As the world celebrated the World Wide Web’s 25th anniversary last week, A4AI gathered more than 80 influential Nigerians working in the technology sector at an interactive forum in Abuja. The forum, held at the Chelsea Hotel on March 11, was the Alliance’s first activity to launch its work to spur policy and regulatory change for more affordable internet access in the country.
Nigeria’s Minister of Communication Technology Hon. Mrs Omobola Johnson opened the forum by outlining the goals and challenges in implementing the country’s national broadband plan for 2013-2018 , which was approved last May. Although one-third of Nigerians use the internet, the broadband penetration rate stands at only 6 percent, and the ministry ambitiously proposes to raise that rate to 30 percent by the end of 2017. Affordability is one major obstacle in achieving that goal — we ranked Nigeria 19th out of 46 countries in our 2013 Affordability Report, with a low score on deploying ICT infrastructure and enabling investment in the sector.
Min. Johnson addressed the affordability challenge in her remarks and spoke about designing policies to lower costs to internet access and reaching rural and underserved areas in a country where 63 percent of the people live on less than $1.25 a day. She highlighted the ministry’s “Connect Nigeria” initiative as an example, which is focused on deploying widespread and cost effective ICT infrastructure throughout the country.
Much of the debate and dialogue amongst the forum’s participants — which included representatives from government agencies and ministries, private companies, academia, and civil society — centered on how well Nigeria was performing against A4AI’s set of best practices and the priority areas that the A4AI-Nigeria Coalition should focus on as it crafts its action plan. Participants decided on the following areas that the coalition will work on:
- Pricing transparency
- Open access and a framework for ICT infrastructure sharing
- Effective taxation
- Spectrum policy
- Data collection and indicators for better monitoring and evaluation
- Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) efficiency and collaboration among stakeholders
The coalition will likely have to decide which areas to prioritize for the first months of engagement and will delegate subcommittees to take responsibility for ensuring progress in each of the key areas of work.
We were excited by the enthusiasm of Nigeria’s stakeholders — which also included several A4AI members such as Consumers International, MainOne, Phase3 Telecom, Intel, Cisco, Google, and the Nigeria Network of NGOs — to collaboratively tackle the obstacles to making the internet affordable and accessible to all Nigerians. Undoubtedly, any strides made to expand internet access in Africa’s most populous country and one of its largest economies will reverberate throughout the region.
Comments are closed.