together to analyze key issues and synthesize concrete outputs towards accelerating internet development in Nigeria,” he said.

 

Jumoke Akiyode-Lawanson

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